Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 14 February 2004

RMT Special Conference:

An Historic Break With New Labour

LAST WEEK a special conference of the railworkers' union, RMT, voted by 42 votes to eight to reject Labour Party intimidation and reaffirmed its decision to support other political organisations, including affiliation to the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP).

Ken Smith

Even before the debate took place, the Labour Party held a gun to the head of the union, saying that if the conference took any decision other than rescinding affiliation to the SSP it would face automatic expulsion.

These threats backfired on Labour as delegate after delegate to the conference expressed their anger at the Labour government and the Labour Party.

Opening the debate, union general secretary Bob Crow said that the only part of New Labour's programme his union could agree with were the bits that said "The" and "End".

Wasted money

Bob Law, a London Underground worker said that money going to Labour was "wasted money" and that not a single member of the union in his branch wanted to keep the Labour link.

Steve Hedley, delegate from area 20, argued that if Labour was a new party coming to the RMT for support on the basis of their current programme, there would be no way the union would consider affiliating to the party.

Bill O'Dowd, another London Underground worker, said some arguing to keep the link say it's better to be inside the tent pissing out but, he added, the problem was it was workers "who were being pissed on and we've had enough."

Craig Johnston, a Socialist Party member and delegate from area 5 where he is a conductor on Arriva Trains Northern, made a devastating case for the union breaking from Labour.

Craig pointed out how this debate really started in 1997. He was then still a Labour Party member, but soon realised that it was no longer delivering for working-class people.


He referred to some delegates supporting continued affiliation to Labour because it was a marriage that was going through a rocky patch. Craig said: "If this were a marriage, then we have to face up to the fact that we are victims of industrial and political domestic violence and it's time to walk away."

Craig outlined how New Labour Transport Minister Kim Howells had sent a letter to Labour MP Russell Brown on 25 November last year claiming, in response to rail union questions, that the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) did not know of any threat to close the Leeds and Newcastle train depots as part of the Trans-Pennine Express (TPE) franchise bid.

But the company later said that the SRA had always known it was its intention to close the depots as part of the franchise bid - something which Labour ministers should have known about.

Yet again, said Craig, workers were the victims of "another shoddy Labour lie".

Peter Skelly from area 16 in South Wales said that the political fund issue had been debated at a well-attended special meeting. He said workers were questioning why the RMT (like other unions) gave Labour a distinct advantage over other political parties, when New Labour had shown such contempt for the unions.

Peter asked why the unions should give any money at all to Labour when "it is openly pro-big business and Blair boasts about Britain having the most restrictive anti-union laws in Europe. The unions gave 200 million to Labour while it was in opposition and we have got nothing for it."

Political alternative

MANY DELEGATES, whilst realising expulsion from Labour was inevitable, were not at all worried by the prospect. Instead, they argued that the debate needed to continue about the union helping to create a wider political alternative outside Scotland.

Half a dozen branches had submitted resolutions to the conference. Unfortunately, because of the union's rules they were not debated at the conference but were given to delegates for information only.

However, they show that activists are thinking about the way forward for the RMT and advocate concrete steps which Socialist Party members in RMT will support.

One from East Midlands Central branch, while welcoming last year's historic decision and arguing against supporting nationalist, religious or liberal organisations, called on the union to take "the initiative to stand our own candidates, along with other unions and socialists rather than tagging along with non-socialist, non-working class or personalities."

Another resolution from Bristol Rail Branch called on the union to build "a national conference of trade unions and organisations of working-class communities and political organisations to discuss political representation for workers."

Summing up the debate, RMT general secretary Bob Crow called on delegates not to panic or be frightened by Labour's threats, or the statements of other labour movement figures who claim the RMT will be isolated, because, he said: "Today we take a decision that will give confidence to every other worker in a trade union in Britain."

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 14 February 2004:

RMT Expulsion Signals Time For A New Workers' Party

"Victims Of Cowboy Capitalism"

"Pinocchio" Blair's Lies Unravel

Socialist Party workplace news and analysis

Fighting Low Pay

RMT Makes Historic Break With New Labour

Socialist Alliance Trade Union Convention: No way forward

International socialist news and analysis

Pakistan's Nuclear Secrets Scandal


Home   |   The Socialist 14 February 2004   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleLabour councillors could stop unsafe 'driver-only operation' tomorrow

triangleRMT strikes in Newcastle and London

triangleWe feel that we will win - a striker speaks

triangleHull workers united against bosses

triangleWhole lotta shakin' goin' on in DOO dispute


triangleBristol South Socialist Party: How can councils protect public services?

triangleLocal paper reveals Labour candidate 'tried to defect to the Tories'

triangleThe Socialist inbox

triangleFor a fighting, democratic Labour Party


triangleTaking the anti-austerity message to the chancellor's back yard

triangleFor Whom the School Bell Tolls: Our kids or the Tories?

triangleNHS pay: Reject the Tories' divide and rule offer

Labour Party:

triangleMay elections: a chance to fight attacks on health and social care

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



UCU members vote to end pensions dispute



Usdaw conference 2018: time for new era of fighting trade unionism



Victorious Fearnville Fields campaigners thank the Socialist



Hull says no to war, no to austerity


The Socialist

The Socialist - a fighting, campaigning, workers' paper


Socialist Party

Building fund: 150,000 milestone smashed!


Fighting Fund

Give us your change (and more) to fight for system change!



Workers' victory over anti-union Scottish council



Avenue School strikers and parents win judicial review



Vote for a left, fighting PCS leadership



PCS rejects Acas offer - further strikes announced



Bromley libraries - indefinite strike action continues



Butterfields tenants join TUSC campaign



Fighting the cuts to women's services



May elections: a chance to fight attacks on health and social care

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018