Labour Left Rally in London

Despite clashing with both the RISE festival and the traditional Tollpuddle Rally, the main hall at the TUC’s Congress House was largely full for this year’s AGM and rally of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), the main new umbrella grouping for Left activists inside the Labour Party. Amongst others, a number of the platform speakers from the trade union movement, including Jeremy Dear (NUJ), Mark Serwotka (PCS) and Paul Mackney (NATFHE) took time to outline the ongoing process of attacks against the public sector being carried out by the government.

Despite clashing with both the RISE festival in London and the traditional Tollpuddle Rally in Dorset, the main hall at the TUC’s Congress House was largely full for this year’s AGM and rally of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), the main new umbrella grouping for Left activists inside the Labour Party. The shadow of the London bombings hung over the conference with a minute silence being held for the victims of London, Madrid and Fallujah. A number of speakers and resolutions also drew attention to some of the lessons which the New Labour government seems determined not to learn in the light of 7/7.

Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary, drew attention to the way in which fire-fighters were seemingly being deliberately not mentioned by government spokespeople in any briefings on the events following the London Bombing – both as a form of punishment for going on strike two years earlier and also because of the thorny question of the proposed cuts to the fire service in London. Matt explained that these cuts will reduce cover and make it more difficult to deal with problems posed by any future terrorist activity in the capital city. No wonder the government seems keen to airbrush fire-fighters out of the picture. An RMT emergency resolution also drew attention to the government proposal to scrap the railway fire safety regulations which were introduced after the Kings Cross tube fire in 1987. As the resolution explains: “These regulations are critical to tube and rail safety in setting out minimum standards, including means of escape, means of fighting fire, staff instruction and training and staffing levels... their removal would seriously downgrade fire safety standards and security on Underground and mainline stations.” In relation to the London bombings in general, there was not only clear condemnation from both the platform and floor of the conference but also a need both to oppose any ‘reprisal’ attacks on the Muslim communities and to understand that the attacks have been a direct consequence of the illegal war on Iraq, a war which has acted as a recruiting ground for terrorists. Conference, in supporting a resolution moved by Labour Against The War, also rejected any attacks on our civil liberties, and remaining rights, which might be implemented as a result of the bombings. It was also noted that ID cards would have played no part in preventing the bombings – all the bombers were UK citizens and wanted their identities to be known.

A number of the platform speakers from the trade union movement, including Jeremy Dear (NUJ), Mark Serwotka (PCS) and Paul Mackney (NATFHE) took time to outline the ongoing process of attacks against the public sector being carried out by the government. An LRC statement on public services attacked these cuts as a continuation of Thatcherism and pledged its support to all those who take action against this, including workers in the civil service, the post office and elsewhere. Tony Benn noted that the electorate seemed to be to the left of the government in opposing much of what Blair and co. have presented as reforms of the public sector.

In the afternoon the conference turned to international matters and again discussed the question of Iraq where clear opposition to the continued illegal occupation was expressed. Conference also agreed unanimously to support a resolution giving full solidarity to the revolutionary struggle in Venezuela, opposing any US backed intervention and agreeing to work with the Hands Off Venezuela campaign, who had a stall at the conference. Jeremy Corbyn MP outlined the growing importance of Latin America and the threat of US intervention against the movements of the masses in that continent.

Conference agreed on a Programme for a Real Labour Government, which contains a number of important measures which could be supported by many on the Left. However, it fails to address the critical question of ownership. Missing are any clear demands to nationalise the commanding heights of the economy thereby enacting clause IV (of course!) of the LRC which calls for the “implementation of a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of wealth and power in favour of the working class.” It is the fatal flaw of left reformism that it fudges this question and does not tackle the basic issue of who controls society. This matter cannot be avoided and will need to be taken up by the LRC sooner rather than later. The struggle for socialism must be at the heart of any programme of social reform that wishes to succeed and not be crushed by the forces of capital.

The conference ended with a clear call to build the LRC and put flesh on the organisation. The ongoing decision to develop political discussion and alternative policies inside the Labour movement must be welcome but must equally be matched by taking things beyond the parliamentary arena and building inside the movement as a whole. The LRC seems to be here to stay and it was good to see a large trade union representation at the conference – but the work of creating a serious Left voice inside the Labour movement has only just begun and the progress of the first year of the LRC’s life must be developed and expanded so that Blairism is both challenged and defeated.

Join Us

Join the International Marxist Tendency and help build a revolutionary organisation to participate in the struggle for socialism worldwide!

In order to join fill in this form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.