The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 8th July 2004
Get rid of Blair
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RECLAIMING THE LABOUR PARTY
by Daphne Liddle
of trade unionists and left Labour MPs at TUC headquarters last
Saturday launched a new Labour Representation Committee to bring
together the three main sections of the Labour Party – the
constituencies, the unionists and the MPs – to promote socialist
policies within the party.
This is an attempt to reclaim the party for
socialism and pro-working class policies at home and abroad – an end to
the privatisation of public services and an end to British
participation in the illegal occupation of Iraq.
The first Labour Representation Committee, founded in 1900, was part of
the process that brought the Labour Party into being.
of the Independent Labour Party, the Social Democratic Federation, the
Fabian Society and trade union leaders met and agreed to establish “a
distinct Labour group in Parliament, who shall have their own whips,
and agree upon their policy, which must embrace a readiness to
co-operate with any party, which for the time being, may be engaged in
promoting legislation in the direct interests of labour”.
established a committee of two ILP members, two from the SDF, one
Fabian and seven trade unionists. Keir Hardy led it and Ramsay
MacDonald was the secretary.
The LRC started putting up candidates in
parliamentary elections. Within six years it had 29 MPs and changed its
name to the Labour Party.
Today’s LRC aims to bring the three sections of the party together to
“promote socialist policies, encourage maximum participation at all
levels within the party and build a mass party of which our forebears
would be proud.”
Mick Rix, former general secretary of the train
drivers’ union Aslef, chaired the conference. It was funded by various
trade unions. Speakers included former minister Michael Meacher,
veteran Tony Benn and MPs John McDonnell, Lynne Jones, Alan Simpson and
Zeynab Tarish, an 11-year-old Iraqi girl who lost 17
members of her family and a leg in bombing near Basra also addressed
Mick Rix told the conference: “We are reclaiming and
re-equipping the party that we have.
“This movement may not bother Tony
Blair at the moment but I think it will bother people like Tony in the
Tony Benn said: “What we are trying to do is ensure that we
get a Labour government elected at the next election, but on a more
“It is about supporting public services
and not privatising them. It is about not going to war, and it is about
“It is about employment rights as well. People are losing their
jobs and having their working conditions undermined because of the
actions of some very reactionary employers.”
MP Alice Mahon, who has
consistently campaigned against the imperialist wars in the Balkans, in
Afghanistan and in Iraq said: “I think rank and file members are asking
for us to do what we were born to do and that is to promote social
“Certainly the Iraq war has traumatised many members, who saw
it as an illegal war, who are very worried indeed about the way the
occupation is progressing.
“So there are all those issues. But we also
want to get back to the issues that founded the Labour Party. That is
social justice, equality in the workplace fair play for workers. And
there are some concerns that the European constitution might offer more
to employers than employees.
“All those things are up for discussion.
After nearly 50 years in this party I think I am entitled to talk about
a free NHS, one that is absolutely committed to giving, for example,
long-term care to elderly people.
“The debate has been around the
rights agenda for a long time. I believe it is moving and that movement
will be good for the people of this country.”
Unions supporting the
conference include the RMT transport union, the Fire Brigades Union and
the Communication Workers’ Union.
RMT was officially expelled from the Labour Party last year for
supporting election candidates standing against Labour. As a tactic
this had little impact on the Blair clique.
Many other unions have come
under pressure from some of their members to disaffiliate from the
party because of the anti-working class policies of the Blair clique.
Most of them, including the FBU and the public sector union Unison, are
backing the LRC as a more effective way of defeating the Blair clique.
The GMB general union last week announced that it is totally cutting
its donations – some £750,000 – to the party as a whole and
money instead only to MPs who are committed to supporting a working
class agenda. The TGWU is considering a similar move.
This would reduce
the party’s campaign fund for the next general election by £1.5
million. Other unions could follow suit.
This will exert enormous pressure for a real change in leadership and
policies for the party. It will still be social democracy rather than
revolutionary socialism but it will move the whole political agenda a
big step to the left and benefit workers at home and abroad.
The way ahead
of a new Labour pressure group last weekend reflects the growing
confidence amongst the left within the labour movement. Though its core
is clearly the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs, its appeal is
aimed at a much broader section of Labour opinion within the party and
the trade union movement.
The new Labour Representation Committee (LRC) aims to build a
“socialist consensus” aimed at seizing back control of the Labour Party
from the Blairites. The conference, the result of over six months work,
was funded by three major unions and backed by former Cabinet ministers
Tony Benn and Michael Meacher. And the new campaign will unite
opposition to Blair & Co in the constituencies, the unions and the
Parliamentary Labour Party.
In themselves their demands – increasing higher rate income tax,
restoring trade union rights, and restoring genuine comprehensive
education – are quite modest. Nor are they in any position to mount a
left challenge to the leadership. And the tactical avoidance of any
debate on the European Union and omission of any call for blanket
re-nationalisation reflects the nature of this broad alliance. But the
establishment of a centre left social-democratic platform inside the
labour movement is in itself a major step in the move to oust Blair and
The success of the LRC will depend on winning support from the unions
and the TUC hierarchy. Key unions have already given some significant
backing at leadership level. Now the work to build a grass-roots
organisation has started to expose and defeat the class
collaborationist policies of Blair and Brown and rededicate Labour to
the core values of its founders – the British trade union movement.
Whoever succeeds Blair, and few doubt he’s on his way out these days,
must respond to the demands of working people if Labour is to have any
chance of a third term in office.
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