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Submitted by Matthew on Sat, 19/12/2009 - 10:12

Arthur, yes I am younger than you and I agree we shouldn't idealise 'Old Labour' but neither, as Sacha says, should we pretend nothing has changed.

I joined the Labour Party during the 1987 General Election. A couple of years later, I became a student in Stoke and a delegate from the poly Labour Club to Stoke Central CLP.

Monthly meetings had about forty people, the AGM up to a hundred, a high proportion of them TU delegates - miners, potters - who put the 'soft left' MP on the spot if they thought he wasn't putting forward their views in Parliament.

Speaking to the ex-CLP (and local NUM branch) secretary a while ago, he told me that none of those people are still in the party. There are also few if any TU delegates, the closure of the local pits and most of the potteries having been overseen by first the Tories and then New Labour.

When I lived in Stoke in the early 90's and was a contact of Socialist Organiser, one of the things that impressed me about it was that it took LP work seriously, regarded it as an arena for working-class struggle in contrast to the SWP and related it to wider strugles, bringing striking pottery workers and miners whose pit was faced with closure in 1992 to CLP meetings, the latter leading to the setting up of the North Staffs Miners' Support Group.

The point I am making is that the Labour Party in the city was both a forum for working-class political debate and an organising centre in industrial struggles. It would have been sectarian - and we said this to the SWP and to the Militant who were pulling out of the LP at the time - not to have been involved. Can you honestly say the same today?

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