AWL discussion on "After Bournemouth", 2007: "Letter to M"

Submitted by martin on 1 November, 2007 - 2:25 Author: MT

Pity we haven't been able to get together for a proper discussion, and you won't be at the NC on Saturday 13th. So: some notes on your document of 4 October, to help, I hope, in the NC discussion and in the discussion you and I have planned for next Wednesday.

1. Time

What timescale are your proposals for? I agree - I think we all agree- that we must organise in the affiliated unions to call the leaders "to account for their collapse in the face of Brown... [put] motions calling for a reversal of the rule changes".
But that is a thing for the next year, not for an epoch. And as you yourself write, there is not "much cause for optimism in the near future" as regards reversing Bournemouth.
The fight to call to account does not cease to be necessary if we calculate that our chances of victory are small. As Mark O pointed out at the AWL London dayschool on 29 September, the fight is necessary, if for no other reason, in order to make clear and dramatise the scale and scope of the betrayal at Bournemouth.
You yourself write that victory in the CWU, though possible, will be difficult. In Unite and Unison and GMB it will be much harder.
Thus, it's not premature, or defeatist, to start thinking about what we do if our drive to call the leaders to account and get the unions to reverse the rule changes fails.

2. Structures

Your first section, "How important is structural change?", seems to say that not even the Bournemouth structural change is important. It seems to say that our policy after the Bournemouth change should be exactly the same as before it. "We should maintain our policy of supporting the affiliation of unions to the Labour Party... Our current policy of asking for all members who can to carry LP cards should be continued and we ask members in affiliated trade unions to become delegates to their local CLP..."
At the very end of your document, you seem to suggest a different tack, by saying that we should argue in the LRC for the distinction in status within the LRC for Labour Party members and non-members to be cancelled. But up to then you seem to be arguing that Bournemouth requires no change in our attitudes at all; and so I'll deal with that argument first.
"How important is structural change?" you ask, and though you don't answer your own question directly, you seem to respond: not important at all. So structure isn't important? But the only reason why we have ever oriented to the Labour Party is... structure. It's because it is, or has been, structurally, a working-class-based party as well as, politically, a bourgeois party.
What defines the Labour Party as a working-class-based party? Our shorthand has been: the trade union link. Structure. It's shorthand. The particular structural form of the (partial) "working-class" character of the Labour Party, through trade union affiliations, is unique to English-speaking parts of the old British Empire (plus Belgium before World War 2), and the argument about "bourgeois workers' party" as distinct from straight "bourgeois party" is different in other countries. But in any case, the criterion is structure.
"The Bournemouth structural change could happen only because of voluntary submission by the union leaders"? True. But it happened. Having happened, it is a fact with its own weight. In history, many dictatorships have come to power peacefully, through the voluntary submission of labour movement and democratic leaders. They have still been dictatorships. Hitler and Mussolini, coming to power with the labour movement more or less passive, were just as much dictators as Franco. The "structural change" is still important, even if effected through voluntary submission.
Or is your argument that Bournemouth changes only "a particular" (though "important") element of the structure?
But it is the central part of the structure, for us. The "trade union link", for us, has had positive significance only in so far as it provides channels for working-class political representation through the Labour Party. That is, that it allows workers through the collective (more or less) democracy of their unions, to express a working-class political drive.
It ceases to do that when motions on current political issues, either through national unions, or via CLPs with their union delegates, are banned. Bournemouth means that the trade union link ceases to have the possibility of operating in the ways important to us.
Sure, the unions still pay money to the Labour Party. They still have a few seats in the National Policy Forum and in the Executive - where, however, the trade union representatives operate with essentially no accountability at all to the unions. The unions can still send delegates to local Labour Parties - but those local Labour Parties now also have no right to political input.
What remains is shards and husks of the old trade union link, elements of it which serve to yoke the unions to the New Labour machine as servant to master rather than the elements of it which had positive working-class political significance.
If Bournemouth is consolidated, then the Labour Party is no more a trade-union-based party than the old Liberal Party - with its provision for trade unions to nominate trade unionists to become Liberal MPs - or the various populist parties in Latin America where the unions have been an integral, structural part of the party, alongside (in the Mexican PRI in its heyday of 1938, for example) "agrarian, military, and popular" sectors.
You could argue that in the Labour Party the trade unions still have the notional power to push through rule changes restoring their right to a nominally decisive say in policy. But it is highly notional. To base ourselves on that would be sheer fetishism.
At best you can make a case that a Labour Party with Bournemouth consolidated will be a bourgeois party with some unusual quirks and potentialities. It will be, perhaps, a bourgeois party with a structural opening to becoming a bourgeois workers' party. Such strange things have been seen in history. The French Socialist Party at the end of the 1960s - when its membership had been reduced to some tens of thousands of local SP councillors, and no more - had no real, current, active working-class base. Yet arguably its history, and elements in the mass working-class perception of it, made it possible (once Maoism had derailed much of the mass 1968 afflux to revolutionary politics) for the SP to recover a (weak) activist working-class base in the 1970s.
But a Marxist, even one who somehow obtained 20/20 foresight of that possibility, and rated the SP of the late 1970s much higher than any realistic person should, would never argue for an active political orientation to the moribund SP of the late 1960s.
Over recent years we have argued at length about whether the structural changes in the Labour Party which had happened before Bournemouth were very important or (as you and Tom R argued) "tenth-rate" or "hundredth-rate". It seems to me that the ease of Brown's victory at Bournemouth proves that those of us who said that the changes had been important were right: only because the channels had already been so blocked off could they be bolted shut with such ease.
But suppose not. Suppose you and Tom were right all along, and Bournemouth is the first important structural change in the Labour Party. Even if you still want to dispute that what Blair did was a "coup" or a "hi-jacking", there can surely be no doubt that Bournemouth was a "coup" and a "hi-jacking" - indeed, a more drastic one from your viewpoint (that everything previous was minor detail, tenth-rate or hundredth-rate, and Bournemouth was the first and only important shift) than from the AWL majority's (in which Bournemouth was the final coup de grace at the end of a series of big previous blows).
If the Labour Party has shifted from "tenth rate" structural changes to "important" ones, that is momentous - not a recommendation to continue business exactly as before!
Or, finally, is your argument that no structural change whatever can be important or mandate a change in our attitude? None at all, short, presumably, of the formal, official breaking of all Labour's trade union ties? As long as even one trade unionist can get the odd plaintive word in at the NPF, Labour is still "the workers' party" and should be the centre of our attention? Surely not!

3. Scenarios

"If the affiliated unions are not prepared to fight Brown in the party they are currently in, it is highly unlikely they will break with Brown to support a new party". True. In such of the future as we can assess and plan for, basing ourselves on current and calculable trends, neither thing will happen. There will not be a serious fight against Brown by the unions within the Labour Party, and there won't be a mass new workers' party either.
A new mass workers' party will emerge some time, somehow. We can't tell how, any more than Karl Marx could tell in say 1850 how mass workers' parties would emerge in the different countries of Europe.
That a future mass workers' party will emerge through a big fight by the unions in the Labour Party is not impossible, but unlikely. If Bournemouth is consolidated, then structures will congeal and solidify that will make attention to the Labour Party seem a more and more roundabout and implausible political option to fresh generations of militant workers.
Once Bournemouth is consolidated, it will take a very large working-class push to get the leaders of the big unions to take on the New Labour political machine in a fight comprehensively to restructure the Labour Party, and quite a large political "pull" from some Labour-oriented figure enjoying prestige with the newly-pushing workers to get the push directed in that rather convoluted way. A very large mobilisation of that sort will not spring suddenly out of a void. Even if a very rapid radicalisation of young people develops, as in 1968 for example, it will take time for that to work through the union machineries; and in retrospect we can see that there were lots of smaller patches of radicalisation leading up to 1968. What happens in those preliminary patches and phases of radicalisation? If even a small new workers' party has been built (maybe enjoying the support or even affiliation of a minority of leftish unions), why won't it be capable of attracting the newly-radicalising workers and unions as they radicalise, in competition with the openly pro-business Labour Party? Only if no such party has been built - or if, say, it has grown up, but then collapsed - would we have the conditions in which, say, an Andreas Papandreou figure in the future Labour Party, or a particular union leader with a Labour Party focus, might be able to channel a new radicalisation into the rule-changes route.
In other words, to base our tactics now on reading backwards from the scenario of a fight in ten years' time, or 20, to "reclaim the Labour Party", is to base our tactics now on... an assumption that we will be defeated in those intervening ten or twenty years in our efforts to build from the radicalisations leading up to that fight.
In any case, the whole method of deciding tactics for today by reading backwards from scenarios for great things in future is wrong - would be wrong even if the scenarios were more solidly grounded. The argument, I suppose, is a bit "before your time", but in the 1970s we used to make this point repeatedly against the IMG (forerunner of today's Socialist Resistance, but in those days a vigorous, highly visible group).
"'Scenario politics' could be defined as follows: one juggles speculatively with the various elements in the real situation; one establishes a particular combination which leads to an optimistic scenario; then one reads back a policy from the present day from that scenario. The archetypal example is the 'War-Revolution' line of the Trotskyist movement of the early 1950s" (The ICL and the Fourth International, 1976).
Or, to take an example "closer to home", look at the argument about tactics in 1970 which we reviewed in the recent AWL day schools on the Labour Party.
In 1970, we - all of us, all the different strands of opinion in Workers' Fight/ Trotskyist Tendency (the forerunner of AWL at the time) - reckoned it almost a certainty that if Labour lost the 1970 election, then the Labour left would revive and in due course we would be arguing for Marxists to orient back (to some extent or another) to work inside the Labour Party.
But we argued that right then, in the 1970 election, revolutionaries should stand at least a flagship candidate against Labour in order to maximise our ability to consolidate, "harden", and educate the many activists disillusioned with the Labour Party after Vietnam, the 1968 immigration laws, In Place of Strife, etc. So that if the activists were going to drift back into the Labour Party - and realistically the revolutionary left wouldn't have the weight to stop that - at least we could work to have the maximum number going back into the Labour Party as purposeful revolutionary activists, their instinctive disillusion with the Labour leaders and official Labour left hardened into implacable lifelong hatred, not just as drifters. Very specifically and very deliberately, we did not design our tactics for the present by reading back from our scenario for the future. We considered any such approach to be the ballmark of the un-Bolshevik politics of the Militant (forerunners of today's Socialist Party).
That same now. It is entirely possible that Bournemouth will never be reversed, and working-class political life will never rekindle in the Labour Party. But even if we could be 100% certain that Bournemouth will be reversed and life will rekindle, our job now is to work in the realities of today to galvanise, educate, train, and harden a revolutionary force to intervene in that future event. Re-read "What We Are And What We Must Become"!

4. CLPs

Our job as revolutionaries is to take our ideas where we can best win support for them and develop them. Any tactical prescription which loses sight of that simple truth has lost its way.
The CLPs are lifeless. It makes no sense to use our limited resources banging away there. We deliberately made an effort to probe and explore in the McDonnell campaign and in the campaign against Brown's rule-change plan, but now we know the results.
It is sheer superstition to suppose that sitting through a dull, ill-attended CLP meeting can be converted into a fruitful revolutionary intervention by a backwards-reflected "glory" from a hypothesised future Labour Party revival. If it walks like a waste of time and quacks like a waste of time, it is a waste of time.
"The CLP vote at Conference (82% to 18%) is not an indication of anything other than that those who went to Conference voted that way". Come on! The people who voted at Bournemouth were not a random selection, or a group handpicked by Brown. They were delegates. Delegates, moreover, in circumstances where as far as I know the central New Labour machine felt no need to intervene to impose right-wing delegates on CLPs or to disbar dissident delegates.
It confirms the picture we got from the leadership contest. Brown got about 500 nominations from CLPs. (I haven't counted exactly, but if you take the number of lines his CLP nominations took in the book, and multiply that number by an average of CLPs per line, it's about that). There were 500 CLPs where there weren't even people with the elementary self-respect to say: ok, so we've got Brown, and there's nothing we can do about it, but he doesn't need CLP nominations and we don't see why we should give him one as a gratuitous extra vote of confidence. McDonnell got... we don't know, because his campaign evidently never reached a number of CLP nominations that it would have been other than discouraging to publicise.
Picking up on an idea from Socialist Appeal, you write that: "in most CLPs you would only need half a dozen activists" to swing things.
In other words: 82% of CLPs do not even have those six activists. Not six revolutionary activists, or even six left-wing activists. Just six labour movement activists. Any self-respecting Labour right-winger would vote against banning herself or himself from bringing motions to Labour Party conference in future! The vote shows that 82% of CLPs lacked even six right-wingers with that minimum of self-respect which distinguishes the labour movement activist from the vegetable. Those 82% were dominated instead by toadying careerists. The number of snooty, posh, sharp-suited people among the Labour Party conference delegates I leafleted at Labour Party conference in Bournemouth confirms that assessment.
Actually, even worse than 82%. Only about half the CLPs even send delegates. So the 18% vote against Brown in Bournemouth represents only 9% of CLPs. In only 9% of CLPs is there even that handful of left-wingers of any sort, or self-respecting labour movement right-wingers - let's take your figure, six of them - which would have ensured that the CLP sent a delegate to Bournemouth to vote against the suppression of its political rights.
I know that in postal ballots for the Labour Party NEC, the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance - the qualification "centre-left" rather than "left" is not misplaced - gets over half the vote. In 2006 its candidates got between 19,000 and 14,000 votes, while the top right-wing candidate got 14,000. What the Brown nominations and the Bournemouth result do is confirm something we already suspected from anecdotal evidence: that those 14,000 to 19,000 people putting vaguely "centre-left" crosses on ballot papers are mostly not an active force shaping the CLPs. They are mostly older, demoralised people, residual "old Labourites" or disillusioned Blairites of the Compass sort.
Things are not good in the CWU branches. But you can't imagine a vote at CWU conference, can you, to ban all motions to CWU conference in future and leave CWU policy-making in the hands of the full-time officials? The Bournemouth vote was not just an index of "the rank and file being too weak" in the labour movement in general. Things are bad in the unions. But they are a hundred times worse in the CLPs. And in any case, the unions are the unions, the only ones we have. The CLPs are only one possible political structure among others.
You still find the odd good activist in the Constituency Labour Parties, or the odd ward or CLP with some life. That will almost certainly continue to be the case for many years even if Bournemouth is consolidated. It would continue to be the case even if Brown were to break all links with the unions, formally and completely.
For example, the Nottingham comrades report that the people they are working with in the Nottinghamshire villages on anti-BNP activity are mostly Labour Party members. They are neither young nor left-wing, these Labour Party members, but they are activists (of a sort) who want to do something against the BNP. The revolutionary left has no presence at all in most villages and small towns, and in such places anyone who wants to do something generically left-wing may well gravitate to even a dim Labour Party for lack of anything else.
But, as a general tactical rule, to use our time trying to promote our ideas in CLPs where there are not even six self-respecting activists - let alone fresh or open-minded people - that makes no sense.
"Woodley and Kenny have declared... that they will affiliate to all CLPs and promote more local involvement. If they did this seriously, the trade unions could take over the majority of CLPs..." If I had a wizardly power to clone myself, I could make six clones of myself for each CLP, take over all the CLPs, and kaboom! But I can't - and Woodley and Kenny won't.
You know that. Perhaps, in the early years of the "awkward squad", when at least some trade unionists must have been looking hopefully at the fact that union leaders were beginning to challenge central Blair policies at Labour conference, those union leaders might have done it; and they might have been able seriously to mobilise thousands of left-wing trade unionists to go into the CLPs. They didn't. You will remember the 2003 Labour Party conference fringe meeting that you and I attended where you challenged Woodley and others to do that, and they gave you the brush-off.
They promise to do it now because they know that no-one will take the promise seriously. They wouldn't in 2003, because they feared people might take it seriously.
If Woodley and Kenny do say to their members now: "We've just voluntarily abandoned your right to a political voice, through your union, in the Labour Party. But we want you to do in the CLPs what we've just agreed not to do at Labour Party conference - push for union policies. Get in there! No slacking! Oh, by the way, small problem: we also voluntarily voted away the CLPs' right to a political voice in the wider Labour Party... Never mind. Life wasn't meant to be fair! We become stronger, better people by facing challenges like that! Get in there, now!" - if they say that now, they will get only hollow laughter. And rightly.
To look to Woodley and Kenny to lead a fight in the Labour Party by way of mobilising through the CLPs, when they have just voluntarily voted away even the possibility of a fight in the way directly open to them, through Labour conference, is not just clutching at straws. It is clutching at empty air.
It reminds me of the reaction of Martin Meyer, leader of the TGWU Broad Left, when challenged by me at the abortive "TGWU rally for McDonnell" on whether the BL would use its majority on the TGWU General Executive to push for a TGWU nomination for McDonnell. Ah well, said Meyer. Er... Um... No. That would be too difficult. However, he declaimed, the cloud clearing from his face, we should not be elitist! We should not just think of things that happen at the top of the unions! No! The TGWU branches should mobilise! TGWU members all over the country should ruthlessly push through motions backing McDonnell! Mobilise the rank and file! No slacking!

5. RMT slate for the GLA

You write: "I think the standing of candidates in the GLA elections on an RMT-plus platform... represents a tactic with no clear goal".
To write that I think you have to forget the most basic ideas about why for the working class parliamentary democracy is better than monarchy or oligarchy. It is better because in parliamentary democracy class-conscious workers can use the electoral arena to put up their own candidates, with their own working-class policies; use the election campaign to make those policies known and draw less political workers, and sympathisers from other classes, towards the labour movement; maybe gain parliamentary or council seats which they can use as a political platform; maybe gain enough of those seats to be able to use parliamentary (or local government) influence as an additional lever to win concessions and ameliorations.
Why did the Chartists conduct their epic struggle to win the vote for the working class? Not so that workers could vote for the likes of Ken Livingstone; but so that workers could vote for their own candidates.
The RMT wants the case for public services, for union rights, for the NHS, for a good local school for all, to be heard in the election. It's right to want that, isn't it? It's not complicated.
Let me make it clear, to avoid false polemics, that I don't expect the RMT slate to be well done, or to do well. There simply isn't sufficient political force and clout, a sufficient minimally-coherent mass of politically-active workers, available to be gathered around it, for that. There is no party, and the RMT can't substitute for a party. But where do you start? The RMT is right to want to start, even if the first steps are awkward.
Yes, in some cases a small Marxist group may be best advised to set aside (for the time being) its possibilities for using the electoral arena because by doing so it can better advance its ideas in a lively, broad Labour Party. But that consideration has no relevance here.
What would really have "no clear goal" is backing Livingstone against the RMT slate, or demanding that the RMT defer to Livingstone. What would the goal be? Why would we do that? We might do it if backing an official Labour candidate, even a repugnant one, was an indispensable part of a "package" of intervention into a lively Labour Party. But that lively Labour Party does not exist.
Do we want the RMT to defer to the Labour Party because of what the Labour Party was in the past? Or because of the Labour Party might hypothetically become again in the future? On what grounds should we advocate that militant workers subordinate themselves to shadows of the past, or our calculations about a hypothetical future?
"We should get real about the nature of working class support for the Labour Party". Indeed. Many workers still vote Labour. Even if Brown formally and unequivocally breaks all links with the unions - it is hard to see why he should feel any need to, now - many workers would still vote Labour in the absence of any real workers' party. As and when a new workers' party emerges, many workers will still vote Labour because they don't want to "waste their vote" on a minority party. Most workers voted for the old Liberal Party until 1900 - indeed, until 1918.
A mass of evidence, both statistical and anecdotal, shows that except perhaps among some elderly people - where the shaping factor is mental inertia rather than living political responses - the Labour vote is no longer the "class vote" it was, but a grudging lesser-evil vote.
Consider what you say about the CWU. You expect a motion calling for disaffiliation at next year's CWU conference. Motions mandating disaffiliation if New Labour conditnues on current lines have already been passed at recent CWU conferences. When we talked to Labour-oriented CWU activists like Gary Heather and Pete Firmin, pretty much their first response to Bournemouth was: "This will boost the mood for disaffiliation. It's hard to argue against".
Yes, I said to Gary, but we argue "don't get mad, get even" - CWU should push a rule change restoring union political rights, and to do that it must stay affiliated. "I know that", replied Gary, "but that cuts no ice at all with the ordinary CWU member".
Class-conscious workers - and minimally active CWU members are a fair selection of class-conscious workers, as these things go in Britain of 2007; probably a much more Labour-oriented selection than you would get from looking at another union - do not feel a class loyalty to Labour. Even if those workers still vote Labour (lesser evil, no alternative, don't let the Tories in, etc.), they see New Labour clearly not as their party but as a party of the bosses. And rightly.

6. Disaffiliation

We oppose disaffiliation at the 2008 union conferences because you can't both disaffiliate and fight for rule changes to reverse Bournemouth.
But what do we say after 2008 if our fight to call the leaders to account and reverse Bournemouth is decisively defeated at the 2008 conferences? As we have seen, to consider this is not at all a matter of losing ourselves in remote hypotheses.
For that matter, what do we say in 2008 if our motion calling on the union to press for a rule change is heavily defeated, or doesn't even get to conference floor, and then a motion for disaffiliation comes up?
Disaffiliation guarantees nothing positive. It won't transform the present political demoralisation and disorientation of most class-conscious workers into positive and confident action. Almost by definition, a negative, reactive move like disaffiliation could not do that.
"Disaffiliation will lead to a depoliticising of currently affiliated unions", you write. But what will continued affiliation on the current terms not merely "lead to", but simply be, other than depoliticised? What can be more depoliticised than the unions writing the cheques to the Labour Party while banning themselves from political input? How can we tell workers: you must continue to pay the money to Brown, because that keeps your union "political" (tied politically to Brown, and now with a self-imposed ban on challenging Brown politically at Labour Party conference)? If you stop paying it, you foolish young thing, you may become "depoliticised"?
We would never pose the issue ourselves in terms of disaffiliation. We would pose it in terms of the union doing something positive - like backing the RMT-initiated slate for the GLA - and making New Labour go through the process of expelling the union. At the very least we should (I think) pose it in terms of a "financial strike" - "no taxation without representation" - "we will not pay to Labour unless we have a right to a say".
But if Bournemouth is consolidated, on what basis can we argue against the strong feeling of class-conscious workers (including in the CWU, if Gary is right) that they don't want their cash going to an openly bosses' party which attacks them and where their union has no political input? That they regard what Billy Hayes may say about the unions' affiliation money winning him (in private) the ear of Gordon Brown as contemptible nonsense?
On the basis that their class-consciousness is limited, and you don't have the right to object to funding New Labour without political input unless you "qualify" by being a full-on Marxist willing and confident to fight for a new workers' party? Or that you don't have the right unless you have been exemplarily active up until now in pushing the union to make whatever political input it could previously make in the Labour Party? That if you haven't been active in that way, you lose the right to complain now?
That would be sectarian. Wouldn't it?

7. LRC

You propose that we should argue in the LRC for "abolishing the distinction between Labour Party and non Labour Party members".
That makes sense in a perspective of the sort I take CF to be arguing, of turning the LRC away from accepting a New Labour monopoly in electoral politics towards being a wider Workers' Representation Committee. It would go well with e.g. pressing the RMT (affiliated to the LRC) to move that LRC backs the RMT-initiated slate for GLA, and backing such an RMT motion.
However, on the perspective of a focus on burrowing away in the CLPs Bournemouth or no Bournemouth, I don't see how abolishing the distinction in LRC between Labour Party members and non-members makes sense. You know that Katy Clark has exactly the opposite view: that LRC should deprive Labour Party non-members of all except observer rights. That fits well with the perspective that Katy seems, rather tragically, to have fallen into, of staying Labour-loyal indefinitely and consoling herself with the hope that "democratic left forums" will miraculously emerge within the Labour Party and secure successes on the Trade Union Freedom Bill and so on (see Solidarity 3/118). But if you reject Katy's view, which evidently you do, why don't you draw further conclusions?
"LRC needs to be built up as a proper force in the labour movement". Yes, if possible. It is not clear it is possible with the current leadership of the LRC - McDonnell seeming to have "lost the plot" in the aftermath of the leadership election and Bournemouth, as witness his talk of turning LRC into a sort of miniature theme-park replica of the Socialist Movement of the 1980s - but we should put forward proposals which might make it possible. Get union branches to affiliate. Build LRC caucuses in unions.
But I fear that your concluding proposal - "LRC national committee should include representatives from the left groupings in... Unite, Unison, and GMB" - is another case of clutching at empty air, of the same order as the thought that burrowing away in the CLPs is good because if Woodley and Kenny mobilised thousands of left-wing union activists to flood in, then it would be good.
GMB has no left group. Unison United Left is run by the SWP - no, by John McLoughlin, the other SWPers in Unison having apparently lost interest - and had 15 people at its recent AGM, several of them there not because they think UUL is any good but just to keep an eye on it. Would John McLoughlin nod assent if Andrew Berry or Jon Rogers (UUL's tame Labourites) wanted to be accredited as "UUL representative on LRC committee"? He might. As empty play-acting goes, it wouldn't be a particularly bad thing. It would have no bearing at all on the task "to spread the fight for political democracy across the trade union movement".
The TGWU Broad Left and Amicus Unity Gazette, or any merged group they may form? Well, we got their measure in the McDonnell campaign and in their failure to emit so much as a plaintive bleat about Bournemouth. Might they agree to some LRC-minded person in their ranks being officially accredited as BL or AUG representative on the LRC committee? They might. It would make no difference to what they do.
Let's do politics based on real forces, not on shadow play! It gets us no further forward in reality to play generalissimo with fictitious quantities - "here we have A from UUL, representing a million Unison members; there are B and C from TGWU BL and AUG, representing two million; and D, a GMB leftie, representing 600,000. Now if B, C, and D will just make sure that Woodley and Kenny mobilise a few thousand left-wing trade unionists into the CLPs, and don't shoot until you see the whites of Brown's eyes, then victory is ours!"
It seems more humdrum to do something like working in a long-term perspective to rebuild Trades Councils. But it is more real.

Best wishes,

Martin
Hi M,

Pity we haven't been able to get together for a proper discussion, and you won't be at the NC on Saturday 13th. So: some notes on your document of 4 October, to help, I hope, in the NC discussion and in the discussion you and I have planned for next Wednesday.

1. Time

What timescale are your proposals for? I agree - I think we all agree- that we must organise in the affiliated unions to call the leaders "to account for their collapse in the face of Brown... [put] motions calling for a reversal of the rule changes".
But that is a thing for the next year, not for an epoch. And as you yourself write, there is not "much cause for optimism in the near future" as regards reversing Bournemouth.
The fight to call to account does not cease to be necessary if we calculate that our chances of victory are small. As Mark O pointed out at the AWL London dayschool on 29 September, the fight is necessary, if for no other reason, in order to make clear and dramatise the scale and scope of the betrayal at Bournemouth.
You yourself write that victory in the CWU, though possible, will be difficult. In Unite and Unison and GMB it will be much harder.
Thus, it's not premature, or defeatist, to start thinking about what we do if our drive to call the leaders to account and get the unions to reverse the rule changes fails.

2. Structures

Your first section, "How important is structural change?", seems to say that not even the Bournemouth structural change is important. It seems to say that our policy after the Bournemouth change should be exactly the same as before it. "We should maintain our policy of supporting the affiliation of unions to the Labour Party... Our current policy of asking for all members who can to carry LP cards should be continued and we ask members in affiliated trade unions to become delegates to their local CLP..."
At the very end of your document, you seem to suggest a different tack, by saying that we should argue in the LRC for the distinction in status within the LRC for Labour Party members and non-members to be cancelled. But up to then you seem to be arguing that Bournemouth requires no change in our attitudes at all; and so I'll deal with that argument first.
"How important is structural change?" you ask, and though you don't answer your own question directly, you seem to respond: not important at all. So structure isn't important? But the only reason why we have ever oriented to the Labour Party is... structure. It's because it is, or has been, structurally, a working-class-based party as well as, politically, a bourgeois party.
What defines the Labour Party as a working-class-based party? Our shorthand has been: the trade union link. Structure. It's shorthand. The particular structural form of the (partial) "working-class" character of the Labour Party, through trade union affiliations, is unique to English-speaking parts of the old British Empire (plus Belgium before World War 2), and the argument about "bourgeois workers' party" as distinct from straight "bourgeois party" is different in other countries. But in any case, the criterion is structure.
"The Bournemouth structural change could happen only because of voluntary submission by the union leaders"? True. But it happened. Having happened, it is a fact with its own weight. In history, many dictatorships have come to power peacefully, through the voluntary submission of labour movement and democratic leaders. They have still been dictatorships. Hitler and Mussolini, coming to power with the labour movement more or less passive, were just as much dictators as Franco. The "structural change" is still important, even if effected through voluntary submission.
Or is your argument that Bournemouth changes only "a particular" (though "important") element of the structure?
But it is the central part of the structure, for us. The "trade union link", for us, has had positive significance only in so far as it provides channels for working-class political representation through the Labour Party. That is, that it allows workers through the collective (more or less) democracy of their unions, to express a working-class political drive.
It ceases to do that when motions on current political issues, either through national unions, or via CLPs with their union delegates, are banned. Bournemouth means that the trade union link ceases to have the possibility of operating in the ways important to us.
Sure, the unions still pay money to the Labour Party. They still have a few seats in the National Policy Forum and in the Executive - where, however, the trade union representatives operate with essentially no accountability at all to the unions. The unions can still send delegates to local Labour Parties - but those local Labour Parties now also have no right to political input.
What remains is shards and husks of the old trade union link, elements of it which serve to yoke the unions to the New Labour machine as servant to master rather than the elements of it which had positive working-class political significance.
If Bournemouth is consolidated, then the Labour Party is no more a trade-union-based party than the old Liberal Party - with its provision for trade unions to nominate trade unionists to become Liberal MPs - or the various populist parties in Latin America where the unions have been an integral, structural part of the party, alongside (in the Mexican PRI in its heyday of 1938, for example) "agrarian, military, and popular" sectors.
You could argue that in the Labour Party the trade unions still have the notional power to push through rule changes restoring their right to a nominally decisive say in policy. But it is highly notional. To base ourselves on that would be sheer fetishism.
At best you can make a case that a Labour Party with Bournemouth consolidated will be a bourgeois party with some unusual quirks and potentialities. It will be, perhaps, a bourgeois party with a structural opening to becoming a bourgeois workers' party. Such strange things have been seen in history. The French Socialist Party at the end of the 1960s - when its membership had been reduced to some tens of thousands of local SP councillors, and no more - had no real, current, active working-class base. Yet arguably its history, and elements in the mass working-class perception of it, made it possible (once Maoism had derailed much of the mass 1968 afflux to revolutionary politics) for the SP to recover a (weak) activist working-class base in the 1970s.
But a Marxist, even one who somehow obtained 20/20 foresight of that possibility, and rated the SP of the late 1970s much higher than any realistic person should, would never argue for an active political orientation to the moribund SP of the late 1960s.
Over recent years we have argued at length about whether the structural changes in the Labour Party which had happened before Bournemouth were very important or (as you and Tom R argued) "tenth-rate" or "hundredth-rate". It seems to me that the ease of Brown's victory at Bournemouth proves that those of us who said that the changes had been important were right: only because the channels had already been so blocked off could they be bolted shut with such ease.
But suppose not. Suppose you and Tom were right all along, and Bournemouth is the first important structural change in the Labour Party. Even if you still want to dispute that what Blair did was a "coup" or a "hi-jacking", there can surely be no doubt that Bournemouth was a "coup" and a "hi-jacking" - indeed, a more drastic one from your viewpoint (that everything previous was minor detail, tenth-rate or hundredth-rate, and Bournemouth was the first and only important shift) than from the AWL majority's (in which Bournemouth was the final coup de grace at the end of a series of big previous blows).
If the Labour Party has shifted from "tenth rate" structural changes to "important" ones, that is momentous - not a recommendation to continue business exactly as before!
Or, finally, is your argument that no structural change whatever can be important or mandate a change in our attitude? None at all, short, presumably, of the formal, official breaking of all Labour's trade union ties? As long as even one trade unionist can get the odd plaintive word in at the NPF, Labour is still "the workers' party" and should be the centre of our attention? Surely not!

3. Scenarios

"If the affiliated unions are not prepared to fight Brown in the party they are currently in, it is highly unlikely they will break with Brown to support a new party". True. In such of the future as we can assess and plan for, basing ourselves on current and calculable trends, neither thing will happen. There will not be a serious fight against Brown by the unions within the Labour Party, and there won't be a mass new workers' party either.
A new mass workers' party will emerge some time, somehow. We can't tell how, any more than Karl Marx could tell in say 1850 how mass workers' parties would emerge in the different countries of Europe.
That a future mass workers' party will emerge through a big fight by the unions in the Labour Party is not impossible, but unlikely. If Bournemouth is consolidated, then structures will congeal and solidify that will make attention to the Labour Party seem a more and more roundabout and implausible political option to fresh generations of militant workers.
Once Bournemouth is consolidated, it will take a very large working-class push to get the leaders of the big unions to take on the New Labour political machine in a fight comprehensively to restructure the Labour Party, and quite a large political "pull" from some Labour-oriented figure enjoying prestige with the newly-pushing workers to get the push directed in that rather convoluted way. A very large mobilisation of that sort will not spring suddenly out of a void. Even if a very rapid radicalisation of young people develops, as in 1968 for example, it will take time for that to work through the union machineries; and in retrospect we can see that there were lots of smaller patches of radicalisation leading up to 1968. What happens in those preliminary patches and phases of radicalisation? If even a small new workers' party has been built (maybe enjoying the support or even affiliation of a minority of leftish unions), why won't it be capable of attracting the newly-radicalising workers and unions as they radicalise, in competition with the openly pro-business Labour Party? Only if no such party has been built - or if, say, it has grown up, but then collapsed - would we have the conditions in which, say, an Andreas Papandreou figure in the future Labour Party, or a particular union leader with a Labour Party focus, might be able to channel a new radicalisation into the rule-changes route.
In other words, to base our tactics now on reading backwards from the scenario of a fight in ten years' time, or 20, to "reclaim the Labour Party", is to base our tactics now on... an assumption that we will be defeated in those intervening ten or twenty years in our efforts to build from the radicalisations leading up to that fight.
In any case, the whole method of deciding tactics for today by reading backwards from scenarios for great things in future is wrong - would be wrong even if the scenarios were more solidly grounded. The argument, I suppose, is a bit "before your time", but in the 1970s we used to make this point repeatedly against the IMG (forerunner of today's Socialist Resistance, but in those days a vigorous, highly visible group).
"'Scenario politics' could be defined as follows: one juggles speculatively with the various elements in the real situation; one establishes a particular combination which leads to an optimistic scenario; then one reads back a policy from the present day from that scenario. The archetypal example is the 'War-Revolution' line of the Trotskyist movement of the early 1950s" (The ICL and the Fourth International, 1976).
Or, to take an example "closer to home", look at the argument about tactics in 1970 which we reviewed in the recent AWL day schools on the Labour Party.
In 1970, we - all of us, all the different strands of opinion in Workers' Fight/ Trotskyist Tendency (the forerunner of AWL at the time) - reckoned it almost a certainty that if Labour lost the 1970 election, then the Labour left would revive and in due course we would be arguing for Marxists to orient back (to some extent or another) to work inside the Labour Party.
But we argued that right then, in the 1970 election, revolutionaries should stand at least a flagship candidate against Labour in order to maximise our ability to consolidate, "harden", and educate the many activists disillusioned with the Labour Party after Vietnam, the 1968 immigration laws, In Place of Strife, etc. So that if the activists were going to drift back into the Labour Party - and realistically the revolutionary left wouldn't have the weight to stop that - at least we could work to have the maximum number going back into the Labour Party as purposeful revolutionary activists, their instinctive disillusion with the Labour leaders and official Labour left hardened into implacable lifelong hatred, not just as drifters. Very specifically and very deliberately, we did not design our tactics for the present by reading back from our scenario for the future. We considered any such approach to be the ballmark of the un-Bolshevik politics of the Militant (forerunners of today's Socialist Party).
That same now. It is entirely possible that Bournemouth will never be reversed, and working-class political life will never rekindle in the Labour Party. But even if we could be 100% certain that Bournemouth will be reversed and life will rekindle, our job now is to work in the realities of today to galvanise, educate, train, and harden a revolutionary force to intervene in that future event. Re-read "What We Are And What We Must Become"!

4. CLPs

Our job as revolutionaries is to take our ideas where we can best win support for them and develop them. Any tactical prescription which loses sight of that simple truth has lost its way.
The CLPs are lifeless. It makes no sense to use our limited resources banging away there. We deliberately made an effort to probe and explore in the McDonnell campaign and in the campaign against Brown's rule-change plan, but now we know the results.
It is sheer superstition to suppose that sitting through a dull, ill-attended CLP meeting can be converted into a fruitful revolutionary intervention by a backwards-reflected "glory" from a hypothesised future Labour Party revival. If it walks like a waste of time and quacks like a waste of time, it is a waste of time.
"The CLP vote at Conference (82% to 18%) is not an indication of anything other than that those who went to Conference voted that way". Come on! The people who voted at Bournemouth were not a random selection, or a group handpicked by Brown. They were delegates. Delegates, moreover, in circumstances where as far as I know the central New Labour machine felt no need to intervene to impose right-wing delegates on CLPs or to disbar dissident delegates.
It confirms the picture we got from the leadership contest. Brown got about 500 nominations from CLPs. (I haven't counted exactly, but if you take the number of lines his CLP nominations took in the book, and multiply that number by an average of CLPs per line, it's about that). There were 500 CLPs where there weren't even people with the elementary self-respect to say: ok, so we've got Brown, and there's nothing we can do about it, but he doesn't need CLP nominations and we don't see why we should give him one as a gratuitous extra vote of confidence. McDonnell got... we don't know, because his campaign evidently never reached a number of CLP nominations that it would have been other than discouraging to publicise.
Picking up on an idea from Socialist Appeal, you write that: "in most CLPs you would only need half a dozen activists" to swing things.
In other words: 82% of CLPs do not even have those six activists. Not six revolutionary activists, or even six left-wing activists. Just six labour movement activists. Any self-respecting Labour right-winger would vote against banning herself or himself from bringing motions to Labour Party conference in future! The vote shows that 82% of CLPs lacked even six right-wingers with that minimum of self-respect which distinguishes the labour movement activist from the vegetable. Those 82% were dominated instead by toadying careerists. The number of snooty, posh, sharp-suited people among the Labour Party conference delegates I leafleted at Labour Party conference in Bournemouth confirms that assessment.
Actually, even worse than 82%. Only about half the CLPs even send delegates. So the 18% vote against Brown in Bournemouth represents only 9% of CLPs. In only 9% of CLPs is there even that handful of left-wingers of any sort, or self-respecting labour movement right-wingers - let's take your figure, six of them - which would have ensured that the CLP sent a delegate to Bournemouth to vote against the suppression of its political rights.
I know that in postal ballots for the Labour Party NEC, the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance - the qualification "centre-left" rather than "left" is not misplaced - gets over half the vote. In 2006 its candidates got between 19,000 and 14,000 votes, while the top right-wing candidate got 14,000. What the Brown nominations and the Bournemouth result do is confirm something we already suspected from anecdotal evidence: that those 14,000 to 19,000 people putting vaguely "centre-left" crosses on ballot papers are mostly not an active force shaping the CLPs. They are mostly older, demoralised people, residual "old Labourites" or disillusioned Blairites of the Compass sort.
Things are not good in the CWU branches. But you can't imagine a vote at CWU conference, can you, to ban all motions to CWU conference in future and leave CWU policy-making in the hands of the full-time officials? The Bournemouth vote was not just an index of "the rank and file being too weak" in the labour movement in general. Things are bad in the unions. But they are a hundred times worse in the CLPs. And in any case, the unions are the unions, the only ones we have. The CLPs are only one possible political structure among others.
You still find the odd good activist in the Constituency Labour Parties, or the odd ward or CLP with some life. That will almost certainly continue to be the case for many years even if Bournemouth is consolidated. It would continue to be the case even if Brown were to break all links with the unions, formally and completely.
For example, the Nottingham comrades report that the people they are working with in the Nottinghamshire villages on anti-BNP activity are mostly Labour Party members. They are neither young nor left-wing, these Labour Party members, but they are activists (of a sort) who want to do something against the BNP. The revolutionary left has no presence at all in most villages and small towns, and in such places anyone who wants to do something generically left-wing may well gravitate to even a dim Labour Party for lack of anything else.
But, as a general tactical rule, to use our time trying to promote our ideas in CLPs where there are not even six self-respecting activists - let alone fresh or open-minded people - that makes no sense.
"Woodley and Kenny have declared... that they will affiliate to all CLPs and promote more local involvement. If they did this seriously, the trade unions could take over the majority of CLPs..." If I had a wizardly power to clone myself, I could make six clones of myself for each CLP, take over all the CLPs, and kaboom! But I can't - and Woodley and Kenny won't.
You know that. Perhaps, in the early years of the "awkward squad", when at least some trade unionists must have been looking hopefully at the fact that union leaders were beginning to challenge central Blair policies at Labour conference, those union leaders might have done it; and they might have been able seriously to mobilise thousands of left-wing trade unionists to go into the CLPs. They didn't. You will remember the 2003 Labour Party conference fringe meeting that you and I attended where you challenged Woodley and others to do that, and they gave you the brush-off.
They promise to do it now because they know that no-one will take the promise seriously. They wouldn't in 2003, because they feared people might take it seriously.
If Woodley and Kenny do say to their members now: "We've just voluntarily abandoned your right to a political voice, through your union, in the Labour Party. But we want you to do in the CLPs what we've just agreed not to do at Labour Party conference - push for union policies. Get in there! No slacking! Oh, by the way, small problem: we also voluntarily voted away the CLPs' right to a political voice in the wider Labour Party... Never mind. Life wasn't meant to be fair! We become stronger, better people by facing challenges like that! Get in there, now!" - if they say that now, they will get only hollow laughter. And rightly.
To look to Woodley and Kenny to lead a fight in the Labour Party by way of mobilising through the CLPs, when they have just voluntarily voted away even the possibility of a fight in the way directly open to them, through Labour conference, is not just clutching at straws. It is clutching at empty air.
It reminds me of the reaction of Martin Meyer, leader of the TGWU Broad Left, when challenged by me at the abortive "TGWU rally for McDonnell" on whether the BL would use its majority on the TGWU General Executive to push for a TGWU nomination for McDonnell. Ah well, said Meyer. Er... Um... No. That would be too difficult. However, he declaimed, the cloud clearing from his face, we should not be elitist! We should not just think of things that happen at the top of the unions! No! The TGWU branches should mobilise! TGWU members all over the country should ruthlessly push through motions backing McDonnell! Mobilise the rank and file! No slacking!

5. RMT slate for the GLA

You write: "I think the standing of candidates in the GLA elections on an RMT-plus platform... represents a tactic with no clear goal".
To write that I think you have to forget the most basic ideas about why for the working class parliamentary democracy is better than monarchy or oligarchy. It is better because in parliamentary democracy class-conscious workers can use the electoral arena to put up their own candidates, with their own working-class policies; use the election campaign to make those policies known and draw less political workers, and sympathisers from other classes, towards the labour movement; maybe gain parliamentary or council seats which they can use as a political platform; maybe gain enough of those seats to be able to use parliamentary (or local government) influence as an additional lever to win concessions and ameliorations.
Why did the Chartists conduct their epic struggle to win the vote for the working class? Not so that workers could vote for the likes of Ken Livingstone; but so that workers could vote for their own candidates.
The RMT wants the case for public services, for union rights, for the NHS, for a good local school for all, to be heard in the election. It's right to want that, isn't it? It's not complicated.
Let me make it clear, to avoid false polemics, that I don't expect the RMT slate to be well done, or to do well. There simply isn't sufficient political force and clout, a sufficient minimally-coherent mass of politically-active workers, available to be gathered around it, for that. There is no party, and the RMT can't substitute for a party. But where do you start? The RMT is right to want to start, even if the first steps are awkward.
Yes, in some cases a small Marxist group may be best advised to set aside (for the time being) its possibilities for using the electoral arena because by doing so it can better advance its ideas in a lively, broad Labour Party. But that consideration has no relevance here.
What would really have "no clear goal" is backing Livingstone against the RMT slate, or demanding that the RMT defer to Livingstone. What would the goal be? Why would we do that? We might do it if backing an official Labour candidate, even a repugnant one, was an indispensable part of a "package" of intervention into a lively Labour Party. But that lively Labour Party does not exist.
Do we want the RMT to defer to the Labour Party because of what the Labour Party was in the past? Or because of the Labour Party might hypothetically become again in the future? On what grounds should we advocate that militant workers subordinate themselves to shadows of the past, or our calculations about a hypothetical future?
"We should get real about the nature of working class support for the Labour Party". Indeed. Many workers still vote Labour. Even if Brown formally and unequivocally breaks all links with the unions - it is hard to see why he should feel any need to, now - many workers would still vote Labour in the absence of any real workers' party. As and when a new workers' party emerges, many workers will still vote Labour because they don't want to "waste their vote" on a minority party. Most workers voted for the old Liberal Party until 1900 - indeed, until 1918.
A mass of evidence, both statistical and anecdotal, shows that except perhaps among some elderly people - where the shaping factor is mental inertia rather than living political responses - the Labour vote is no longer the "class vote" it was, but a grudging lesser-evil vote.
Consider what you say about the CWU. You expect a motion calling for disaffiliation at next year's CWU conference. Motions mandating disaffiliation if New Labour conditnues on current lines have already been passed at recent CWU conferences. When we talked to Labour-oriented CWU activists like Gary Heather and Pete Firmin, pretty much their first response to Bournemouth was: "This will boost the mood for disaffiliation. It's hard to argue against".
Yes, I said to Gary, but we argue "don't get mad, get even" - CWU should push a rule change restoring union political rights, and to do that it must stay affiliated. "I know that", replied Gary, "but that cuts no ice at all with the ordinary CWU member".
Class-conscious workers - and minimally active CWU members are a fair selection of class-conscious workers, as these things go in Britain of 2007; probably a much more Labour-oriented selection than you would get from looking at another union - do not feel a class loyalty to Labour. Even if those workers still vote Labour (lesser evil, no alternative, don't let the Tories in, etc.), they see New Labour clearly not as their party but as a party of the bosses. And rightly.

6. Disaffiliation

We oppose disaffiliation at the 2008 union conferences because you can't both disaffiliate and fight for rule changes to reverse Bournemouth.
But what do we say after 2008 if our fight to call the leaders to account and reverse Bournemouth is decisively defeated at the 2008 conferences? As we have seen, to consider this is not at all a matter of losing ourselves in remote hypotheses.
For that matter, what do we say in 2008 if our motion calling on the union to press for a rule change is heavily defeated, or doesn't even get to conference floor, and then a motion for disaffiliation comes up?
Disaffiliation guarantees nothing positive. It won't transform the present political demoralisation and disorientation of most class-conscious workers into positive and confident action. Almost by definition, a negative, reactive move like disaffiliation could not do that.
"Disaffiliation will lead to a depoliticising of currently affiliated unions", you write. But what will continued affiliation on the current terms not merely "lead to", but simply be, other than depoliticised? What can be more depoliticised than the unions writing the cheques to the Labour Party while banning themselves from political input? How can we tell workers: you must continue to pay the money to Brown, because that keeps your union "political" (tied politically to Brown, and now with a self-imposed ban on challenging Brown politically at Labour Party conference)? If you stop paying it, you foolish young thing, you may become "depoliticised"?
We would never pose the issue ourselves in terms of disaffiliation. We would pose it in terms of the union doing something positive - like backing the RMT-initiated slate for the GLA - and making New Labour go through the process of expelling the union. At the very least we should (I think) pose it in terms of a "financial strike" - "no taxation without representation" - "we will not pay to Labour unless we have a right to a say".
But if Bournemouth is consolidated, on what basis can we argue against the strong feeling of class-conscious workers (including in the CWU, if Gary is right) that they don't want their cash going to an openly bosses' party which attacks them and where their union has no political input? That they regard what Billy Hayes may say about the unions' affiliation money winning him (in private) the ear of Gordon Brown as contemptible nonsense?
On the basis that their class-consciousness is limited, and you don't have the right to object to funding New Labour without political input unless you "qualify" by being a full-on Marxist willing and confident to fight for a new workers' party? Or that you don't have the right unless you have been exemplarily active up until now in pushing the union to make whatever political input it could previously make in the Labour Party? That if you haven't been active in that way, you lose the right to complain now?
That would be sectarian. Wouldn't it?

7. LRC

You propose that we should argue in the LRC for "abolishing the distinction between Labour Party and non Labour Party members".
That makes sense in a perspective of the sort I take CF to be arguing, of turning the LRC away from accepting a New Labour monopoly in electoral politics towards being a wider Workers' Representation Committee. It would go well with e.g. pressing the RMT (affiliated to the LRC) to move that LRC backs the RMT-initiated slate for GLA, and backing such an RMT motion.
However, on the perspective of a focus on burrowing away in the CLPs Bournemouth or no Bournemouth, I don't see how abolishing the distinction in LRC between Labour Party members and non-members makes sense. You know that Katy Clark has exactly the opposite view: that LRC should deprive Labour Party non-members of all except observer rights. That fits well with the perspective that Katy seems, rather tragically, to have fallen into, of staying Labour-loyal indefinitely and consoling herself with the hope that "democratic left forums" will miraculously emerge within the Labour Party and secure successes on the Trade Union Freedom Bill and so on (see Solidarity 3/118). But if you reject Katy's view, which evidently you do, why don't you draw further conclusions?
"LRC needs to be built up as a proper force in the labour movement". Yes, if possible. It is not clear it is possible with the current leadership of the LRC - McDonnell seeming to have "lost the plot" in the aftermath of the leadership election and Bournemouth, as witness his talk of turning LRC into a sort of miniature theme-park replica of the Socialist Movement of the 1980s - but we should put forward proposals which might make it possible. Get union branches to affiliate. Build LRC caucuses in unions.
But I fear that your concluding proposal - "LRC national committee should include representatives from the left groupings in... Unite, Unison, and GMB" - is another case of clutching at empty air, of the same order as the thought that burrowing away in the CLPs is good because if Woodley and Kenny mobilised thousands of left-wing union activists to flood in, then it would be good.
GMB has no left group. Unison United Left is run by the SWP - no, by John McLoughlin, the other SWPers in Unison having apparently lost interest - and had 15 people at its recent AGM, several of them there not because they think UUL is any good but just to keep an eye on it. Would John McLoughlin nod assent if Andrew Berry or Jon Rogers wanted to be accredited as "UUL representative on LRC committee"? He might. As empty play-acting goes, it wouldn't be a particularly bad thing. It would have no bearing at all on the task "to spread the fight for political democracy across the trade union movement".
The TGWU Broad Left and Amicus Unity Gazette, or any merged group they may form? Well, we got their measure in the McDonnell campaign and in their failure to emit so much as a plaintive bleat about Bournemouth. Might they agree to some LRC-minded person in their ranks being officially accredited as BL or AUG representative on the LRC committee? They might. It would make no difference to what they do.
Let's do politics based on real forces, not on shadow play! It gets us no further forward in reality to play generalissimo with fictitious quantities - "here we have A from UUL, representing a million Unison members; there are B and C from TGWU BL and AUG, representing two million; and D, a GMB leftie, representing 600,000. Now if B, C, and D will just make sure that Woodley and Kenny mobilise a few thousand left-wing trade unionists into the CLPs, and don't shoot until you see the whites of Brown's eyes, then victory is ours!"
It seems more humdrum to do something like working in a long-term perspective to rebuild Trades Councils. But it is more real.

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