LRC gets 25% boost

Submitted by martin on 18 January, 2011 - 12:51

At its conference in London on 15 January, the Labour Representation Committee reported a 25% increase in membership in 2010.

The conference itself was noticeably bigger than previous years'.

A motion from AWL saying that the LRC should demand full public ownership and control of high finance was passed, and AWL members also worked at the conference to get support for the Labour Party Democracy Task Force and Right To Resist.

The campaigning highlight of the conference was a decision to push Labour councils to defy the cuts.

One downside was that the main motion proposing this was moved by Ted Knight, former leader of Lambeth council. He spoke eloquently but without recalling that when Lambeth council leader he proposed 4.5% local cuts as soon as Thatcher came to office in 1979, levied a 49% rate rise in 1980, and then cut by 10% in 1981.

LRC activists will need to stick to their principles better than that.

Knight was also at the centre of the main controversy in the conference, which blew up around a clause tucked away in the seventh paragraph of an otherwise uncontentious motion, proposed by Knight's close ally Nick Toms, and supported by former LRC secretary Simeon Andrews.

The clause said that the "slogan or campaign... rebuild the [Labour] Party" was not "appropriate for the LRC as a whole", though some LRC members might pursue it.

On paper, you could argue either way on the clause. "Rebuild the Labour Party" is not the clearest way to express the task of fighting for revival and democracy within the Party, and rallying the unions and rank and file members against the leadership.

However, Toms, Knight, and Andrews have never proposed anything sharper or more ambitious, inside the Labour Party or outside it, than those in the LRC whom they accuse (falsely, in my view) of wanting to turn it into a mere Labour Party pressure group.

At the 2009 LRC conference, Knight led (and very demagogically) the opposition to an AWL motion calling for socialist criticism of the People's Charter. At the 2007 and 2008 conference, Toms vehemently opposed AWL proposals for the LRC to "push the envelope" by rallying Trades Councils and other local labour movement bodies to insist on real working-class political representation.

The Toms-Knight-Andrews line seems to amount, in fact, to the LRC becoming yet another vague coalition of the left, with no particular focus, and agnostic on the Labour Party. That would reduce the LRC to no more than added clutter. For Labour Party members (as Toms, Knight, and Andrews are) it would mean a policy of passive speculation, dismissing all prospects of organising within the Labour Party for a fight, and waiting for the drifting-together of (as Andrews put it) "a movement that can lay the foundations for a new party".

If the LRC does not organise and focus better where it could make a real difference - inside the Labour Party - and in particular if it does not do so now, when there is some ferment in the Party and 50,000 new members have joined, then it makes itself useless, including to those socialists who are not in the Labour Party themselves but join the LRC because they want to link with the Labour and trade-union left.

At least, that's how I and most other AWL members at the conference saw it. Some saw it differently and backed the Toms clause.

Jenny Lennox, Owen Jones, Jon Rogers, Pete Keenlyside, Pete Firmin, Graham Bash, Simon Hewitt, and myself spoke against the Toms clause; Simeon Andrews, Susan Press, John Moloney, and Chris Ford for it. It fell by a big majority.

Both LRC joint secretary Pete Firmin, and Matt Wrack, speaking from the Fire Brigades Union, condemned the distractions imposed on the anti-cuts movement by the competition between COR, NSSN, and Right To Work. Wrack called it the syndrome of "we've created the campaign, now we want your support and your money". He said that the FBU is pressing the Trade Union Coordinating Group, a consortium of left-wing unions, to organise a conference to unite the anti-cuts movement.

The LRC conference added a speaker to its schedule to cover the revolt in Tunisia. Less positively, the speaker added was Mohammed Ali Harrath, former leader of the Tunisian Islamic Front and now "CEO" of Islam Channel TV.


Submitted by martin on Tue, 18/01/2011 - 11:38

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