A motion at GMB congress which called for the union’s national political officer to “monitor” the activity of Progress, a Blairite pressure group within the Labour Party, has received significant coverage.
Some claim that the motion amounts to a call for the Labour Party leadership to ban Progress in the way that Militant, Socialist Organiser, and other left groups were banned in the 1980s and early 90s. In fact the text of the motion simply calls blandly for “unity” within the Labour Party and contains no calls for proscription, but some GMB figures — including general secretary Paul Kenny — have talked about pushing for a ban.
Leftists should be careful what they wish for on that score; any mechanism used to proscribe Progress could swiftly be turned on left-wing “factions” like the Labour Representation Committee. Progress should be fought using political, not bureaucratic, means.
To focus on Progress in this way is to suggest that the current leadership of the Labour Party is somehow being held prisoner by the ultra-Blairites, and that if the likes of Ed Miliband and Ed Balls could only be freed from their nefarious clutches then all would be well in the kingdom. In fact, affiliated unions need to assert a clear political challenge which takes on the leadership on an independent basis, rather than letting it off the hook by focusing the fire on an ultra-Blairite fringe group.
Other text on political representation and the union’s relationship to the Labour Party was submitted to Congress, but the Progress motion has become the sole focus of post-Congress press coverage and discussion.
• To read the motion, see here