By a CWU member
The conference of the postal and telecoms workers' union, the CWU, discussed the relationship of the union to the Labour Party in the context of the expulsion of the the RMT, and an expected disaffiliation of the FBU.
There were several propositions calling for the union to take a more pro-active stance towards the Labour Party, including one calling for a review of the supported MPs and a calling to account of CWU delegates to Labour Party bodies, as well as support for the Labour Representation Committee. However at the last moment an Emergency proposition was taken that precluded discussion of these positive political propositions.
Instead we debated the proposition from London South West Branch (the Branch of the Deputy General Secretary, Postal, Dave Ward) that called for an unequivical committment to public ownership of the Post Office in the Labour Party Manifesto and said we would withhold money to the Labour Party if this was not achieved. This motion was already existing policy of the union, and its apparent emergency was due to a reference to a newspaper article!
Its admission to the agenda precluded the already tabled motions from being discussed. All subsequent discussion was a stitch up. The Emergency motion was overwhelmingly carried. The only voice of dissent was Peter Keenlyside, from Greater Manchester Amal branch who pointed out that a letter from Patricia Hewitt telling the union what it wanted to hear would be all it needed to meet the demands of the proposition and that we should instead pass ones further on in the agenda, propositions that the union assert itself comprehensively on its policy in the Labour Party. A brave speech.
After this discussion we reached the proposition on the agenda from Scotland No 2 Branch, the CWU Branch that has affiliated to the Scottish Socialist Party. Their proposition called for the right for branches and regions to affiliate to any political parties that followed the principles of the CWU. This is the "RMT Model" and was moved as such, with much of the debate focussed on how it could lead to the CWU being disaffiliated like the RMT. The debate was very polarised largely because mainly right wing speakers were called to speak against.
Only Paul Moore from Central London Branch made the left criticism of the proposition reminding the conference that the CWU had played its part in making the Labour Party as right wing as it was today by voting for Partnership in Power and other rule changes as well as New Labour policies such as the privatisation of the London Underground.
The Scotland No 2 proposition was overwhelmingly defeated, approximately 5 to 1.
These debates made clear that the choice in the CWU is not between affiliation to Labour or supporting other parties but whether the union is prepared to assert itself politically in the Labour Party or whether it will stay quiet and tail the "Big Four".
Postal branches had been encouraged to vote agaisnt the Scotland No 2 Branch proposition on the basis that the point had already been made on the Emergency proposition. This shows that the majority preference of "Labour oppositionists" in the CWU is opposition to engaged political involvement with the Labour Party rather than support for any other political parties.
It was reported to conference that Billy Hayes and Dave Ward would be attending the Labour Party National Policy Forum in July. It is vital that CWU delegates do not do as they have done before, sell out CWU policies on employment rights for a sentence of warm words on the future of the postal industry in a Forum report.
With the anti union laws still on the statute book, offshoring of 10,000s of jobs and future liberalisation of the postal and telecoms industry through Government regulation still on the horizon there is much to fight for.
There was a Labour Representation Committee Fringe meeting at CWU Conference.
John McDonnell MP called on CWU activists to fight on socialist principles within the Labour Party and work within the newly formed LRC. There was a discussion on how the CWU could use the current affiliation to the Labour Party and work with other unions to abandon Blairite policies.
At the CWU Broad Left Rally Tommy Sheridan (SSP) and Mark Sandell (AWL) debated the issue of the political funds. Whilst Tommy called for the union to disaffiliate from the Labour Party as it no longer represented working class interests, Mark argued for a fight "to the death" within the Labour Party as part of building for a workers party and a workers government.
At the Post Worker meeting George Galloway was the guest speaker. He provided an account of the electoral success of Respect that was fanciful and concentrated on East London, Birmingham and Leicester. His incredibly optimistic scenario for its development depended on it being seen as the "alternative" for those "most betrayed" by Labour. He regretted the fact that the CWU Conference had rejected "democratising" their political fund.