Party should be “committed to socialist policies” now lacks any means by which it might be carried through. The only practical suggestion was that, given the dramatic loss in Labour Party membership, it was now much easier for the left to take over moribund constituency parties (and presumably the smaller they get, the better, as it then becomes even easier).
John McDonnell argued very strongly that Brown’s victory without a fight by the unions was a turning point. Rather than proposing anything practical to reverse it, however, he seemed to say the game was up and “the old strategy was over... and the idea of the unions reclaiming the LP had failed too.” This was despite him saying he thought the left could have won at Bournemouth “if the trade unions had drawn a line in the sand.” This must reflect the failure of his own campaign for the leadership to convince any of the supposedly left union leaders to take a stand against Brown.
His contribution largely consisted of saying that we should go outside the Labour Party to link up with all sorts of campaigns in building a sort of general counter-hegemonic movement for socialism. In this, the unions are just one social movement among many.
McDonnell probably sees this as something of a re-run of the GLC of the 80s.
The whole package was contradictory in that, despite saying the left could do nothing effective in the Labour Party, he didn’t advocate leaving or an alternative. Rather he saw this action outside the party as somehow creating an atmosphere such that the left inside could no longer be marginalised, despite the absence of democratic structures. The idea that these movements and the unions required political representation was totally left out of his speech.
There was little other discussion of what the LRC could practically do now – for example, by organising in the affiliated unions to call the leaders to account. Whatever the merits of linking the LRC with broad protest movements in the abstract, it amounts to a de-focusing from the practical steps necessary to fight back against Brown’s plan and preparing the ground for an alternative in the event of defeat.