Hundreds at inspiring Labour left conference fringe meeting - but we also need discussion on way forward

Submitted by AWL on 29 September, 2015 - 1:14 Author: Sacha Ismail

At a left-wing Labour Party conference fringe meeting on 28 September, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told the audience:

"The view now is straightforward and I tell you this: when workers want to take action, we will support them automatically. Our movement should not be divided, there is one struggle. We need to take industrial action and we need to take direct action, on the streets and into the occupations... We are campaigning to close the [immigration] detention centres, we are in solidarity with the people in them. It might not be popular right now, it will be a struggle... The secret we discovered two centuries ago, in the fields and the workshops of the industrial revolution, and the secret now, is that we need unity, we need determination, but above all we need solidarity."

The meeting was organised by the Brighton and Sussex branch of the Labour Representation Committee, which McDonnell chairs. Normally LRC fringe meetings are attended by about 70 people. This one could easily have been four times that - the building was so packed that there was a spill over meeting outside.

Fire Brigades Union General Secretary Matt Wrack said the FBU will be debating its relationship to the Labour Party and insisted:

"We should be socialists and proud of it. Our goal should be a socialist commonwealth. You can't build a serious movement without long term aims. We need to aim for a society based not on the rule of profit but on the rule of solidarity, not only in Britain but in the rest of the world."

It was an inspiring meeting and Sussex LRC should be congratulated for organising it. But unfortunately, and typically for these kind of events, there was little discussion about what the left should be doing - either at the conference or more generally. There were at least ten speakers on the top table, and no time for discussion from the floor. All of the speakers were important figures in the labour movement and by and large they spoke excellently (and in some cases made important points), but mostly in very general terms.

There were exceptions. Rachel Mullen, a young worker active in the Bakers' Union, talked about the work they are doing to unionise and organise young workers in the fast food and other service industries. Rhea Wolfson from Labour Young Socialists talked about how LYS is building a united, democratic left in Young Labour and Labour Students. Maria Exall, LRC Vice Chair and activist in the Communication Workers' Union, called for the building of a united Labour left on a similar model, with strong local groups and democratic national structures, so that we can debate and agree ideas, demands and action.

The left needs inspiration, absolutely - a lot more of it. But we also need to discuss and make plans for taking the struggle forward on every level.


Submitted by AWL on Thu, 01/10/2015 - 21:50

For the important debate and vote on union rights at the conference, see here.

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