Bob Crow, leader of the RMT, has expressed his view a number of times now that the Labour Party is finished for working class people and cannot be 'reclaimed'. Bob Crow is well known for his left wing views and as a militant union leader and so his comments are highly signifficant.
The RMT union has been disafilliated from Labour for a good few years now - oppening the way for the union to back other candidates or parties.
However, given the lack of any credible left-wing party to support - the RMT is considering standing its own slate in the London elections in 2008. This development should be welcomed by those who wish to see a credible new party of the left emerge.
A fighting union of 75,000 members deciding to enter the political fray could be a major step towards creating such a new party. This step would also help politicise the rank-and-file of the union as well as those in other unions and workers in general.
It's not yet clear what the RMT leadership intends, and less so what will eventually be decided. To stand a single-issue 'Campaign Against Tube Privatisation' slate, a campaign which exists only for the elections, and does not draw in broader forces, would be a missed opportunity to put it mildly. Such a narrow campaign, with no real structures at the base, would not involve as wide a layer of activists and would not be as likely to attract support.
Hopefully the RMT will avoid this mistake and decide to actually launch a new political party. Fighting against privatisation, and for the renationalisation of the railways and the entire public transport network should of course be key policies. A range of other policies, such as trade union freedom, withdrawl of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, new affordable council housing etc. etc. should also be developed to give the new party broad working class appeal. (See Neasden RMT Branch ammendment below which makes this point very well).
If the RMT do launch a new party, and appeal to wider forces to join it, then potentially it could draw in left-led unions such as the PCS and FBU (both unaffiliated), thousands of left-wing union activists, ex-Labour Party members, community and NHS campaigners, independent socialists, the Campaign for a New Workers' Party, the Socialist Party and other socialist groups.
Given the current state of the Labour Party such a new formation could also attract sections of the Labour Left and potentially even some Socialist Campaign Group MPs such as John McDonnell. Bob Wareing MP, recently deselected by his CLP, could also be attracted to the new party.
If the RMT do initiate a new party, then all those who want to see a new party of the left created should get involved and help to build it - not just in London, but across the whole country.
If a new party adopts democratic and inclusive structures, and develops a manifesto of key labour movement and socialist policies, then it can succeed in becoming a major pole of attraction for the millions of socialists, workers, trade unionists, ex-Labour members and others who have been abandoned by New Labour.
Motions to RMT's London Transport Regional Council on 27th September.
Preamble passed by Neasden RMT branch:
This branch believes that changes in both the policy and internal structures of the Labour Party over the last decade and a half have been a major set back for working-class political representation in this country; and that in this situation, it is left to the unions to begin to reconstruct a working-class political force.
We therefore advocate that the RMT takes the initiative in the creation of a slate of independent working-class candidates in the upcoming GLA and London Mayoral elections, to give working-class Londoners a chance to express their opposition to the various political representatives of business and vote for a positive alternative.
Section passed by both Neasden and Camden No 3 RMT branches:
To be effective, such a slate would need to
a) Draw in, or at least attempt to draw in, broader forces than just the RMT, by approaching other unions, anti-privatisation and cuts campaigns, tenants' organisations, socialist groups and so on.
b) Develop a manifesto which speaks to the many different issues facing workers, working-class communities and oppressed groups in London, such as education, the health service, housing, a living wage and trade union rights - while of course making the demand for a 100% publicly owned, democratically controlled, integrated and cheap public transport system central. A broad focus will make the challenge stronger.
This branch therefore asks that the union issue a call for such a slate of candidates and approach other unions and campaigning groups in London.