Friday, 30 May 2008

Meeting: How can we fight for a working class political voice?

Before the start of the Campaign for a New Workers' Party conference, the CNWP is hosting a discussion on the way forward for the left and the fight for a working class political voice.

Speakers confirmed so far include:

* Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary

* Simeon Andrews, Labour Representation Committee secretary

* Rob Hoverman, RESPECT co-ordinating committee

* CNWP speaker

CNWP Conference 2008 Sunday 29 June 11am - 5pm. South Camden Community School, Charrington Street, London NW1. (Nearest Rail/Tube stations - Kings Cross/St Pancras, Euston, Mornington Crescent)

More information click here

Comment: A positive step forward, let discussion be the first step towards action!

In particular, Bob Crow and the RMT, alongside PCS and FBU should take the lead! If they lead, they will take on board the disperate sections of the left, and crucially any new party or coalition would have far more appeal.

What do you think? Feel free to add comments...

McDonnell's 'May Manifesto'

Following New Labour's meltdown on May 1st, John McDonnell issued the following 'May Manifesto' which he has criculated as a petition. (see

The aim of the petition is primarily an effort to force a change in the policy of the Government and the Labour Party. Many of us think that this is not possible and / or highly unlikely. Even if conference voted for these policies the Government would ignore it, as it has done in the past so many times. It's not necessary to repeat the arguments against the strategy of reclaiming the Labour Party again here.

The points in the manifesto are all fully supportable. Of course they are limited, it's only a very short manifesto after all! Nonetheless, these points could form the basis for discussion on forming a new party, or a pre-party / coaltion, between the left-led unions and sections of the left. Hopefully this would include John McDonnell and other Labour Lefts.

A coalition, around even a very basic and short manifesto, could be the starting point towards a new party in the future, a party that could then develop a much fuller programme and structures in time.

Certainly, a coalition of the left-led unions (RMT, PCS, FBU) alongside other working class activists and socialist organisations, and maybe former Labour-Lefts, would have been far preferable to the recent London GLA Elections where a number of left lists stood against each other.

May Manifesto

* Nailing the 10p tax mistake by the introduction of a fair tax system removing the low paid from taxation and ensuring the wealthiest and corporations pay their fair share

* An increase in the basic state pension, immediately restoring the link with earnings, lifting people off means tested benefits and providing free care for the elderly

* An immediate start on a large scale council house building programme and assistance for those facing repossession

* Immediate end to programme of local Post Office closures and liberalisation of postal services
An end to the privatisation of our public services

* A new pay deal for public sector workers to protect their living standards and tackle low pay

* Abolishing tuition fees and restoring maintenance grants for all students

* Scrapping ID cards and abandoning 42 days detention

* Introduction of a trade union freedom bill and measures to protect temporary and agency workers

* Rejecting the proposals to renew Trident

Opposition to war and privatisation must come from The Left

John Nicholson

The Convention of The Left is a bold venture that comes as a result of people from different left and radical traditions – or none – getting together in Greater Manchester to say that there IS an alternative to Labour’s policies of war and privatisation.

We are from green, left, internationalist, communist, socialist, radical and anarchist backgrounds. We are involved in civil liberties, anti-deportation, trade union, climate change, peace and public service campaigns. What we have in common is that we believe the wealth exists in society to pay for our essential needs – but we do not believe that an unbridled free market is sustainable.
We cannot have socialism if the planet has been destroyed, but we [probably?] can’t save the planet unless we have socialism. As Derek Wall has said today in the Morning Star,“To solve ecological crisis, we need to put workers in control of production using green plans to cut pollution.”

So when New Labour comes to Manchester for its so-called “Conference” (an event generally believed to be without debate or decisions), we have decided that we want to host a “Convention of The Left” – just a stone’s throw (or a balloon’s flight) away from the security-surrounded official event, we will be holding a day of action, a full day conference, and three days of themed debates and discussions (Saturday September 20th - Wednesday September 24th 2008).

Our Convention will be both a protest at Labour’s war and privatisation, racism and pollution, authoritarianism and inequality, and a practical demonstration that there is an alternative.
Our Convention will be about an entirely different world – one that can be built by working people for working people.

Our Convention will be united in our determination to combine our strengths and develop through open and participatory debates the rebuilding of The Left today.

The agenda is evolving, because we have been seeking the comments, suggestions and involvements of many more people – and we are going on doing so, between now and then. We don’t just want a one-off conference (good though we hope the debates in September will be). We want to encourage everyone to start debating the topics and the possibilities across the pages of the left press and the websites and blogs, all the way from now till then.

So our blog ( has started with a few contributions for debate – on Planet, Peace, People not Profits, Politics: Power and Participation – and hopes to encourage both responses to these and suggestions on many more (including Prejudice and Oppression for example). The topics don’t all have to start with “P” – but, for the meanwhile, Give “P”s a Chance… and we look forward to the comments that come in.

Then, as we get closer to the event itself, we hope we will have a body of material already debated widely across the left that can start the Convention off on a sound footing – and encourage yet more participation and debate in the sessions that follow – all of which may lead to the development of “charters” or even a “manifesto” of The Left, on which we can all agree to mobilise our forces in unity so as to campaign more effectively.

The Convention is currently organised by an Organising Group, meeting in Manchester. All meetings have been open to others to come and make suggestions. As a practical result of this, we have agreed that we must take some action already – anti-fascist work for example is not going to wait until September, but is starting now.

Similarly we have been looking for ways to involve the left around the rest of the country, who cannot necessarily make meetings in Manchester (and from our neighbours north and west of the borders – in Scotland and Wales – and hopefully from the European Left and beyond). Debate in hyperspace is encouraged, but maybe people can also organise their own meetings in their own localities; to which those of us in Manchester would be pleased to come along and give some information on the progress so far.

Confirmed participants include Tony Benn, John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn, Mark Serwotka, Sue Bond, Jeremy Dear, Matt Wrack, Rahila Gupta, Tariq Ali, John Lister, Jonathan Neale, Kate Hudson, Andrew Murray, Bill Greenshields, George Galloway, Abjol Miah , Ken Loach and Derek Wall. Sponsoring organisations include the Labour Representation Committee – and the Left Women’s Network and Left Economics Advisory Panel; Scottish Socialist Party; Communist Party of Britain; Green Left; Respect; Greater Manchester Association of Trades Union Councils and others.

So if you want to support actions ranging from stopping the war(s), supporting the anti-nuclear blockades, fighting racist deportations, stopping housing sell-offs, defending the NHS – do feel free to get involved. If you want to hear (or even to organise) debates and discussions on Palestine, Iraq, Pakistan, or the break-up of the UK, climate change, human rights (including the rights of migrants and refugees), reclaiming health and (secular) education, and the struggle for a fairer economic system – do make suggestions and put your own contributions onto the blog.

We want to start defining a new way of working (even to reclaim that word “new”) so that we can work together in practical campaigns, regardless of the organisations we may belong to, and so that we can stop the war and nuclear proliferation, the cuts and privatisation. Much more than elections and individual campaigns, we want to develop a critique of capitalism as we now know it and an alternative strategy that is environmentally and socially just, inclusive and peaceful, pluralist, tolerant, and doesn’t rely on “top-table” speakers but on discussion from us all – in pursuit of a bigger common objective that benefits the many and not the few.

Diverse but not divisive, we want participation in debate and unity in action.

decisive leadership needed to reverse fortunes of the left

John McDonnell, Tony Benn, Bob Crow, Mark Serwotka, Matt Wrack, George Galloway, Ken Loach, Tommy Sheridan, Dave Nellist and other leading figures on the left, together with the organisations they represent, along with others from the socialist and labour movement, need to urgently hold discussions with a view to launching a new political party.

A new party is urgently needed to reverse the dismal fortunes of the left. Disintegration and decline cannot be allowed to continue. The leaders of the left and the principle organisations that make it up have a duty to take decisive action.

Over the past decade thousands have stopped being active through disgust or demoralisation as Labour moved right and the unions embraced 'social-partnership'. These former activists and Labour Party members would flock to join a new party, but ONLY if it was credible.

For a credible new party of the left

Credible means it must have the support of leading individuals and organisations, including the left-led trade unions. These individuals and organisations, particularly the left-led trade unions, still command massive respect and carry social weight.

It must also be fully democratic and inclusive - anything less would be repulsive. A new credible party of the left would be a pole of attraction to these activists, whether the hundreds of thousands of ex-Labour members, former union militants, or those who have passed through other parties or coalitions to the left of labour in more recent times.

A credible new party of the left could unite with a whole new generation of younger people, those politicised through the anti-war or environmental campaigns, or younger workers newly involved in the unions.

It's not only the activists and former activists that need a new party to give them renewed hope and enthusiasm and a political home to belong to; the wider working class and labour movement also needs a new political party. A new credible party could quickly gain affiliation of the left-led unions, the PCS, RMT and FBU. Many rank-and-file members in the other unions would also come on board and fight for their organisations to sign up.

Without a new party the vacuum to the left remains unfilled and workers have no party that will fight in their interests or support them when in struggle. This is a dangerous situation, one that presents big opportunities to the far right and fascists.

A demoralised, disorganised and divided left vacates the political stage, leaving it for our enemies to dominate. A left like this has no real imput into the key debates and discussions of the day.

A credible new party of the left would command at least more media attention than present, it would be able to put forward socialist policies, present the class arguments, and support those in struggle. This would help to politically re-arm the working class after the defeats of the 80s and 90s, and breed new confidence to fight back.

The question of a new political party of the left, a party that aims to become a mass organisation of the working class, cannot be side stepped.

Most people see politics as political parties that fight for power. United front campaigns on single issues (i.e. for affordable housing, against war and occupation etc.) are fine. No one opposes this inherently sensible idea. However, this is nothing like an alternative strategy to a new party. In fact, a new party is central to fighting on single issues, for affordable housing, against occupation, racism etc. etc.

A new credible party of the left could make a huge splash, reinvigorate interest in politics, organise thousands of activists, bringing them together to discuss ideas as well as in action, and attract far wider support in the working class than a few single issue united front campaigns could do.

The leaders of the left, its principle organisations and the unions who avoid the party question or fail to act on it are letting down the movement and the wider working class.

And so, it's over to John McDonnell, Tony Benn, Bob Crow, Mark Serwotka, Matt Wrack, George Galloway, Ken Loach, Tommy Sheridan, Dave Nellist, LRC, CNWP, Respect Renewal, Left List, SP, CPB, Solidarity, SSP, RMT, PCS, FBU and other leading individuals and organisations to act.

Pro new party activists need to add pressure and constructive input to the discussions and debate.