Monthly Archives: September 2015

My speech to 2015 Party conference on restoring trade union rights

Pete Radcliff , Broxtowe CLP speaking in favour of Composite 3 into which the motion of my constituency was incorporated 

Our trade union movement faces a battle for its life over the next few years. It is likely that we will again see trade unionists facing criminal charges and imprisonment for trying to defend their members.

But the problems of our trade union movement don’t only lie in the future they also lie in the past.

For years they have been trying to defend their members with their hands tied behind their back.

We have had to keep our union databases up to date with our members addresses and exact location of work – the smallest discrepancies have been used to discount the results of our costly postal ballots.

We have had to dodge any categorization of our strikes as political even though our members needed to defend themselves from the political actions of the government and their employers.

We are denied taking action in support of other workers, even though they may work alongside us and we share their problems.

Sympathy action, solidarity action, political action should be the democratic right of our trade unionists. Instead they are all currently illegal.

It is our duty to support workers who have difficulties defending themselves because of their responsibilities.

One of the proudest actions I ever took as a trade unionist was to have taken strike action – in the steel industry before Thatcher as near as damn destroyed it – in support of nurses and hospital workers in 1981.

The right to take such action was taken away from us during Thatcher’s onslaught on our rights.

We should celebrate the desire of workers to demonstrate solidarity in our movement.

We should not allow it to be remain illegal.

Our trade union movement should have had – and should have again – the right to question and take action against the political actions of their bosses.

Whether it be the privatisation of our services or the provision of arms and support to the prisons of the fascist, flogging and beheading Saudi Arabia -our trade unionists – our trade unions should have the right to take action.

And on that matter, can I applaud the actions of Jetemy Corbyn for speaking out against the Ministry of Justice’s contract to supply the Saudi prison system. For ISIS are not the only ones beheading and crucifying in the Middle East. Today, tomorrow or soon we may see yet another such atrocity on another young opponent of the Saudi regime.

Our trade unionists have the right, if they choose, to take solidarity action.

Democracy is not just votes in parliament – democratic rights, trade union rights should be the right of every worker.

Our trade unions as they move forward against this insidious Trade Union Bill need to know that this Party is behind them – and that we will restore the rights taken away from them in the days of Thatcher as well.

Let’s be clear in our support for them today. Please unanimously pass the motion.

Solidarity

Labour Conference 2015 – halfway house 

IMG_2068The annual Labour Party conference takes place in Brighton from 27th-30th September. It comes just 2 weeks after the dramatic winning of the Labour leadership by Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour Annual conference over the years has changed away from anything recognizable as a working class political conference. The preparation and the documents were mostly drafted before the Blairites were aware of their forthcoming defeat. So in the official programme there are dozens of business-sponsored meetings advertised with (former) front bench spokespersons invited to speak. Included in the sponsors of such meetings are key agents of privatisation: ATOS, Deloitte, KPMG, G4S etc.

Chuka Umunna, still titled as the Shadow Secretary of State for Business, is listed about 10 times as speaking or being invited to speak. Chris Leslie is listed several times speaking as ‘Shadow Chancellor’.

The new Party leadership has not had the opportunity to pulp the inaccurate programme never mind formulate changes to the conference’s procedures. Those changes will need to come later in the year and the campaign to change the Party will need to come as soon as this conference is over. For the Party conference has to debate thoroughly the policies on which Corbyn won the election as well as others that have so far been declared.

Until the views of the membership can be forcefully expressed in this way, Blairites within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) will have the maximum leeway to divide the Party and undermine Corbyn.

We need to discuss nuclear disarmament, promoting workers unity, anti-austerity and workers right in the UK and across the EU, the opening up of Britain and Europe to migrants and refugees; the crisis in the Middle East and the defeat of religious sectarianism, dictatorship and the denial of national rights to oppressed nationalities such as the Palestinians and the Kurds.

The week-end’s conference won’t do much in getting through this agenda. Only 4 motions are allowed from CLPs to discuss at conference and they have to jump thorough many obstacles to make it to the conference floor.

Rule changes have been submitted by CLPs to increase the number of resolutions and amount of time given to have such discussions, but these will either be opposed by the right wing or prevented going forward onto the agenda. How many get through is uncertain.

So don’t expect a radically changed Party because of this conference’s deliberations. For that we need to not only overthrow the old procedures but also to make the delegates more representative of the new Labour Party that is now forming.

Even more so than at the Special Conference 2 weeks earlier the delegations will have been decided many months ago. So although there will be a slight shift to the left, the conference will more be an opportunity to measure how the centre-ground of the Party has changed.

We can hope that the trade union delegations – again which will not have changed hugely from earlier years – will be prepared to demand more from the Party in clear pro-working class actions.

So expect some successes but don’t expect the other half – yet – of the revolution that saw Corbyn elected. Before we get that, we need to organise the left of the Party on the ground throughout the country. We need to get campaigning and debating – renovating the Party organisations with the new recruits and the new enthusiasm. But most of all we need to discuss how we can defeat this government now and replace it with a workers government as soon as possible. That will take more than 2 weeks to achieve but we cannot leave it for long

On what issues will the Blairites defy the Corbyn whip?

I guess that the synchronized refusal by the Blairites to serve on the front bench is a declaration that there will be regular defiance of the whip. But when people break the whip – it is not usually a light-minded thing. It risks disciplinary action by the party – although such a centralized coercive act is unlikely from Corbyn. But more importantly it risks alienating your own party members. Defying the whip is not an individualistic expression that your view is more important than the Party. To be successful it has to be a statement of principle – talking over the heads of the party to the membership and to the public and getting their support and respect.

I am trying to think what the Blairites principled statements might be and whom they think will be impressed by them.

Whilst almost every rebelling left MP in the past could expect to be supported by his/ her local Party, where do our possible Blairite rebels expect to get their support?

Certainly not on domestic issues of union rights or welfare cuts? Or did they not notice that the disastrous abstention on welfare cuts is what finished off Andy Burnham.

Perhaps on foreign policy or Trident? It is true that Corbyn’s policy is pacifistic and incomplete. But what alternative will they or the Tories offer? And do they expect the new party membership or the public to support a new war in Syria without a goal and whilst backing Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s anti-democratic activities there.

The EU? Corbyn looks as though he will be not calling to leave the EU but to change it. There needs to be, and will be, a full discussion in the Party first. But will the Blairites point of principle be tacking to the right of Corbyn on immigration. Will they mobilize the Party and public against the leader Corbyn around the infamous ‘Control Immigration’ slogan. 

But as the public watches and weeps at the plight of the refugees and migrants, they would also have to call for mass heart transplants.

Or will they make a point of principle having an alliance in the referendum with the Tories as in the Better Together campaign. Party members everywhere are furious with that stupid charade that ruined Labour in Scotland.

So the threats of regular whip defiance may only isolate the Blairites further – they need to think very carefully about it.

Never forget Chile

We all know one terrible anniversary of 9/11 or 11/9 but there is of course another one: that of the bloody overthrow of the Popular Unity government in Chile in 1973.Because of its democracy, Chile was known in those days as the ‘England’ of South America.

As we start to speculate again on the possibilities of a left wing government in Britain, we need to look at how the wonderfully popular government of Salvador Allende was undermined and overthrown in a brutal military coup leading to 5,000 deaths including that of the president – by international (US) business and by the capitalists and military of Chile.

We should never be intimidated by the memory of Chile but we should be always aware of the malicious intent and capabilities of some of the most powerful people in this world