Around 250 people attended a conference on “The crisis in working class representation” sponsored by the RMT transport union last Saturday in London.
The conference came at a time when many on the left are debating how best to organise to make sure that workers don’t pay for the economic crisis and the possibilities for presenting an electoral challenge to Labour.
Speakers included Brian Caton, general secretary of the prison officers’ association, Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU union, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT.
Some speakers urged activists to continue working within the Labour Party.
But there was a general mood that socialists should put aside their differences and come together to form a united organisation to challenge Labour and the Tories.
Organisers of the conference presented a leaflet to those attending confirming that a coalition would stand “trade union and socialist candidates in the general election”.
The coalition has come out of the “No2EU – Yes to Democracy” group that stood candidates in the European elections earlier this year.
Dave Nellist, a Socialist Party councillor in Coventry, told the audience, “Workers will have to fight but we shouldn’t allow that battle to take place with one hand tied behind our back.
“Our coalition is one of the most important initiatives in many years. It isn’t the launch of a new party – it isn’t broad enough. That remains to be built. But what this coalition could be depends on you.”
He invited other groups to get involved in discussions about building this. The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) will respond positively.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, said, “The working class is not represented properly. All the major parties embrace privatisation. I want my own party that is going to roll its sleeves up and fight for the things I want.”
Further details of the coalition, including its name and core policies, have yet to be decided.
The Socialist Party, the Communist Party of Britain and the Alliance for Green Socialism are among those backing the initiative, as are a number of trade unionists in a personal capacity.
It is clear that there is an audience for socialist candidates in elections
and that well-organised, rooted campaigns can be successful.
Tom Woodcock, an SWP member from Cambridge, told of how he had won 20 percent of the vote in 2007 and said that, “It has never been easier to argue socialist politics with people.”
The Socialist Workers Party remains committed to building a broad-based electoral alternative to New Labour.
The People’s Charter will hold a convention on Saturday 21 November in central London. Go to » www.thepeoplescharter.com for more details and to register