THE RMT London Region held its first political day school last Thursday. About 70 people took part in debates and discussions on issues from the war to our links with Labour. Tony Benn and Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition kicked the day off with a history of the labour movement.
There was one key message: the fight to organise against capital has been going on for centuries. As Benn said, 'If we don't know where we've been, we don't know where we are and we don't know where we're going.' After this, we discussed the war, imperialism and globalisation. The key part was a 'question time' session with John McDonnell MP, Bob Crow and Tommy Sheridan MSP. Interestingly, one invited MP, Oona King, who backed the war, didn't turn up.
The mix was great, too. Old hands mixed with people who had never attended a political event before. People who hadn't been interested in politics were galvanised by what they heard. Several Fire Brigades Union (FBU) London region members attended. It's obvious that the RMT and FBU share many interests, and that we need to get together to coordinate them.
The RMT has always led the way in union politics, from the formation of the Labour Party to the democratisation of the political fund debate. This school was another step in showing workers how the war on Iraq and the war on workers are two strands of the same system.
The fact that the school was organised, and the depth of questions and contributions, demonstrated the politicisation in workplaces. As one participant said, 'We're here because of the anti-war movement.' But it's clear that we need more days like this, and that other unions need to follow suit.
Trade unions have played a role in the anti-war and anti-capitalist movements, but it could be far stronger. And we need to be looking at how we can use our industrial strength to fight over both economic and political issues.