Socialist Worker

We will stand by our democratic decision

Issue No. 1888

'IN 17 minutes time we will be expelled from the Labour Party. If P&O Ferries, Jarvis or any other employer demanded that we reply to their letter by noon I would treat them with the same contempt. Yesterday Ian McCartney from the Labour Party said that he was worried about 'Bob Crow and his controlling group' in the union.

The only controlling group is the annual general meeting, where every delegate is a lay member-they are the only people who get a vote. So it's a bit rich coming from the unelected chairman of the Labour Party.

Our union, in 1899, moved a resolution from the Doncaster branch, calling for the Labour Party to be set up. Back then we supported the Liberal Party. Then, as now, there was a debate about representation for workers. Some people said we should stay in the Liberal Party and fight. But the other argument was that we needed to set up a Labour Representative Committee.

This Labour Party never allowed us to put our case before expelling us. They didn't let us appeal. They never told us what rule we broke. They kept telling us we had to abide by rule 2A, which says that everyone must abide by the programme and manifesto of the party.

But I asked, 'Are top-up fees in that manifesto? If it is in the manifesto, are you going to expel the MPs who voted against it? And if it's not in the manifesto, are you going to expel Brown and Blair for bringing top-up fees in?'

Our union campaigns for the renationalisation of the railway industry. No one who uses the railways today supports privatisation. We asked that the tube not be privatised. Not only has Labour privatised 6,000 of my members on the underground, it now intends to privatise the East London line.

It's very hard to explain to our members if you go down to King's Cross or Euston. You say to them, 'Who privatised you?' and they say, 'New Labour.' You ask, 'Who privatised the mainline services?' and they say, 'The Tories.' What is the difference between being privatised by someone with a red rosette instead of someone with a blue rosette? Both are carrying out Tory policies against working class people.

We are campaigning to end the destruction of our shipping industry. And we are calling for the repeal of the anti trade union laws. We cannot accept that all these Labour MPs in opposition voted against the anti trade union laws, and now they sit there with a massive majority and refuse to repeal them.

Those are the issues we campaign on. We went to our group of MPs and said, 'These are the policies we stand for-will you support them?' They said that they wouldn't and that they would not be dictated to.

That's fine, but we will also not be dictated to. So we have created a new group of MPs including people like John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn. John McDonnell said that if they expelled the RMT he would still be our MP in parliament. We backed John Marek when he stood successfully as an independent for the Welsh Assembly. I'd rather support someone with an independent rosette on who represents workers than someone with a red rosette who is going to put the boot into working people.

That's why you can't just say, 'Whatever happens we're going to support Labour'-that we can run them down every day of the year, but on 10 June go out and vote Labour. Support what? Another evil war?

We have supported workers every time they have asked for our support. We were involved in Taff Vale. We were involved in the 1926 strike. We supported the miners' strikes in 1972 and 1974.

We've supported public sector workers, nurses, ambulance workers. We never moved a cobble of coal from 1984 to 1985. We had people sacked and gave thousands of pounds to the mine workers.

That's what we do as a trade union. If people come to us and say they want to stand for election and support our policies and that they want a socialist society, as long as the executive endorses it, why shouldn't we support them? Seven Scottish branches said they wanted to affiliate to the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP). Our Scottish council voted by 70 percent to 30 percent to affiliate the whole region to the SSP.

No one outside my union is going to tell my union what to do with our money or who we can support. The only people that I am privileged to be told what to do by are my union membership. We have sent a cheque to the Labour Party-if they don't want to cash it, it can sit in the bank.

We are standing by our democratic decision taken at our conference.'

This is a shortened version of Bob Crow's speech at the Convention of the Trade Union Left in London last Saturday.

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