Socialist Worker

Conference on unions and political representation is chance to discuss the way forward

by Unjum Mirza, London region RMT political officer (personal capacity)
Issue No. 1983

The RMT union has called a conference to discuss working class political representation.

It is taking place next Saturday and is open to activists from all unions. This is an opportunity for trade unionists to discuss the way forward on the political front.

The war and occupation of Iraq have holed Tony Blair below the waterline. The damage the anti-war movement has inflicted is helping to fuel opposition to other New Labour policies — over education, health, pensions and privatisation.

When the RMT was expelled from the Labour Party two years ago for daring to decide where our political fund money should go we were told we would find ourselves isolated.

In fact, the socialist principles at the heart of our union fit with the mood of millions of working people. The Fire Brigades Union, insulted and assaulted by the government, voted to break from Labour a year after we were kicked out.

There is a real debate about what positive representation for working people we can achieve and about the political strategy for the union.

The dispute on London Underground is adding to that. RMT members backed Ken Livingstone when he was expelled from the Labour Party.

Now he is back in and his administration in London is determined to weaken the RMT on the tube. That’s one of the factors behind the strikes against slashing safety standards and jobs.

Unfortunately, the conference will not be as inclusive as it should be. While a Socialist Party councillor from Coventry has been invited to speak, Respect councillors such as Oliur Rahman from Tower Hamlets and Michael Lavalette from Preston have not.

No representative of Respect has been invited, even though it broke through at the general election further than any left of Labour Party organisation for 50 years.

Respect supporters are determined that the strength of the organisation will be reflected at the conference, and that there is discussion about the forthcoming council elections in May.

RMT open conference, Saturday 21 January, 12 noon to 3pm, Friends Meeting House, London (nearest tube Euston)

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Article information

Sat 14 Jan 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1983
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