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The Campaign for a mass party of the working class; how it started

Terry Teague


 

The involvement of the Liverpool Dockers comes from the large number of political and trade union groups who use the CASA (The Dockers Building in the Liverpool city centre). Who constantly raise the issue of the lack of political representation for the labour and trade union movement? To the point were there is real sense of despair & frustration that we no longer have a political voice.

  

 So when Tony Mulhern and John Kennedy and others from the Liverpool 47 Surcharged Councillors approached us to ask if we could jointly analyse the question of whom in to days society represents the political views of the working class we were only too ready to agree. What followed was a series of joint meetings at which the following issues were discussed.

 

Firstly we knew that there had already been plenty of debate and in the case of Respect actual development on the subject of a new party, with some excellent conferences, rallies and meetings organised by the traditional left wing parties and groups like ‘Reclaim the Labour Party’, ‘Left Unity’ and ‘Respect’etc. But we wanted to start something on a more local grass roots level with a broader base. i.e. Trade unions, community, ethnic and student groups.

 

Secondly we said that we didn’t  want to re-run the struggles of the Dockers or the 47 councillors, as just and correct as those fights were, they are now in the past and the biggest problems that we as a class face now is what is happening today and what is going to happen in the future. Instead of looking back we agreed to utilise the organisational skills and political endeavour that went into the campaigns of the Dockers and the Liverpool 47 by leading off the debate in Liverpool, on the issue of a new party.

  

 We also had an in-depth discussion on comparing what has happened in the past regarding the landmark campaigns organised by the labour and trade union movement to what is happening today.

   

For example during the 1950s Suez Crises. The 1960s CND & The Vietnam War. The 1970s Big Industrial Disputes against the Government economic policies (wage restraint).  The 1980s Right to Work Campaigns, & The Miners Dispute, and the 1990’s Poll Tax Campaign and Liverpool Dockers Dispute etc.There was always a limited mechanism for working people to air their grievances either through the branch structures of the trade union movement or the political structures of the constituency Labour Party. Whilst you could argue that these procedures were far from perfect, an issue that gained mass and popular support at the national level of the Trade Union movement or reached the floor of the Labour Party Conference it was usually acted on, albeit in a watered down fashion.

 

None of that happens now; you only have to look at the massive turn-out for the anti-war rallies. The magnificent coalition that was built from that movement brought together Trade Unions, CLP’s, all the Socialist Parties along with Ethnic and Community Groups to form a mass  opposition to war, but who on a political basis spoke for them. It certainly wasn’t the Tories and never will be as they will always put profit before peace and human suffering. The Lib Dems skirted with the idea of becoming the voice of the people but quickly ducked for cover when the media barons turned on them. And what about the Labour Party who came to power on the backs of the millions opposed to war, did take any notice of the peoples voice --- NO!

 The same can be said for Tuition Fees, Privatisation, and Anti-Trade Union Laws, Pensions etc. This Labour government take no notice of the feelings, views or wishes of the working class man or woman and because of that millions of people are left disenfranchised.

  

We also had some discussion on the role of our Trade Union leaders, especially the new ones. You could say that our Trade Union leaders still have a direct input into the leadership of New Labour and its policies, but you could also argue that this is only lip-service for the millions of pounds that the trade union movement give to the Labour Party. In truth Blair and his government jump to the tune of the right wing press like the Sun or the establishment of self interest groups like the Countryside Alliance or the fuel protesters, but will do little or nothing when millions of ordinary men, women and children ask for a better way of life.

         

So the intention of the Campaign is to start a positive debate on the political representation of the Labour and Trade Union movement. We except that this will lead to arguments in terms of the best way forward i.e. do you fight from within to reclaim the Labour Party or is that idea now well and truly over and if so what are the alternatives.

 

The conclusion that the Liverpool Dockers and the Liverpool 47 Councillors came to was that the only credible option is to try and create a New Party that will represent the needs and aspirations of working class men, women and children like our forefathers had to do over a hundred years ago.

 

So far we held five open meetings and have been able to draw-in support from the TGWU, RMT, GMB, UNISON, FBU, UCATT, UNISON, Socialist Alliance, Socialist Party, SLP, Liverpool Community Labour Party, Unite, Merseyside Pensioners, Merseyside TUC, the International Socialist League and Workers Power. Also very welcomed representation from outside of Liverpool has came from the Scottish Socialist Party, South Wales NUM the London Support Group and Northern Ireland ATGWU.

 

At present we are involved in a series of sub-committee meetings as we try to move from a ‘Campaign’ into ‘Party’ and as you will no doubt understand this is proving to be the most difficult issue that we have faced so far. Although it has to be said that for the first time in many years there is a real desire and unity amongst the different groups to make sure that this initiative as far as Merseyside is concerned is given every opportunity to succeed.

 

 

 

 

 

August 2004

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