Prospects grow for left in Labour
Socialist Unity spoke to Jon Rogers (who is a member of the Labour Left Briefing editorial board and has stood for Unison General Secretary gaining over 40,000 votes (17%)) about socialists and the Labour Party.
Q: Do you think there is
still a place for socialists inside of the Labour Party?
A: Absolutely! My friend and comrade, Christine Shawcroft, a fellow member of the Labour Briefing editorial board, just scored 50% of the vote in getting re-elected to the Party’s National Executive (1). I suggest that shows that there are still at least as many people who would identify themselves as socialists in the ranks of the Labour Party as in all the other left parties put together.
Q: It is reported that the Labour Party is very short of funds and they are considering asking the trade union movement to help bail them out – would this be money well spent for organisations like Unison?
A: There are two things I would say in response to this question.
First, I am not for unconditional support for Labour – or for any party. I think the unions, Unison included, need to find ways to target our funding and political support to those who support our policies.
Secondly, we also need to consider what the alternative is in terms of party funding. I think it is deeply ironic that the same New Labour creeps who have encouraged and accepted dodgy loans, have also always wanted to break the link between the unions and the Party. They may see their own misbehaviour as providing an opportunity to argue for state funding of political parties. Any socialist who thinks state funding of political parties will ever help anyone who is opposed to capitalism is clearly not thinking very hard.
My conclusion is that I would like to see the unions continuing to support the Labour Party, but insisting in return that the Labour Party really supports the unions.
Q: What are the prospects for an effective “left opposition” inside of the Labour Party?
A: These prospects are brighter (or at least, less dim!) than they have been for almost a generation. The Labour Representation Committee brings together in excess of 1,000 individuals with over 100 affiliated organisations. The LRC is certainly not the only force to the left of New Labour, but it has – IMHO – the most worked out approach to organising.
I would add that, whilst the left must oppose the current leadership, we should not see ourselves as an “opposition” but as the left.
Q: What are the key aims of the John McDonnell leadership campaign (2), and how successful do you expect the initiative to be?
A: I should stress that I am not speaking on John’s behalf, but telling you what my opinions are. I think that John will run for Labour leader in a serious way, which means he will spell out what a socialist leader – and therefore a socialist Prime Minister – would say, do and mean.
That said, it is fairly obvious that the campaign does not have a single focus on winning the election, such that were we not to do so we would all retreat to our gardens. I also think that John’s campaign can help to build on and develop the organising work with which John has been so centrally associated in recent years. This includes building organisation at a rank and file level, through the Labour Representation Committee; strengthening the trade union voice in the Party and Parliament, through the individual trade union groups of MPs and also through initiatives such as the Public Services Not Private Profit Campaign and the Trade Union Freedom Bill; and, last but not least, organising alongside other socialist MPs.
I am very optimistic that John’s campaign can inspire and enthuse socialists in the Labour Party to engage in activity which will contribute to these objectives, and can provide a focus and encouragement for socialists outside the Party to join and become involved.
We interviewed Jon Rogers in January 2005 here
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