Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Conservatives block reform of the Labour Party

Trade unionists and socialists set up the original Labour Representation Committee (LRC) on 27 February 1900. From that event the Labour Party was born. The launch of a new LRC at the TUC's central London headquarters Congress House on 3 July 2004 was billed as "the most significant initiative on the Labour left for a generation". But is it a case of "the Labour left", or "what is left of Labour"?

August 1, 2004
2 min read

For what remains of the Labour Party? The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union has been expelled. The Fire Brigades Union has disaffiliated. The Communication Workers Union has threatened to withhold funds. The general workers” union the GMB is withholding funds except for a select group of MPs. Thousands of individuals have torn up New Labour membership cards. In the recent elections millions of traditionally Labour voters, including myself for the first time ever, chose to support other parties. They will not return to New Labour. But where are they to go for their voices to be heard?

A seismic shift is happening, which the existing “Labour left”, clinging to its longstanding niche, seems unable to register. The LRC’s July conference simply had nothing to say about the resignations, the expulsions, June’s election results, and the gains of Respect and other parties.

I had hoped the LRC launch might signal that long-awaited new start: an occasion to really build the kind of open, non-sectarian, labour- and union-based organisation hundreds of thousands are looking for, which would welcome all sympathetic groups from that vast spectrum of our society that self-organised so brilliantly to say “no” to the government and its Iraq war on 15 February 2003. Were these groups and individuals – were we – represented at the LRC meeting? No, it was for Labour (New Labour) Party members and affiliates only. “Associates” – ie, everyone not signed up to New Labour – will have no voting rights.

But the LRC doesn’t have to be the stillbirth it already looks like. A real Labour Representation Committee for a real Labour Party is exactly what we need. So please, comrades – courage! Our forebears went to prison and died for their belief in our future. We owe them and ourselves something more than a nervous, bureaucratic fudge.

Speakers from the platform at July’s conference expressed their fear of being expelled from New Labour if they stepped out of line and opened the gates to all. What is there to fear? Challenge Blair and his clique. At last we have the power to do so. We are many. They are few. The “Labour left” alone can’t do it, nor can the unions alone, nor Respect, nor the Greens. Unity starts here. Let’s all declare ourselves the Labour Party, and expel the hijackers now.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism

Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase

Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields

Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton

Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi

A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain

Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank

Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded

West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens

Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age

Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun