Cuts, class war and a left-wing superstar: LRC Conference review
For those who consider the Labour left a strange, alien world, I should explain what the Labour Representation Committee is. It was founded as a grassroots organisation of Labour members and trade unionists in 2004 and takes the name of the original LRC, which established the Labour Party a century ago. Like LRC 1.0, it has the same underlying argument: working-class people currently lack effective political representation, and something should be done about it. It’s chaired by tireless socialist campaigner and Labour MP, John McDonnell, and has a vast array of affiliates, including trade unions inside the Labour Party (ASLEF, BFAWU, the CWU and the NUM) and outside (the FBU and the RMT).
The LRC’s annual conference took place on Saturday. Not for three decades has the Labour left met after the fall of a Labour government. Things were rather different last time around. What later became known as the ‘soft left’ and ‘hard left’ were then united in an insurgency that led to the democratisation of the Labour Party. The left was so strong that it came within a whisker of electing Tony Benn as Labour’s deputy leader in 1981.
On Saturday, we were just glad to fill Conway Hall. That said, the Labour left has, in theory, the biggest potential opening for a very long time. The out-and-out Blairite candidate was defeated in the recent leadership election, and Labour’s hard right is in retreat – as best symbolised by the likes of John Hutton and Alan Milburn relaunching their political careers as Tory advisors. Ed Miliband is no Labour lefty, but he has been forced to make the right noises on issues like inequality and New Labour’s obsession with the market. The current crisis of capitalism has been cleverly turned into the Tories’ big opportunity, but it has still led to widespread questioning of free market dogma.
You can also read about my contribution at LRC Conference in the Morning Star (if you’re interested…)