AWL in conference - “The workers’ movement will revive”

By Mike Sanders

Marxist activists from across the country met over the weekend 21-22 May for the conference of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. The major debates were on Iraq, “Rebuilding the labour movement”, and the work and purpose of the AWL.

Our discussion on Iraq concentrated on the practical solidarity work we as British socialists can do to help the fledgling Iraqi workers’ movement. Iraqi socialists from the Worker-communist Party of Iraq spoke as guest speakers to our meeting about the prospects for Iraqi workers what is required in terms of solidarity.

But the political context on the left in the UK was also a subject of discussion. We have seen a dramatic and, perhaps terminal, decline in the politics of large sections of the British left. Spearheaded by the Socialist Workers’ Party, most of the left now tail-ends the ex-Stalinist, “not very left wing” George Galloway. It has collapsed into an idiotic “anti-imperialism”. Most support the reactionary Sunni supremacist-Islamist-ex-B’athist “resistance” while downplaying and even slandering the young Iraqi workers’ movement.

We resolved to prioritise Iraqi solidarity in the coming year.

Our discussion on “Rebuilding the labour movement” was split into two parts. We looked at the state of the movement in perspective:

“That trade-unionism... will in time revive, is certain. The impulse for workers to combine together to improve wages and conditions is built into the basic class contradiction of capitalism. That class contradiction is sharpening, not softening. The size of the working class, worldwide, is increasing. Today the wage-working class, as a class, is probably the most numerous social class in the world, about one-third of the world’s population, more numerous than the peasantry for the first time ever.

We als discussed immediate tasks in the British workers’ movement, and the need for rank and file organisation particularly in the public sector. We proposed to organise for a public sector alliance, focusing on the issue of pensions and the privatising agenda of this third term New Labour government.

AWL union activists from PCS, UNISON, NUT and NATFHE explained the folly of the union leaders’ calling off the public sector pensions strike, which would have been the biggest strike since the general strike of 1926. The Government has only offered talks, and said any result of those talks must be “cost neutral”.

Conference heard that in the civil service union PCS Socialist Party and SWP activists swung the Executive vote to call off the strike in order that the union could “keep its powder dry”.

Such a showing must give serious working class activists pause for thought. What has happened to the old trade union strategy of “walking and talking”? A strike that would have set a working class political agenda was scrapped on the purely spurious pretence of a great victory.

Our conclusion? There is a vital need to build a public sector alliance from the roots of the unions, in the workplaces and branches to prepare, organise and push for industrial action in defence of public sector pensions, for a decent state pension and to defeat the head long privatisation of the public sector by New Labour. Activists of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty will fight hard to bring that about.

Messages of solidarity were sent from Yves Coleman editor of Ni Patrie Ni Frontières, Lalit Muritius, Liasons France, Pauline Bradley, convenor Iraq Unions Solidarity and comrades from the Polish Revolutionary Left Current.

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