A coalition to stand trade union and left general election candidates was announced at the Saturday 7 November conference on political representation called by the rail union RMT.
Click here for letter from the AWL to other left groups about coalition plans.
The planned coalition has the backing of the Communist Party of Great Britain, the Socialist Party, the Alliance for Green Socialism and is supported in a personal capacity by Bob Crow (general secretary of the RMT), Brian Caton (general secretary of the POA), National officers in PCS, and national executive committee members of the CWU, UNISON, FBU and USDAW.
According to the leaflet given out at the start of the meeting the intention is to stand candidates as part of a federal coalition under a common name but so far no name has been decided and the core politics will ‘be the subject of further discussions.’
There were no democratic decisions taken nor any input from delegates or trade unionists into the nature of the coalition or its politics.
Many of the speakers including Brian Caton and Bob Crow made the case for why the working class needed a new political voice. New Labour has just followed on from the Tories introducing even more privatisation and attacks on jobs and conditions. There were also many appeals on the need for unity and how we should put aside our petty differences and unite. However, what wasn’t so clear was, unite with whom, and on what basis.
The discussions on who and on what basis have been going on during and since the No2EU Yes to democracy campaign when candidates were stood in the European elections and it would seem that the select few involved with these discussions have proved that they are incapable of agreeing any unity. The Communist Party were in, then out, then half in and half out and now in – more like the hokey cokey than a united platform. John Foster (CPB) and others are making it clear that they think the central demand, even in the general election, should be "no to Europe". There is a sham unity and the rest of us are supposed to "stop the talking shops and get on with the business".
The AWL leaflet for the event (none of us were taken to speak) made the point that what is needed is open, democratic discussion among left groups and interested trade unions and that the politics we stand such candidates on needs to be clearly pro –worker and anti-capitalist, internationalist and socialist.
So far the whole of issue of democracy has been ignored and instead we get told that this new steering committee will act by ‘consensus’.
The issue of democracy cannot be an optional extra: It is the only basis on which you can have any real unity.
In the trade union movement we campaign for rank and file democratic control in order to hold the leaderships to account and organise effective action and you can certainly only have effective working class political representation if you have democratic structures based on the organised working class.
The centrality of democracy is further illustrated if you look at how the Blairites/ Brownites came to dominate the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn outlined their shift politically to the right but what should have been added was that the key to keeping control was their ability to get rid of most of the democratic structures of the Labour Party.
For us, whether we are discussing socialist unity, trade unionism or working class political representation- democracy is key because our politics is based on working class self emancipation not a socialism brought in by benign dictators.
In terms of who will be supporting the initiative the Socialist Party will be and seemingly aren’t raising any criticisms; Matt Wrack from FBU said that the FBU, although welcoming, will be cautious about who they back as they wouldn’t stop supporting the Labour MPs who back them. Jeremy Corbyn MP didn’t make a hostile speech. Other people from the Labour Representation Committee seemed to be more against any non-Labour candidates. The PCS union wasn't represented.
That said, it was suggested that there will be a loose federal structure with local groups being established. If that is the case then it may be possible to argue that local groups should be democratic and should be on-going campaigns for socialist unity and working class political representation.