The Annual General Meeting on 29 March of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) on 29 March heard something which CLPD AGMs have not heard for many, many years: that the best progress in fighting for Labour democracy has been made in Labour's youth wing.
Conrad Landin, Dominic Curran, and Max Shanly reported on how the Young Labour conference voted - on the third recount - to oppose the Collins report to weaken Labour-union ties, and adopted other left-wing policies, much to the consternation of Labour Party officials.
This happened after the Young Labour top leadership had told left-wingers that it was not "appropriate" to take votes at Young Labour committee, and that "there is no such thing as a point of order".
The advance of the left, said Conrad Landin, opens opportunities to build Young Labour as "not just a social club for quite privileged students, which largely it has been until now", as a movement which "has meetings in community centres, not just visits to Parliament".
Dominic Curran reported that some 11 student Labour Clubs have disaffiliated from the notoriously right-wing and undemocratic National Organisation of Labour Students, and plan to build a movement to force the opening-out and democratisation of Labour student organisation.
The other high point of the AGM was a debate, regrettably brief, about the proposal from Jon Lansman and Pete Willsman that CLPD open discussions about mobilising trade unionists politically in a positive - not just defensive and damage-limitation - way, with one option being the organisation of a trade union "sister party" linked to Labour in roughly the same way as the Co-op Party now is.
Christine Shawcroft spoke for it. Francis Prideaux, Mike Hicks, Barry Gray, and Richard Price all expressed opposition or doubt, worrying that it could unintendedly help the Labour right push the trade unions out of the Labour Party. Jon Lansman replied that the proposal was an attempt to build channels to enable trade unionists (including members of non-affiliated unions which have political funds) to win "influence in the Labour Party from the bottom up". Reliance on defending the existing mechanisms in their current mode is inadequate because "the trade unions do not use their voting power and the Party leadership do not allow them to vote on anything important".
The debate was concluded by an almost-unanimous vote for a proposal from Gary Heather to refer the motion to the incoming CLPD Executive for further discussion.
In my opinion, the "sister party" plan is probably one of those proposals which are desirable in conditions when they are not possible (i.e. when the trade union leaders are unwilling or unable to mobilise trade-unionists politically) and which no-one will advocate when conditions are created when they are possible, i.e. trade unionists are able to get leaders with the will and ability to mobilise politically.
However, I think it's a pity the motion wasn't passed, since the discussion it called for around the plan would pose stimulating questions (and maybe even show that my present opinion is wrong).
Other than in the session with the youth report, it must be said that the mood at the AGM was downbeat. It is no secret that many CLPD activists are angry about Ken Livingstone voting for the Collins Review on Labour's Executive; but he was able to speak without anyone asking him a sharp question about that. (I would have done, but there wasn't time for many questions, and I wasn't called). Livingstone outlined an economic plan which even he said had nothing to do with socialism, and was heavily based on, of all things, the old staple of Stalinist tax policy in the USSR, the "turnover tax".
When I raised a question about Labour councils making cuts, increasingly indistinguishable from Tory cuts, and on current Labour policies being likely to continue making such cuts even if there's a Labour government after 2015, Kate Osamor replied only that Labour councils should make more effort to explain that they are cutting only duress imposed by the Tories.