Organise local meetings
ON 18 October a meeting for John McDonnell's campaign at the Hackney Empire, with McDonnell speaking alongside leading radical trade unionists, attracted over 100 people. The meeting, co-sponsored by Hackney Trades Union Council and the Labour party's Leabridge branch, was pitched towards rank-and-file union activists and Labour party members who wanted to discuss an urgently needed alternative to Blairism; that of working-class political representation.
It is vital for McDonnell's campaign, particularly given a lack of resources, that local activists build rank-and-file support in their area. By building the campaign and holding big public meetings all around the UK, we can inject energy into the leadership challenge, and put more pressure on MPs to nominate John and on the trade union movement and CLPs to vote for him. The bigger the campaign, the more of a serious challenge we can pose. This is not necessarily a difficult task - there are hundreds of thousands of disgruntled Labour members and ex-members, opponents of Blairism in the unions and Trades Councils who can help a local organisational push. Contacting local ward branches and union branches is a simple way to win support for McDonnell.
But the meeting must not just be a one-off - the energy should not be allowed to dissipate. In Hackney, we've set up an organising group, which on December 2nd brought together 22 comrades willing to take a role in building support for John in their unions - and in other campaigns, such as Keep Our NHS Public, tenants' organisations and Stop the War. Passing resolutions in trade union and Labour branches is part of this work - our ultimate goal is to hold a conference of local working-class activists and community campaigners in March to support John4Leader. Helping John's influence to grow requires gradual campaign-building and an ongoing local organising body, with regular meetings.
Take the campaign into the unions!
THE fight in the Labour Party is now primarily a fight in the trade unions. Gone are the days when Tony Benn won 83% of the constituency Labour Party vote for deputy leader, when local parties were the main base of the left and the leadership had to rely on the union block vote to save its skin at Labour Party conference. It is not just a question of the Labour membership moving to the right: much more fundamental is the fact that most local parties have withered almost the point of dissolution, so that there is very little left to fight about. True, party members will have big say in the leadership election, but there is little organisation left to provide the basis of working-class party cleansed of Blairism.
The fight against Blairism and for a working-class voice will therefore take place mainly in the unions. Socialists can use the McDonnell campaign to put our union leaders on the spot, demanding that they put their money where their mouths are and back a candidate who stands up for union policies. Right now, that means building the biggest possible movement of grassroots activists, building up a strong body of labour movement public opinion in support the campaign. Activists should:
1. Get together a meeting of those in your union who support the campaign, whether locally, regionally or nationally, to plan activity.
2. Produce union-specific leaflets (for instance, an NUT leaflet focusing trust schools or an RMT leaflet focusing on rail renationalisation) in support of the campaign.
3. Get branch sponsorships for the campaign (see the model motion on this page).
4. Get your branch or trades council to organise a local public meeting with a speaker from the campaign, and use this to set up a local labour movement campaign committee.
5. Try to organise a fringe meeting at your union's national or other conference. Work is already getting underway in most unions, so if you want to find out what's happening or be put in touch with others in your union or locality, get in touch with the campaign.
6. Come to the Trade Unionists for John McDonnell meeting sponsored by Amicus Unity Gazette and being held at Friend's Meeting House in Euston on 30 January 2007.
Students for McDonnell
By Sofie Buckland, NUS executive
AS the burden of debt mounts and universities are privatised piece by piece, the direction of the Labour party has a particular impact on students. John McDonnell is one of the few Labour MPs to vote consistently against fees, top-up fees and the abolition of grants - he stands for free, publicly-funded education, and against all privatisation.
McDonnell's support for a living minimum wage, with no restrictions, is also good news for students, who increasingly work long hours to support their studies, and young people in general - McDonnell's manifesto figure of at least Ł7/hour represents a Ł4 increase for 16-18 year olds, currently subject to the harshest age restrictions on the paltry Ł5.35 for over-21s. And on the broader issues that concern students and youth, McDonnell stands for the kind of socialist policies we need against the Blairite's right-wing agenda - against the war in Iraq, for green energy based on renewable power sources and for the restoration of trade union rights and civil liberties.
• LRC Socialist Youth Network conference, 13th January 2007, 10am - 4pm, at ULU, Mallet Street (near Euston Square station), London. Speakers confirmed so far are Tony Benn, John McDonnell and Katy Clark MP. For more information visit the SYN website.
Move this motion in your union!
Why not adapt this motion for use in your union branch, local Labour Party, Labour Club or campaigning organisation?
John McDonnell for Labour leader!
This branch notes
1. The record of the New Labour government, including the maintenance of anti-union laws, privatisation in the NHS and other public services, tuition and top-up fees, attacks on asylum-seekers and the war in Iraq.
2. That John McDonnell MP, chair of the Labour Representation Committee, is standing for the leadership of the Labour Party on a platform which includes:
• The withdrawal of British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
• An end to privatisation of public services.
• A real living minimum wage of at least Ł7 an hour.
• A green energy policy based on renewable power sources.
• An increase in the Basic State Pension from Ł84.25 to Ł114 a week.
• Defence of comprehensive education and the abolition of student tuition fees.
• The restoration of trade union rights and civil liberties.
3. That no other possible candidate for the Labour leadership is standing up for even basic labour movement policies on issues like the NHS, privatisation and trade union rights.
This branch believes
1. That the Labour leadership election and John McDonnell's campaign provide us with an invaluable opportunity to fight for the restoration of working-class representation in politics.
This branch resolves
1. To support and sponsor John McDonnell's campaign for the Labour leadership and donate £x.
2. To organise a public meeting with a speaker from the campaign.
3. To circulate materials on the campaign to members/affiliates.
4. To affiliate to the Labour Representation Committee.