By Mohan Sen
We should welcome the ten policy demands made to Keir Starmer by the Socialist Campaign Group (SCG) of left-wing MPs in the run up to Labour conference.
There are a number of points I would have posed differently and other things I would have included. However, a couple of issues in particular really leapt out at me.
Firstly, the SCG statement makes no attempt to relate its demands to policies democratically agreed by Labour conference and to debates and motions at the upcoming conference. This is a problem in general democratic terms, and it also means neglecting an important base of support and authority from which to challenge the leadership.
In fact, explaining the letter, SCG Secretary Richard Burgon calls on the leadership to “put forward” policies – playing into the undemocratic way Starmer and co. behave.
No doubt the SCG would say it wants a democratic Labour Party. So why, in this important statement, does it ignore what should be a democratic party’s supreme decision-making body?
In terms of the demands themselves, one omission stands out.
There is a relatively detailed section on workers’ rights, with six demands. But these demands include nothing about the right to strike or repealing the laws which severely limit it. Not even the 2016 Trade Union Act, let alone the many others which preceded it.
All the other demands, both on workers’ rights and more broadly, are important. But if we do not assert workers’ right to strike, including by challenging and fighting to repeal the anti-union laws, we will be fighting for all of them with one hand tied behind our back.
28 CLPs and two key left-wing unions (the FBU and the BFAWU) have submitted motions to this conference calling for the repeal of all anti-union laws and their replacement with strong legal rights to strike and picket. It’s disappointing that the Socialist Campaign Group has again failed to take up this crucial demand.
Asserting labour movement democracy and the right to strike should be two essential weapons in the left’s arsenal.
• For a letter (February 2021) to the SCG on the same issue from Riccardo la Torre of the FBU and the Free Our Unions campaign, see here.