Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

National Shop Stewards' Conference

Reading: Some pages of Finnegans Wake, Sunday papers.
Listening: BBC Radio 5.
Viewing: Alan Partridge DVD.

The British RMT transport union were mandated by their conference to organise two meetings recently. One, on working class representation, was held in early 2006. The meeting was addressed by various political figures on the left including the Green Party's Jean Lambert MEP. The second conference is to be held in October and is a National Shop Stewards' Conference. This follows on from the quite legitimate view of leading figures in the RMT that working class political representation and a renewed culture of organisation and struggle are mutually dependent. The debate over whether a national shop stewards movement is a core element in this renewal is one thing that needs discussing on the left and in the progressive and labour movements. Another is what else is required. Of course, the RMT cannot conjure a new movement out of thin air, (any more than can Respect with their similar conference initiative in November - though Respect have considerably less credibility in this field than the RMT) but the RMT are due our thanks for at least providing the space and opportunity to make connections and debate the issues. The RMT-organised conference has an immediate focus of support for the Campaign for a Trade Union Freedom Bill. This is something that the Green Party Trade Union Group (GPTU) are also working around and presenting motions to Green conferences.

National Shop Stewards' Conference
12-3pm, Saturday October 28th 2006
Camden Centre
Bidborough Street
London WC1

All trade unionists welcome

The problem at the moment appears to be that there are at least three initiatives going on here - the Respect union thing, the RMT's working class representation and shop stewards initiative and the Socialist Party's Campaign for a New Workers Party.

It would of course be better if these things were seen as complimentary, along the lines of a broad united front strategy of organising politically, at work and in the community. However, perhaps this is too much to hope for given the notoriously sectarian British left, particularly some of the Trotskyist elements. The urge to try and control and dominate projects, even to the point of their stillbirth or extinction, is always a hard one for some of our vanguardist comrades to resist. Suffice it to say that Green Left and GPTU activists will continue arguing for a broad and plural left with co-operation at electoral level where possible, and unity in workplace and community campaigns and organisations. Pluralism and diversity of approach offer the best opportunities for drawing into united struggle a broad and diverse section of the population - and, as the poet Shelley said in terms better than I can put it - 'Ye are many, they are few' - our strength is in numbers.

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