Thursday, December 22, 2011

Labour, Trade unions, SPGB, the Anarchist President, Bill, Dave and John

Last month I took part in a debate organised by the Socialist Party (Great Britain) on "Should trade unionists support the Labour Party?" They did record the event and I was hoping to link to it, but it seems that there was some technical problem. Which was a shame since I thought it was actually quite a good debate.  Bill Martin from the SPGB (a UNISON activist) spoke against the motion.  He also chaired the meeting and was at all times polite and courteous. 

There was of course a completely wide gulf between us. The SPGB is a Marxist, anti-capitalist, revolutionary Party.  Readers of this blog might possibly have noticed that I am not. They are also "anti-Leninist" and "anti-Stalinist" and were completely dismissive of various Trotsky newspaper sellers (I make no comment). There was only 15 people present (including the anarchist President of the NUJ)

I argued that "my kind of socialism is one politically based on parliamentary democracy, and economically, a true mixed and balanced economy of publicly owned services, mutually and privately owned enterprises, all properly regulated, subject to democrat scrutiny, the law and a truly progressive tax system. While socially a successful Socialist Society must be one that is equal and free. Open, tolerant, and most importantly, supportive of dissenting views".

I mentioned my family background and The Spirit Level. In my view trade unionists should not only support the Labour Party, but take an active part in the Party arguing within for change. Bill made a number of points about the role and nature of trade unions and the argument that it is better for unions to be aliened to no particular political party.

I had a top Labour ringer with me, Dave Draycott.  Dave is the Unite Branch secretary for Leeds City and also a Labour Party Councillor in Calderdale.  It was the first time Dave and I had ever met up in person (rather via email or social media). In the Q&A that followed he made (in my view) a number of forceful and well made points. In particular the need for a true plurality in any socialist society to prevent the inevitable tendency to oppression, that you get in any society where any single political or economic belief is dominant.

Afterword we all went to the local pub and continued the debate. The SPGB have some interesting characters. One very forthright and vocal SPGB member had been brought up in a London working class family who "worshipped Mosley".  Another, use to be the secretary to the National Coal Board Pension scheme.  With my pension governance hat on we had an interesting conversation about "Arthur" and  Cowan v Scargill. He had also enjoyed hugely this post.

Update: Bill (aka Deathy) has let me know that he is sure that the vocal recording of the debate did work and he will chase it being posted on their website.
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