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The LRC: more pragmatic but still too remote from Labour’s mainstream?

On Saturday morning, 200 members and delegates at the LRC conference in London passed a statement, moved by John McDonnell MP, from the LRC’s National Committee which included clear opposition to austerity “even in diluted form“, as well as support for the TUC’s “look at the practicalities of a general strike,” which it says “cannot just be wished into existence. It must be built, and politically prepared for.

A panel discussion with Labour councillors from Broxtowe, Hull, Islington and Preston followed then discussed how Labour councils and councillors can resist the cuts (watch the video here). The conference agreed a strategy motion which some suggest is a softening of their previous position, others as a still principled but realistic anti-cuts position:

The LRC recognises that refusing to make the cuts is a strategy that Labour Councils will sooner or later have to face up to. We also recognise that one or two councils refusing to make cuts will not be able to take this government on and stand any chance of winning.

The LRC backs Owen Jones’s call for Councils to meet and coordinate a national strategy to fight the cuts including the setting unbalanced budgets. Councils who recognise that they cannot carry on indefinitely must show a lead in supporting such a strategy. The LRC agrees to campaign for national coordination by lobbying labour councillors and councils to commit to calling such a conference to take place as soon as possible.

At the national committee prior to the conference, some people present had argued that councillors who voted for cuts should be given no platform at the conference but this was soundly rejected.

After lunch, conference heard from Ellen Clifford from Disabled People Against Cuts speak about the importance of equalities in our campaigning against cuts, and in an international session, from Raquel Garrido of Front de Gauche, Florian Wilde of Die Linke and Stathis Kouvelakis of Syriza. Amongst the international motions carried was one calling for “COSATU, the SACP, the YCL (Young Communist League) and Sasco (South African Student Congress) to break from the ANC and fight for the political and organisational independence of the working class.

The conference also endorsed the decision of the National Committee to adopt Labour Briefing, following the Labour Briefing AGM voting to transfer to the LRC.

As well as discussing policy and constitutional issues (see resolutions booklet for full text of all motions  and whether they were passed or not), conference also elected a new National Committee, and half of the Labour Briefing editorial board (the other half is delegated by the National Committee).

Members of ultra-left sects were defeated in these elections, including Stan Keable of Labour Party Marxists, Gerry Downing, formerly of the WRP, and Graham Durham of Socialist Viewpoint. By and large, this conference sees the consolidation of a pragmatic leadership, less susceptible to being overturned by its own ultra-left, and less equivocal about Labour, both of which are encouraging. However, it is also noticeable that the strategy statement agreed makes no mention of forming alliances with other organisations on the centre-left of the party. Instead, its emphasis is  building the LRC:

In this  period there is a huge opportunity to bring more people into struggle, to make the arguments for socialism and to build the LRC both inside and outside the Labour Party.

The question that remains is whether the LRC can build a stronger organisation on the Left without engaging more whole-heartedly with a broader alliance of Labour’s centre-Left.

In the LRC’s internal elections, rather bizarrely, one Liverpool branch of Unite (NW/0538) nominated its members for eight out of twelve places in the affiliate section of the executive (half of whom were elected) as well as to several other positions.

Full results of all elections are below:

Chair: John McDonell MP (unopposed)

Secretary: Pete Firmin / Andrew Fisher (unopposed)

Treasurer: Graham Bash (unopposed)

Vice Chair
Graham Durham, 29 votes
Norrette Moore, 41 votes
Susan Press, 66 votes – ELECTED
Marshajane Thompson, 81 votes – ELECTED

National Committee Section B (individual members)
Andrew Berry, 48 votes – ELECTED
Gerry Downing, 17 votes
Graham Durham, 20 votes
Austin Harney, 40 – ELECTED
Stan Keable, 22 votes
Jenny Lennox, 56 votes – ELECTED
Rhiannon Lowton, 39 votes – ELECTED
Mike Phipps, 52 votes – ELECTED
*Susan Press, 51 votes, ELECTED VICE CHAIR
Francis Prideaux, 52 votes – ELECTED
John Sweeney, 22 votes
*Marshajane Thompson, 59 votes, ELECTED VICE CHAIR
Lizzie Woods, 61 votes – ELECTED

National Committee Section C (general affiliates)

Judy Atkinson, Sharon Connor and  Maria Exall were elected unopposed to the reserved women’s seats, leaving three vacancies.
Kevin Bennett, 21 votes – ELECTED
Simon Crew, 7 votes
Patrick Hall, 11 votes
Alex Halligan, 13 votes
Gary Heather, 22 votes – ELECTED
Sacha Ismail, 8 votes
Jon Lansman, 15 votes – ELECTED
Nick Parnell, 8 votes
Jon Rogers, 20 votes – ELECTED
Steve Turner, 15 votes – ELECTED
John Wiseman, 22 votes – ELECTED
Phil Wiseman, 13 votes

National Committee Section D (equalities seats)
Disability
Thomas Butler, 47 votes
John Sweeney, 48 votes – ELECTED
Youth
Liam McNulty, 37 votes
Max Shanly, 44 votes – ELECTED

Labour Briefing editorial board
Graham Bash, 77 votes – ELECTED
Graham Durham, 33 votes
Andrew Fisher, 76 votes – ELECTED
Stan Keable, 22 votes
Mike Phipps, 51 votes – ELECTED
John Wiseman, 40 votes

In addition, nationally affiliated unions (ASLEF, BFAWU, CWU, FBU, NUM and RMT) are each entitled to two places on the national committee, local LRC groups one place and the LRC sister organisations in Scotland and Wales, one each.

For further details of candidates, elected or not, see the Elections Booklet.

10 Comments

  1. Sect=spotter says:

    What or who is Socialist Viewpoint and who did they split from?

  2. Mike says:

    Congratulations on your own re-election to the National Committee, Jon. It’s true that the National Committee statement adopted didn’t refer to the building of alliances with other forces in the Party, but this has not prevented joint work in the past, for example to get Centre Left Grassroots Alliance candidates elected to Labour’ NEC. Nor would I see the conference polarised into a battle between pragmatists and the ultraleft. The common theme in the elections was that those with a track record who are better known tend to get more votes and those new to the LRC and less well known tend to get less. The LRC remains broad and inclusive and what I particularly liked about this LRC conference was the larger numbers of younger people – and more from the regions too – it felt a bit like a Labour Party conference of old, in the best sense.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Thanks for your congratulations, Mike. I hadn’t expected to be re-elected in a smaller section having been excoriated by some sections of the LRC ever since I joined. I respect your loyalty and commitment to building the LRC and would certainly acknowledge that there has been more collaborative working in recent years thanks to people like you and Andrew Fisher. But I’d ask you to recognise that this has involved some dispute and some movement within the organisation both at and between AGMs. There have been continuous tensions between those who are wholly committed to working within the Labour Party and those, now clearly a minority, who are either activley hostile to Labour or whose interest in Labour is wholly opportunistic (as indeed is their interest in the LRC). Amongst those who are more than half-hearted Labour activists, there are some for whom collaborative working and alliance building is at the heart of their political practice and those who believe that the LRC is, itself, the Left, and for whom “building the LRC” is sufficient.

      It seems to me that the direction taken by the LRC is determined by which side the central “LRC Builders” group favours, not by any deep-rooted agreement of political strategy, and therein lies the LRC’s historic weakness, the reason it has punched beneath its weight. John McDonnell, the crucial figurehead of the LRC, has, I think, been more concerned with holding these disparate groups together than in developing a realistic strategy for changing the Labour Party, and building the alliance necessary to pursue it.

  3. Michael Chewter says:

    I have been a member of the LRC since its early days, but I can imagine a more user-friendly organisation with the same politics, but a greater capacity for mediation with the objective working class. More of them should know themselves and become a conscious part of the struggle, instead of worshipping the monarchy.

  4. Patrick Coates says:

    Hi Jon,
    Section B had 8 places, why 9 elected,

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Patrick: In fact there were only 7 elected in section B – two nominated in that section were elected as Vice Chair. There was one vacancy reserved for a woman as no other woman had been nominated.

  5. mike says:

    I too have been the subject of some robust excoriation, but there doesn’t seem to be much appetite for that among most LRC members who recognise that a consensual approach to policymaking and organisation is usually more effective in the long run.

    I’m not sure that the tension between those working inside and those working outside the Party is currently that important in the LRC. Some of the more strident activists actually do work within the Party, with varying degrees of effectiveness, including some you label as ultraleft. Many good activists who don’t work in the Party are also not present in the LRC, including many tax justice or direct action comrades. That’s a pity.

    I don’t agree with your last paragraph. I think most comrades recognise that how much you are able to do within the Party varies enormously from CLP to CLP, so the correctness of one’s orientation should not be the principal yardstick to judge the LRC by. We’ve always opposed including people who run candidates against Labour.

  6. Patrick Coates says:

    Thanks to all who put this on, the main highlight for me was Tony Benn sitting next to me at lunch.

  7. Patrick Coates says:

    Thanks Jon, I am working to get my CLP affiliated to the LRC, and suggest all CLP Secretaries try to do the same.

  8. Graham Durham says:

    Just for an accurate record on your attack on so-called ultra lefts – I am not a member of any group and ,as far as I know ,there is no group in UK called Socialist Viewpoint.I have been a member of the Labour Party for 42 years,holding the usual range of ward and constituency posts. I confess to not being pragmatic about opposition to cuts and do regard the decisions in Resolution 1 as shifting teh position of the LRC to more toleranc eof councillors who cut.Call me an ultra -left if you mean the belief that Labour councillor sshould just say no to cuts – in words and deeds

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