In the run up to its Labour Party affiliation SGM at the end of May RMT members came together in central London on 25 April to debate the issue.
Hosted by “The RMT Campaign for Labour Affiliation” (TRCFLA) and the South West and South Wales regional council, it featured John McDonnell MP, Steve Hedley AGS and Paul Jackson branch secretary LU Engineering branch.
Kicking off, John McDonnell described the delicate balance of forces within the party and how he could really do with the RMT throwing its institutional weight into the struggle with the right wing.
The nub of the debate between the other two top table speakers can be summarised by Paul Jackson’s “172 reasons” not to affiliate as he held up pieces of paper containing the names of Woodcock, Umunna et al, and Steve Hedley’s question to those assembled. He asked whether they wanted a Labour government. Nobody said they didn’t.
Throwing the discussion open, the meeting chair, Alex Gordon, tried to continue TRCFLA’s bureaucratic method of shutting down debate by insisting that contributions from the floor be presented as questions; As if those of us on the floor couldn’t make worthwhile statements in their own right. Thankfully, most speakers just ignored him.
Responding to the claim that the RMT wouldn’t be able to stand somebody against for instance, Sadiq Khan, it was pointed out that we could do that from within the Labour Party.
The point was also made that the main beneficiaries of our current political strategy, TUSC, only meaningfully exists one month in every twelve during local elections, in a tiny number of locations, and that what is really needed was a year-round nationwide structure, which the Labour Party provides. A permanent RMT led campaign would bring together all our members who wanted a fight to create a worker’s party with the Corbyn supporting Labour members.
The difficulties which affiliation would cause in Scotland were mentioned but not satisfactorily resolved, so with time running out it will probably be left to the SGM to handle that.
In an otherwise rousing final speech, Steve Hedley sadly made the now familiar one-sided claim that accusations of antisemitism in Labour are just a conspiracy against Corbyn.
He finished with a much appreciated ringing exhortation to those of us who want to reaffiliate to roll up our sleeves and get involved in the party. Let’s do that!