Out-take from Labour & Trade Union Review No. 228 June 2012
The Morning Star, the publication of the mainstream Communist Party of Britain (a Scottish CP was set up in anticipation of self-government) organised a conference People’s Britain or Bankers’ Britain, in Bishopsgate Institute, on Saturday 31/03/12. The first session / ‘Plenary’ consisted of speechifying by important people. They didn’t say anything memorable. The freshest voices were Megan Dobney (SERTUC – South East [England] Region Trade Union Committee) Secretary, and the baby-faced (and Gay, as it happens) Owen Jones, author of Chavs, the Demonisation of the Working Class. It is debatable if there is a ‘British working class’. Prime Ministers Thatcher and Major, Blair and Brown dissolved it in their period in office.
No major party wants to re-industrialise in UK. ‘Working class’ may be history. Blair seemed happy to create a US-like ‘underclass’ existing on ‘Welfare’ and descending into nihilistic apathy. Last summer’s [2011-upstart 2013] riots may be an indication that that part of his legacy is as toxic as his foreign policy. Anita Halpin who presided, was brisk and interesting. Her affiliation was the PPPS (People’s Press Publishing Society, ‘official’ publishers of MS) Management Committee.
This was followed by Workshops, which, as seems to be the case now, did not report-back to a ‘Plenary’ session. Discussion of the various issues would have been interesting. I happened across Civil disobedience: innovative action & safety, having inserted myself into an inappropriate Workshop, it was moderated by Daniel Garvin of UK UnCut. As none of his audience had knowledge of non-violent civil disobedience, he did more than just ‘moderate’. He was taken by a suggestion, (from NI ‘Civil Rights’ days) about hyper-‘civil obedience’.
Meaning gumming up the bureaucratic works by insisting that every rule and regulation be observed *. He’d never encountered the notion. ‘Safety’ in his billing referred to whether or not the police or security personnel at events would be inclined to violence. The London Metropolitan Police can be, apparently, quite volatile.
The Second (and last) Plenary consisted of more speeches. The two MPs, Michael Meacher and Kelvin Hopkins made essentially the same speech (this is not a complaint about them. The organisers must have realised they’d say much the same thing). Kelvin Hopkins said that the EU was always anti-Socialist in concept. (It was a Christian Democratic project. Kelvin Hopkins may be of the opinion that Christian Democrats are ‘right wing’. The label was generously distributed by British politicians – who appeared not to notice that the CDs created welfare and health services – just as good, if not better that the UK’s. That the EU is now in the grip of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ economic liberalism is partly the fault of the Labour Left’s national chauvinism. Germany’s Christian Democrats seem to have rediscovered their faith in themselves, and may put the City of London in its box.
Augusto Praça of Portugal’s CGT spoke. He may have said something interesting. But he had trouble with the microphone and had a very strong accent. Bob Crowe made a fine, fighting speech and said his wee group would be fighting the local elections – (George Galloway’s victory in Bradford haunted the meeting. Galloway, who writes a monthly MS column, sent a message of solidarity. He was busy celebrating his victory with an old-fashioned rally in a local (Bradford) public park).
A ‘whip round’ for MS produced £4,000 (well-paid ‘union leaders’ present?). There was an implication we might not be allowed out…). A ‘Socialist choir’ gave us the International and The Red Flag (printed on a classy handout, possibly a subtle advert for the PPPS). The choir, Straw-berry Thieves, consists of eight women and one man. ‘Socialist choir’ used to mean scores of Welsh miners Strawberry Thieves (title unexplained) was excellent. Thompsons Solicitors provided (good quality) vino, the ‘photo exhibition’ remained mostly on the floor. Ian Townson (QuAC – a Queer Against the Cuts, formerly Lancaster GLF (Gay Liberation Front, Brixton Faeries etc.)) also attended. He said it was just a prolonged ‘plug’ for the Morning Star. But it had, effectively, been billed as such.
* PA Mag Lochlainn (President of the NI Gay Rights Association 1991 – 2012) in 1968 was part of the NI Civil Rights Association group in Omagh (Co. Tyrone). They realised that the Ministry of Agriculture was obliged to examine every single animal being raised by the farmers of Ulster. So, helpfully, they took to driving local farmers’ cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and various poultry up the stairs to the Ministry’s local office (They were always on the first floor for some reason). The effect on the Ministry’s carpet-cleaning bills can only be guessed-at.