REPORT OF THE CNWP OFFICERS MEETING FEBRUARY 9th 2008

Present

Terry Pierce (TP); Andy Price (AP); Greg Maughan (GM); Dave Nellist (DN); Hannah Sell (HS); Pete McLaren (PM); Jeremy Dewar (JD)

1. Apologies

Roger Bannister; Clare Paillard; Glen Kelly; Gerry Byrne

2. Minutes of the last meeting

agreed as a correct record

3. Matters Arising

a) Declaration signatures – It was announced these now stood at 3067, adding that this figure would quickly rise if we were more active. Dave Nellist suggested we improve the emailing of our monthly bulletin to supporters, group supporters locally, and devise a standard response for all new signatories. These suggestions were agreed

b) Web site – It was reported this was being regularly updated, and there had been an increase in visitors to the site, with up to 34,000 hits a month, although the number varied. It was agreed we start the blog with Mark Serwotka's article on the need for a new left alternative, and the SP's reply. Dave Nellist suggested new articles to comment on every couple of weeks, and a limit of 300 words per response. He also called for us to do more to encourage those visiting the site to become CNWP supporters. All these suggestions were agreed

c) Local activity – the success of the CNWP public meeting in Manchester on 29 January was reported. At this meeting, it was agreed that local supporters of the campaign would write to all unaffiliated trade union branches urging them to stand candidates in the upcoming council elections. Officers agreed that this was a good initiative and called on other regional CNWP supporters to organise similar public meetings.

4.CNWP National Conference

The following actions were agreed:

  • The Conference be held in London on Sunday June 22 (now June 29), 1 5pm, the day after the NSSN conference.
  • The first hour would include a debate on the need for a new party with left TU speakers, or a debate with the LRC, leaving the rest of the conference to deal with internal matters
  • A Rally on international issues and a Social would be arranged for the Saturday night

5. Finance

Greg Maughan reported a bank balance of £1674.62, with £205 coming from the Christmas Raffle. He explained why a new more secure Standing Order Form was needed. It was agreed to renew the raffle license, and to start paying off the debt to the SP at £150 per month

6. Press report

Pete McLaren circulated the three new media releases issued since the last Steering Committee

7. Trade Union Conferences

It was agreed to organize CNWP Fringe meetings at all major TU conferences this year, prioritizing the RMT, CWU, PCS and NUT. A forum/debate was suggested, to involve the CNWP with those on the left who disagreed with our campaign for a new workers party. Terry Pierce agreed to work on a new leaflet for these meetings, and agreed to book venues.

It was further agreed to fully implement all the proposals put forward by the Steering Committee, as follows

  • Organise local CNWP meetings to explain why the RMT are standing in the GLA elections
  • Find ways of organising CNWP signatories separately in each TU
  • Produce a good quality leaflet on disaffiliation/breaking the link
  • Produce a CNWP leaflet/broadsheet on the CNWP and the trade unions
  • Draw up a timetable of TU conferences
  • Provide model resolutions for branches
  • Attempt to get CNWP speakers on TU platforms, even at small meetings
  • Use our web site to publicise contacts for each Union
  • Glen Kelly and Terry Pierce to work with individuals in each trade union to work out the best strategy for work on disaffiliation within the 15 TUs affiliated to Labour, and to do the same within the 5/6 TUs not affiliated
  • Need to work with local TUCs and offer to speak at local TUC meetings
  • Contact TU broad lefts and target local, regional and special TU conferences, and training/weekend conferences, and offer CNWP speakers on “Breaking the Link”
  • Put conference dates, venues and resolution deadlines on our web site

8. How we progress the CNWP over the coming months

Pete McLaren moved the resolution from the Socialist Alliance, left over from the Steering Committee, on

  • The CNWP to adopt a membership structure
  • The CNWP to adopt a federal structure which encourages affiliation and automatic representation from all supportive political organisations irrespective of size, and representation for independents
  • The CNWP to establish working groups to develop the agreed policy points in the CNWP Charter

Pete McLaren argued the need for a timescale to be established in the campaign to build a new left party. He defined a campaign as an operation to achieve a purpose, and he argued the time had come to take stock and decide how close our campaign was to achieving its purpose. He explained that the SA felt that, by establishing membership, inclusive affiliation and policy discussion groups, the CNWP would start to develop into a pro party alliance – a pre-party formation. This would help towards achieving its purpose.

There was some sympathy with the SA view, but the majority felt a timetable was not sensible, as the creation of a new party would depend on the tempo of the class struggle. Other points made were

  • Too early to talk about membership – we need at least double the number of supporters
  • It took 20 – 40 years to form the Labour Party. There is no sudden route to a new Party
  • Bolting together the existing left is not the answer, and we need to avoid being swamped by large groups like the SWP
  • It is not up to the CNWP to actually set up a new party, its role is to help in that process
  • We need a debate with TUs about how to go forward
  • The last 12 months have been frustrating: McDonnells challenge quickly failed; Bob Crowe has not been working with others; there has been a lack of TU solidarity
  • The CNWP does not have enough weight to stand its own candidates, but it can support others
  • The rank and file who are doubting Labour do not yet relate to the CNWP
  • Any new political movement must be built on the TUs – we need to break the TUs from Labour first
  • The TU left has not forced the party question as expected
  • The worst thing we could do is simply declare we are a new party – the left can not afford another failure
  • What we do depends on the tempo of events – it could be a new party by the next General Election if the conditions are right
  • We need to build on our TU work, but also reach out to other layers such as community groups
  • We do need to address the criticism that the SP is using the CNWP to boost its own organization.
  • We do need a new party today, based on the mass organizations of the working class, to unite the fight back. There is some urgency because of those who have now broken from Labour
  • We need to establish local CNWP groups if enough local activists come together
  • It is important to listen to those who feel frustrated with the pace of the campaign
  • Membership needs to be looked at again before conference, if activity suggests it.

Pete McLaren replied to the debate, arguing that the resolution would move the campaign forward and start the long process of establishing a structure for what would still be a campaign for a new workers party. Dave Nellist, in the chair, summed up what had been agreed earlier in the meeting, and suggested that if it all was successful, that could lead to a membership structure. He also felt there should be no timetable: if external events demanded it, or thousands came on board, a new political formation was more likely.

The SA resolution was not put, and remains on the table

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