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GMB backs no-cuts budgets and steel nationalisation
Taste for socialism at union's 2016 conference
Charlie Taylor, GMB conference delegate (personal capacity)
General union GMB's 2016 conference in Bournemouth reflected the changed situation sweeping Britain and the globe: the resurgence of socialist ideas - at least in words. Conference passed key motions on no-cuts budgets and steel, but unfortunately backed Trident renewal and the EU Remain campaign.
Socialist Party delegates decided to count how many times the word socialism was mentioned. By the third day we had lost count. Members have had enough of austerity, and are looking for an alternative.
A landmark motion moved by a Socialist Party member passed calling for Labour councils to set legal no-cuts budgets. Such budgets spend their reserves and use prudential borrowing measures to stop austerity now, while building a union-led industrial campaign to win the money back from the Tory government.
The union's ruling central executive council, while supporting the motion, raised qualifications in an effort to undermine it.
One was the idea that councils pooling reserves to help finance no-cuts budgets would lead to combining services, and ultimately job cuts. But cutting councils already combine services to shed jobs. It goes without saying that a 'no-cuts budget' would not make job cuts: the clue is in the name.
The second qualification was that some councils already spend from reserves, which are meant for emergencies like flooding, and cannot do so indefinitely. But the death of council jobs and services is an emergency. In any case, reserve spending is a temporary measure - the strategy aims at winning the money back.
Jeremy Corbyn addressed conference's opening day. He said a Labour government under his leadership would repeal the Tories' Trade Union Act. Tim Roache, the GMB's new general secretary, said the union was fully behind Corbyn. He demanded an end to the Labour right's attacks on him.
Several motions passed called for public ownership, including the railways. In the manufacturing section conference, one delegate said we should "not be afraid to use the N-word" - nationalisation.
A motion passed on steel called for an emergency meeting of shop stewards across the industry to organise a joint conference and mass campaign. Tata must open up accounts for inspection by workers. Steel must be nationalised, and all job losses stopped.
On the EU referendum, the union's leadership took a Remain position a while back and reiterated this throughout. The leadership said it was for an 'angry Remain'. There is no 'angry Remain' on the ballot paper.
There was no real debate on the issue. A statement by the executive supporting Remain passed almost unanimously.
GMB also recommitted to supporting renewal of Trident. Leaders said thousands of members' jobs were at risk if not. But Trident workers could be redeployed - at first decommissioning nuclear weapons, then transferred to socially useful work such as wind energy.
Socialist Party members held a successful fringe meeting that saw new people attend. The hard work starts now in campaigning for key policies, like no-cuts budgets and steel nationalisation, to be implemented.
- Read more on the GMB's no-cuts budget debate: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/22995
In The Socialist 15 June 2016:
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