Saturday 2nd November was the day of the first ever Class Conference (class.org.uk/conference) which I attended in London at the TUC Congress House.
The Centre for Labour and Social Studies (Class) is a new thinktank established in 2012 to act as a centre for left debate and discussion. Originating in the labour movement, Class works with a broad coalition of supporters, academics and experts to develop and advance alternative policies for today.
I found out about Class earlier this year when they held a talk + debate evening in Liverpool, unfortunately I was unable to attend but kept up to date with their newsletters. I like the idea that it is run to get the views of the voters and take them to create policies that will shape a future society.
The conference was a very busy day with a lot going on. It started with a welcome from the chair and a small talk about the political economy today.
Then we heard from Frances O'Grady, TUC General Secretary. Since I first saw her speak at the CWU Conference 2013, I have followed her and agree with a lot of her views. Frances started by welcoming us all to the TUC Congress House, especially CWU colleagues and she called for solidarity with comrades in Grangemouth. Frances spoke about how she was disturbed to hear about Murdoch press hacking union leader's phones but she is confident backed by her knowledge that "Trade Unionists do not tolerate bullying from ANYONE"!!
Frances then went on to the subject of austerity, commenting on the ease of politicians who have safe seats to complain about workers who are losing their jobs. Frances explained the benefits for big business' and lack of support for the working people who get called scroungers by dirty media companies and politicians. The subject of energy companies was received with applause in Frances reassuring the support for energy company regulation calling them cartels and led to say that there should be more regulation in other areas including financial organisations.
I liked that last week in Prime Minister's questions, Cameron kept asking for economy based questions. I personally believe we need action not questions, and Frances did this, like any great leader would. She said Living standards need to improve, and to do this we need to re-distribute money and re-distribute power, by creating good, well skilled and well paid jobs, we need to focus on creating an active industrial policy, including a state investment bank to support industries like low carbon technologies of tomorrow. A lot of this I agree with, I am partially torn in that I work for a bank, on the site that once was the national Girobank (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girobank). I have a lot of opinion on this matter, but will explain this another time.
Frances finished by saying we need to be bold about ownership and how we should do this, not letting things like the Royal Mail being sold off to happen, which was known in Congress House as selling Tenners for Fivers.
Frances started the conference off well with a large round of applause and smiling faces.
We then heard from Angela Eagle, MP for Wallasey and Chair of Labour National Policy Forum. Angela went strait into a great speech that had me stopping my note taking because I was deep in concentration listening. So apologies if I miss anything. Angela said we need to look at the context in which we are doing our work, it is easier for the tories to destroy progress than it is for us to build a civilised society. This is happening now, especially with how the right own so many media outlets, which makes winning the war easier for them. This is what we need to challenge, at a time when the left across Europe are struggling. Angela explained that we need to think about why we aren't getting votes and renew and rebuild our ability to deliver prosperity through the 21st century, by ensuring we use the potential out there for good. We then heard Angela speak about the danger of runaway climate change and it's need for being tackled as a major problem. I enjoyed hearing Angela's thoughts on a new economy that works for all, where we have new economics including equality and renewable energy and the need for a new society, one that is equal and that equality, being a big benefit.
A view that I highly agree with is that we have to tackle the causes and not the symptoms of problems in society. I feel this is something a very right wing media has had a big effect on, regularly we will see headlines for articles about problems in society and they often slate other's solutions. In a good left wing view, we should be creating solutions and rebuilding society rather than just making a show of the problems. Angela said to do all of this we also need stronger union activity, unions need to modernise and be more involved in all areas of their membership and their communities.
The next subject Angela covered was the growing corporate tax avoidance, this is something that also needs tackling and is a bigger problem than what we know about. Too much light is put on benefit fraud, over corporate tax avoidance.
I had to start a round of applause when Angela said that the likes of Russell Brand need not encourage people not to vote. She shares my views that this will not help society or politics. I was so frustrated seeing Russell Brand (http://youtu.be/lLYcn3PuTTk) on Newsnight recently encouraging people not to vote. There a lot of people in society who will vote and these people will not want to benefit the working people who would not vote and we would end up in a terrible place. I agree that people are fed up and we do need a revolution or big change, but I do not think not voting will help society at all. If we want to make change, let's do it through the structure that is in place and change that if necessary. Angela explained that many are cynical and disengaged with politics, which is where Russell has definitely caught a nerve. Angela said we need to inspire people to get involved and be empowered. We need to spread democracy in schools and the workplace (More applause). An Empowering model is needed, we are not all in it for ourselves, and we need to empower people to dream of change.
Dan Lewis CWU BFS Rep + Communications Officer twitter.com/think_become