Category Archives: Democracy and the Labour Party

Common sense and left divisions

The proposed merger of Labour Representation Committee and Labour Briefing will be decided at Briefing’s AGM this Saturday. Stan Keable of Labour Party Marxists reviews the discussion so far, and backs the merger

As the annual general meeting of Labour Briefing is upon us, an online debate is raging around the AGM motion to make LB the journal of the Labour Representation Committee. The idea is not new. A similar motion was moved four years ago by comrade Susan Press, but it only gained minority support. This time the merger motion is supported by a majority of both the LB editorial board (EB) and LRC national committee. At the May national committee meeting which agreed “to take the magazine on” by 17 votes to 7, LRC chair John McDonnell MP emphasised that this is “not a hostile takeover bid”, but the LRC is “waiting in the wings” if the Briefing AGM backs the merger.

The common-sense arguments for merger are sound. Like all leftwing journals, Briefing’s future is at risk; its activists are diminishing and growing older; its financial survival is uncertain. There is an overlapping core of activists and leaders sustaining both LB and LRC. The politics of both are ostensibly very close – for left unity, directing the left to the task of transforming the Labour Party and the trade unions towards socialism. A journal without an organisation should merge with a growing left unity organisation without a journal.

EB member Mike Phipps makes the argument well in the July issue of Briefing (‘Briefing: expand or die’): “Rather than going to more meetings than are necessary wearing different hats, why not put the two together?” The LRC is “committed … to the pluralist traditions and Labour orientation of Briefing. That’s non-negotiable … But as to political disagreements … we already have these in Briefing … And we should welcome them …” Warning that the EB and production team may not “just continue to renew itself”, comrade Phipps reminds us of the sudden disappearance of Voice of the Unions: “… once the number of people falls below a critical mass, publication will simply cease. It may not be long before Briefing reaches that position.”

Although personal conflicts and frustration have evidently played a part in triggering the merger proposal on this occasion, readers and subscribers should reject the silly argument that the purpose of the proposal is personal – to “exclude”, “oust” or “carve out” certain members of the outgoing editorial board, whose term of office expires at the AGM in any case. No individual has a right to a place on the EB. If the merger proposal falls, a new EB will be elected at the AGM. If it succeeds, the composition of the new EB will be decided through the democracy of the LRC.

Instead of personal conflicts, we must examine the political differences, if we can find them, which motivate the reluctant minority who vociferously oppose this common-sense proposal. Ignoring the spurious arguments that an editorial board responsible to LRC could not possibly function effectively, the political concerns of the anti-merger minority seem to be threefold: Briefing’s orientation to the Labour Party, its political pluralism, and its “organisational pluralism” or independence.

Would merging with LRC weaken Briefing’s orientation to the Labour Party?

Not at all. LRC rule 3 states that its aim is to “appeal for support … to all socialists outside the Labour Party, who it will encourage to join or rejoin the Labour Party”. Comrade Jenny Fisher, however, writing against the merger in the July Briefing (‘Not ready for slaughter’), argues that the overlap between the LB and LRC “has probably held Briefing back”, because of the LRC’s “purist approach”. Its ‘no cuts’ campaign “got nowhere and stopped dialogue about the left in local government”. She continues: “The Labour left … needs a forum for debate and organisation: it is that vacuum Briefing should fill.” Here Jenny quite rightly mentions the need for organisation – but this is a need which Briefing does not fill, with its ‘non-aligned’ status. If she thinks the LRC’s tactical approach to the anti-cuts struggle is wrong, that should be argued through the democracy of the LRC – it is not an argument against organisation.

Would merging with the LRC undermine the pluralism of Briefing?

EB member John Stewart questioned the pluralism of the LRC in his June Briefing article, ‘Briefing should keep its independence’. He asks: “Would an article advocating support for one of the leading lights of the soft left [like his 2007 backing for Jon Cruddas as Labour deputy leader] be included in a future LRC Briefing?” However, while his version of pluralism reaches out to the right of the LRC, unfortunately it does not extend leftwards or to those outside the Labour Party. In the same article, somewhat naively, he expresses his fears that an LRC Briefing might open its pages to “the New Communist Party and the Morning Star Supporters Group” – both non-Labour affiliates of the LRC. And, he complains, “another affiliate, Labour Party Marxists, repeatedly criticised Briefing chair Christine Shawcroft in print during the Labour Party NEC election campaign”. The criticism “in print” to which comrade Stewart objects was my friendly, but mildly critical, letter published in the February issue of Briefing itself – despite the opposition of comrade Stewart, whose ‘pluralism’ is evidently of the censoring kind.

Comrade Fisher, too, exhibits an unhealthy antipathy to the LRC’s non-Labour left. Instead of recognising the necessity of drawing them into the struggle to transform the party, she accuses the LRC of working with other left groups “on their own terms, without making the Labour Party central – hence its reliance on non-affiliated trade unions”. Of course, LRC could and should do much more to campaign for trade unions to affiliate, and to combat the destructive campaign for disaffiliation led by groups like the Socialist Party in England and Wales. That is an essential part of our struggle to transform Labour. By the same measure, we should not write off or disown those expelled from the party by the bureaucracy for their views, or for standing up for democratic principles – like the RMT union, or individual expellees like Tower Hamlets comrade Stephen Beckett, thrown out of the party for backing Lutfur Rahman and Labour Party democracy, and defying bureaucratic diktat. Paradoxically, comrade Beckett is in the anti-merger camp at present.

“In short,” continues comrade Fisher, “Briefing builds the Labour Party; the LRC builds the LRC so it can be part of forming a new party of labour of which the Labour left may be a part” (my emphasis). This may be a minority view in the LRC, but it is a misrepresentation to present it as LRC policy. As Mike Phipps points out in his ‘expand or die’ article, “The LRC has changed: anti-Labour elements are marginal …” Making LB part of LRC would surely strengthen its orientation to Labour further. Transforming the party is a necessary task for the left, and we need to be as united as possible, including organisationally united, in order to tackle the job. Reaching out to the non-Labour left and non-affiliated unions is an essential part of our orientation to Labour.

Of course, we do not know what the future holds for the Labour Party. If we begin to be successful and the left gets stronger, the right may abandon ship – like the ‘gang of four’ who split from Labour to found the Social Democratic Party in 1981, and later merged with the Liberals to form the Lib Dems. Better if we had kicked them out. The Blairite project to break the trade union link and transform the party in the wrong direction, into a purely bourgeois liberal party, may one day succeed. But, speculation aside, as things are, we must do everything to build a strong, well organised left and to rid the party of openly pro-capitalism, anti-working class factions like Progress, with its £400,000 per annum income (£260,000 from Lord David Sainsbury alone), which should have no place in the workers’ movement. We must transform Labour so that it stands clearly on the side of working class struggle and for socialism.

Would merging with the LRC curtail Briefing’s political pluralism?

At the June 30 LRC NC meeting, an anti-merger leaflet in the names of Jenny Fisher, Stephen Beckett and Christine Shawcroft made the curious claim: “Labour Briefing’s tradition of pluralism is a political and an organisational one: pluralism in the sense of being non-aligned and working with others. Briefing was often called the ‘in-house journal of the Labour left’. That’s different from the ‘house journal of the LRC’.” So, here we have the invention of the concept “organisational pluralism”, ascribing Briefing’s ability to publish a range of left views to its supposed independence of any particular organisation – as if it were not an organisation in its own right. By contrast, the argument goes, if Briefing belongs to another organisation – the LRC – it loses its independence and its ability to carry a range of views.

I am sure the comrades have not grasped the disastrous implication of this naive idea: it legitimises the splitting disease of the left, and the false idea that a socialist political organisation must neither contain differing views nor be open to outside views. If you disagree, you must split and form your own organisation. That is how the left arrived at its present divided state. Championing “organisational pluralism” simply defends the unfortunate status quo. So it is OK that the left is split into many organisations, some in the Labour Party and some outside it, dispersing our uncoordinated efforts and competing for members and scant resources.

No, it is not OK. We need not merely open discussion, so we can learn from each other, so minority views can be heard and understood, so minorities can become majorities. We also need democratic organisation, so majority views can determine collective, effective action.

Annual general meeting

Saturday July 7, 12 noon, University of London Union, Malet Street, London WC1. Open to Labour Briefing readers.

Divisions surface and split beckons

What political differences lie behind the heated arguments in the Labour Representation Committee and Labour Briefing? Stan Keable of Labour Party Marxists reports on the proposed merger, and counsels against irresponsible splits

Christine Shawcroft: where are the politics? (photo: Louise Whittle)

More heat than light has been produced by the online exchanges on the Facebook pages of the Labour Representation Committee and Labour Briefing following the May 26 LRC national committee meeting. By 17 votes to 7 the NC endorsed an executive committee merger motion – that the LRC and LB should combine, to their mutual benefit: an organisation without a journal should get together with a journal without an organisation. The proposal will depend on the July 7 AGM of LB, which will debate a similar motion from editorial board member and LRC joint secretary Pete Firmin. While opponents of the merger are calling it a takeover, and warning that it will precipitate a split in both organisations, some pro-merger comrades are hinting that they may abandon Briefing if they do not get their way.

Irresponsible splits are the debilitating disease of the left. They are a crime against the struggle for unity which the left and the working class movement needs, and which both LRC and LB claim to stand for. I would urge comrades on both sides to clearly present their arguments so as to ensure that LRC members and LB subscribers and readers are fully engaged. I myself – a member of LRC and a subscriber to LB – only obtained a copy of the LRC motion three days after the NC had voted for it. And I only read about the merger proposal in the ‘for’ and ‘against’ single-page articles in the June issue of LB, which arrived in the post on the very morning of the May 26 NC meeting.

How did such a situation arise, in two mutually supportive, pro-Labour Party, left unity groups? Both seek to unite the left and to democratise and transform the Labour Party. But democracy begins at home, in our own organisations, and depends on open discussion. The problem seems to me to lie in the reluctance to air our differences in public. Many rank-and-file comrades have expressed dismay at the heated conflict which has broken out online between leading comrades, where previously differences had not been apparent. This surely points to the short-sightedness of the view that we should hide our differences, not ‘wash our dirty linen in public’, that publishing criticism will frighten away potential supporters, that we should ‘leave our guns at the door’, and so on.

In his pro-merger LB article, comrade Firmin argues that the merger will give Briefing “a bigger base, bigger readership and wider audience” and that there is “much overlap of both political views and personnel (and even more so of supporters)”. The LRC is “in need of its own publication”, but “to start one in competition with Briefing would be a duplication of effort”. LB fights to “channel the demands of the broader movement and campaigns towards the party and a Labour government”, he says approvingly, while the LRC is “committed to fighting for the Labour Party to support the resistance …”. Implicitly criticising LB for being one-sidedly orientated towards the party, to the neglect of the extra-parliamentary mass struggle, he argues: “Labour Briefing … needs to recognise that there is a layer of activists who see Labour as a neoliberal party, some seeing little point in relating to the broader labour movement at all … socialists … have to win their activists to our ranks, pointing out how political gains can be achieved through the labour movement …”

Some comrades have asked me whether the merger plan will be put to the next LRC AGM. But Pete’s proposal is “to transfer Briefing to the LRC with immediate effect, with the aim of a relaunch at this autumn’s Labour Party conference”.

Editorial board member John Stewart put the case in the June issue for LB “retaining its independence … unless others can demonstrate the superiority of their proposals”. “Briefing’s durability” – it’s been around since 1980 – “gives it a stability lacking in the LRC”. Comrade Stewart doubts “LRC claims … of over 1,000 members and dozens of affiliates”. But, although it is not a precise measure, the two Facebook pages seem to back up the claim: LRC – 1,463 and rising; LB – 120.

Comrade Stewart displays an unconscious hypocrisy with respect to democracy and open discussion. On the one hand, he worries that an article like his 2007 piece “advocating support for one of the leading lights of the soft left” – namely, John Cruddas – would not “be included in a future LRC Briefing”.

On the other hand, he holds up the bogey that LRC affiliates – the New Communist Party and the Morning Star Supporters Group – might be given space to support “the invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia … and the governments of North Korea and China”. And worse: “Recently, another affiliate, Labour Party Marxists, repeatedly criticised Briefing chair Christine Shawcroft in print during the Labour NEC election campaign.” Well, firstly, it was comradely criticism, which Christine accepted. Secondly, if criticism of leaders is out of order, I have to ask comrade Stewart what exactly he thinks is wrong with North Korea or China.

The caption to the picture selected to accompany comrade Stewart’s article gives us a pointer to the politics that appear to be involved in this dispute: “Tony Benn addresses delegates to the 2008 Compass conference at Briefing’s fringe meeting. John McDonnell MP refused to attend because of John Cruddas’s association with Compass” (the rightwing Labour pressure group “committed to help build a Good Society”).

However, we should not judge the opposition to immediate merger by the limitations of John Stewart’s arguments. But what does he mean by saying that his “greatest concern” is “that an LRC takeover may lead to negative developments on the wider Labour left”? Apparently those against the merger believe that a journal can only be genuinely “pluralist” if it is not controlled by any one group. The anti-merger leaflet, backed by comrade Christine Shawcroft and distributed at the May 26 LRC NC meeting, makes this clear.

“It’s no good saying that ‘LRC Briefing’ would be ‘pluralist’: there’s plenty of ‘pluralist’ magazines trotting out their own line; and plenty more ‘pluralist’ magazines debating the ‘pluralist’ lines within their own organisations. Above all: who will take a commitment to ‘pluralism’ seriously if you close down a pluralist magazine and set up, using its name, the magazine of your own organisation?” The implication is that LB, at present, has no political line of its own, and if it adopted a line, that would diminish the range of (left) opinions willing to write for it. If “LRC Briefing” is also to be “a journal of debate within LRC” with space for both majority and minority opinions, “will it be made clear what is the majority position? Hang on a moment – where has that ‘pluralism’ gone, then?”

Briefing’s genuine pluralism”, the leaflet claims, would be “killed off” if it were “directed exclusively by the NC of a single organisation on the left”. So what kind of left unity should we strive for? Instead of fighting to unite the left politically and organisationally, do the authors of the anti-merger leaflet advocate preserving the disunity of the left, so that the diverse tendencies can enjoy fair and equal access to the pages of LB?

This defeatist horizon seems to be a fetish arising from a unity moment in Briefing’s history. “When the [Workers Revolutionary Party] collapsed in the 1980s,” explains the leaflet, “Labour Herald called for unity of left publications. At a meeting of Herald, Briefing, International and Socialist Viewpoint, Graham Bash announced: ‘I am all for unity. Let’s have a joint magazine. The only preconditions are that it is called Labour Briefing and that no one group has control.’” The leaflet complains that Graham has not explained his reasons for abandoning “Briefing’s ethos”.

I cannot speak for comrade Bash, but there is an obvious justification for his change of heart: the circumstances have changed. The unification of several left journals to survive hard times for the left after the defeat of the 1984-85 miners’ Great Strike may well have been a positive step, but today we need to build a higher level of unity.

Comrade Christine Shawcroft has fully identified with the leaflet’s contents. I should like to hear the views of the other six NC members who voted ‘no’: Ted Knight, Jon Lansman, Gary Heather, Claire Wadey, Lois Radice and Miles Barter. And I should like to hear all NC members declaring against irresponsible splits. In other words, if you lose the vote, stay together. Accept majority decisions, insist on minority rights.

Come on over

Motion carried by 17 votes to 7 at the May 26 LRC NC

The EC notes that members of the Labour Briefing editorial board will be putting a motion to their AGM to transfer Labour Briefing to the LRC.

The EC notes the proposal by members of the Labour Briefing editorial board and if the motion is passed at the Labour Briefing AGM (on July 7), we would agree to take the magazine on.

The EC notes that Labour Briefing – like the LRC – has always followed a pluralist line, promoting discussion within the labour and trade union movement. We would pledge to maintain that tradition.

We also believe that having a magazine associated with the LRC would be beneficial for the following reasons:

  • It would create more space for discussion and debate within the LRC and wider movement.
  • It would give the LRC more visibility, and would help us to recruit and retain membership and affiliation.
  • It would assist in organising the Labour left and trade union movement.
  • We could develop a coordinated and integrated communications strategy, incorporating the website, magazine, email, Twitter and Facebook – as well as to reach LRC members who are digitally excluded.

In taking on Labour Briefing, the LRC would agree to maintain its pluralist traditions and coverage of Labour Party, trade union, social and international struggles. We believe becoming a magazine hosted by the LRC would broaden the base of Labour Briefing and help it to develop as a useful tool in organising the labour movement left.

We believe that the correct structure to run the magazine would be an editorial board accountable to and delegated from the national committee, though with the authority to coopt (subject to NC approval).

LRC Annual Conference 2011: Labour’s resistance

The Labour Representation Committee’s 2011 AGM takes place this Saturday, 19 November, 10:00am to 4:30pm ULU, Malet Street, London. Labour Party Marxists have submitted the following motion:

The Labour Representation Committee does not aim for a Labour government for its own sake. Bad Labour governments do not lead to good Labour governments. They lead to Tory governments.

History shows that Labour governments committed to managing the capitalist system and loyal to the existing constitutional order create disillusionment in the working class.

The aim must be that the Labour Party should only consider forming a government when it has the active support of a clear majority of the population and has a realistic prospect of implementing a full socialist programme.

We’ve also published the first edition of the LPM bulletin – please let us know what you think.

Suffocating lack of democracy

Delegate Jim Moody gives his impressions of the Liverpool Labour Party conference, 25-29 September 2011

Miliband: Blairism without Blair?

New Labour is dead: long live the refounded Labour Party! Well, that’s not quite what happened in Liverpool last week. In fact, the Blairite legacy is alive and well and functions to destroy real debate within the party, especially at what should be its ultimate decision-making body, annual conference.

The other side of this coin was illustrated on the Mersey too: that the unions are decisive and if their bureaucracies wanted they could change the present state of affairs, for the betterment of party democracy. In actual fact, conference functions largely as a PR presentation for the media, with stage-managed speeches absent of contention with respect to any proposal on the table, since almost everything has been decided beforehand, beyond the conference hall.

Attending conference as a delegate for the first time was an almost joyless experience for me. Unsurprisingly and perhaps even unremarkably, the attenuated (ie, denial of) democracy beloved of New Labour persists. Those of us active in the party know how democratically eviscerated it has become since the time of Blair’s takeover in the mid-1990s. When it comes to what would be usual for conferences of trade unions and all kinds of democratic organisations, Labour now does things differently. We have arrived at a situation where, instead of a conference at which affiliates’ and constituencies’ delegates debate motions and amendments to motions, there are the deliberately impenetrable and abstruse policy forums and subsequent empty rhetoric and pointless conference speeches. Once the national policy forum’s (NPF) report is accepted by the national executive committee, that is that: the report, section by section, can only be accepted or rejected by conference; no amendments are allowed. As expected, it was passed as the leadership intended following conference ‘debate’. In conference itself, there were only flashes of real discussion, mainly centring on attempts to reference-back the morning’s conference arrangements committee (CAC) reports on a couple of occasions.

Constituency Labour Parties and affiliates such as trade unions are allowed to submit one so-called contemporary motion (and CLPs can only do that if they have not submitted a rule change proposal). However, if a contemporary motion is to stand a chance of appearing on the conference order paper at all, its subject matter must not already have been discussed by the NPF or its commissions before the cut-off date (the NPF’s last meeting in late July). Obviously, this considerably constrains what CLPs and affiliated organisations can put forward. At conference itself this thin slice of permitted motions is squeezed into a few composites, only eight of which can be moved. On the first day two groups – CLPs and affiliates (overwhelmingly the unions) – each choose four composites.

But this year, through overlapping choices and the restricted interpretation of the CAC, only five composites actually made it onto the agenda. The unions chose ‘Jobs, growth, employment rights’; ‘Health and social care’; ‘Phone hacking’; and ‘Public services’. CLPs in the main disregarded advice given in the first bulletin put out by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, so their votes were largely wasted when they were cast for three dead certs (ie, three of the union-backed composites), plus a composite on ‘Housing’. This meant, for example, that the ‘August riots’ did not get taken: a glaring omission. Although there were challenges to the CAC’s morning reports on its recommendations, none was successful and chairs of sessions refused calls for card votes.

What constitutes an emergency motion to conference was even more tightly defined: so much so that none of those submitted this year cleared the hurdles placed in their way. All the proposed rule changes that were accepted onto the agenda, none of which was earth-shattering, fell on card votes after CAC recommendations against their acceptance.

Of course, arguably the most important item at conference has been the culmination of discussions on the Refounding Labour document first proposed by Peter Hain in March on the instigation of Ed Miliband. Branches and CLPs spent considerable time and effort on this project, submitting thousands of responses. But these appear hardly to have been given more than a nod in the end; we are still waiting to see if the responses will be published in full; the only feedback so far, apart from standard bland letters of acknowledgment from Hain, has been bare statistics on the number of responses that were made.

The NEC finalised a reformulated version days before conference after secret recommendations were made by its organisation committee in the light of trade union objections. Then last-minute negotiations between party and union officials on the day before conference started ensured that the leadership’s key proposals were retained in Refounding Labour.

Accordingly, from now on non-members can become registered supporters of the Labour Party, able to vote in the leadership election and otherwise participate within the party alongside individual members; levy-paying trade union members will have to register to have these rights. The unions pushed through a concession, whereby this is not achieved solely at the expense of their representation, as was originally proposed. The last-ditch deal allows registered supporters, once their numbers reach 50,000, to gain 3% of electoral college votes, with 1% taken from each of the three former electoral college components: individual members within Constituency Labour Parties; those paying the political levy in the trade unions; and MPs. If registered supporter numbers increase beyond the minimum 50,000, the proportion of electoral college votes they control will rise progressively up to a maximum of 10%, to be allocated on the same basis: ie, a 30:30:30:10 split.

In addition to the dilution of membership rights, both individual and trade union, another step away from democracy was contained in the document. The longstanding right of Labour MPs to elect members of the shadow cabinet is now abolished. Instead, the Labour leader while in opposition now has the right to select whomsoever he wishes independently of any Labour body, just as a Labour prime minister already does. This further adds to the dictatorial powers of the leader, who, instead of acting like an elected monarch, should be accountable to and recallable by the NEC. And no-one should be fooled by all those full seats during such set-piece, key PR moments as the leader’s speech: officials will put anyone and her brother in empty ones to ensure the hall looks full. There were more media and PR people attending conference than delegates, which is nothing out of the ordinary these days.

Of course, given the way things are carved up in the Labour Party, neither CLPs nor affiliates were able to intervene openly to change Refounding Labour at conference; once again, no amendments were allowed. It was again ‘take it or leave it’ time. A minority of delegates followed the logic of opposition to these objectionable proposals, as well as to the undemocratic process as a whole, and voted against the entire document when it came to a card vote on the first day of conference.

The bitter pill had been sweetened for conference delegates by offering incentives. Constituencies will no longer have to pay a fee for the first delegates they send. In addition, local councillors and Young Labour will in future have representation at annual conference and distinct rights in leadership elections. But why should councillors – or MPs, for that matter – be granted special powers and rights? This is another example of the tail wagging the dog, since they allegedly represent us.

However, there may be some unintended positive consequences for party democracy. It all depends upon how members press the point. For it now may be possible, as a consequence of the rule changes brought in by Refounding Labour to win (its new name), for branches and constituencies to allow affiliate (eg, trade union levy-paying) members, as well as the new registered supporters, to attend their meetings.

Unable to amend it, on the usual ‘take it or leave it’ basis CLPs overwhelmingly supported the final NEC-approved version of Refounding Labour to win: voting was 112,286 in favour, with 14,842 against. Affiliates, which numerically are mainly the trade unions, voted 2,459,269 for and only 11,822 against.

The high point for real debate at conference has to be its fringe meetings, where all sorts of groups – within and without the Labour Party – vied for delegates’ attention at lunch breaks and at the end of each day. Single-issue campaigns provided plenty of scope to discuss questions where debate was squashed out of the agenda in the conference hall itself.

The best fringe meeting that I attended was organised by the Labour Representation Committee in a nearby hotel. Over 200 comrades crammed into a sweltering room to hear platform speakers John McDonnell, Tony Benn, PCS’s Mark Serwotka and Unite’s Len McCluskey lambast politicians of all stripes, including Labour ones. The speakers’ main focus was on the forthcoming strike on November 30, but they and contributors from the floor called for the resistance to the cuts to be built beyond one-day events and to include civil disobedience.

Comrade McDonnell stated that class struggle is “at its bitterest for generations”, while Len McCluskey wanted the widest “coalition of resistance”. Mark Serwotka was very clear: “We should say there should be no public spending cuts … We should say we’re not having austerity.” Were the mood and tenor of the LRC meeting to have been that of even a large minority at the conference itself, there could have been a direct challenge to the pro-capitalist cliques that currently vie at the top of the party to control it.

As well as those organised by unions and other groups from the working class movement, there were fringes put on not just by charities, but by overtly pro-capitalist bodies. The very well-funded Blairite Progress group held several, in conjunction with ‘partners’ such as the Chemical Industries Association; Progress had a platform speaker at one fringe meeting from Nato’s London Information Network on Conflicts and State-building. One of the Fabian Society fringes was supported by EEF, “the manufacturers’ organisation”. Businesses and commercial organisations holding fringe meetings included Aviva, the Nuclear Industry Association, Reuters, The Times and The Observer.