Campaign supporters were present inside and outside of the conference hall: inside as delegates, putting forward a motion calling for Britain’s largest union to support the restoration of Clause IV; and outside, signing up Unite activists to the campaign.
Yesterday lunchtime saw the Labour4Clause4 fringe meeting, where a panel of speakers highlighted the relevance of Clause IV - Labour’s original commitment to common ownership - to trade unionists and the wider working class.
Arsalan Ghani, a delegate from the London & Eastern education sector of Unite, introduced the meeting as chair, informing the audience about the Labour4Clause4 campaign: why it was set up; what its demands are; and which important figures from the labour movement have already backed it.
Russ Blakely - a delegate from the South East construction sector and mover of the motion on Clause IV at the conference - then spoke, explaining how the demand for Clause IV, nationalisation, and a socialist economic plan was vital in order to address the issues being discussed at the Unite conference.
From conditions in the workplace and the unscrupulous behaviour of the bosses; to ‘defence diversification’ and the ‘threat of automation: Russ stressed how the implementation of Clause IV - putting the ‘commanding heights of the economy’ under common ownership - is the only way to face up to the challenges facing workers today.
Finally, Adam Booth - a co-ordinator for the Labour4Clause4 campaign and editor of www.socialist.net - spoke, giving a historical overview of Labour’s socialist clause.
Adam noted that this year is the centenary anniversary of Clause IV’s introduction, which was brought in on the back of the titanic events of the Russian Revolution. However, Labour’s socialist aims were later abolished by Blair, who took the party down the path of privatisation and subservience to the market.
All of that has changed with the election of Jeremy Corbyn though, Adam stated. Last year’s general election demonstrated that the demand for nationalisation resonates with workers and youth. The ideas of socialism are back on the agenda.
The task now is to prepare for power, and to understand the threat of economic sabotage that a Corbyn government will face from day one. The only way to combat this, Adam explained, will be for Labour to ‘take back control’ by nationalising the banks and major monopolies. This highlights the vital importance of the demand for Clause IV today.
A lively discussion ensued, with questions and comments addressing the need for workers control and the horrific reality of outsourcing for workers, amongst other issues.
All the panel responded to the debate by encouraging attendees to go out into their union branches, CLPs, and communities in order to spread the word about the Labour4Clause4 campaign and its call for a socialist Labour government.