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Labour Party Conference Agenda:

Labour’s ranks demand Socialist policies

(September 1977)

From Militant, No. 374, 23 September 1977, p. 2.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

There is no doubt that the Labour government’s continuing failure to fully carry out its election pledges, let alone even begin to implement the promised “fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of wealth and power in favour of working people and their families,” has deeply angered Labour Party members.

The continual flouting of Party Conference decisions by the Parliamentary Party has made 83 Constituency Parties and NOLS send in motions demanding automatic re-selection of Labour MPs between each election. York CLP further demands that MPs should hand over “any remuneration from any source over and above the average wage of a skilled worker together with legitimate expenses” to the Labour Party in attempt to stop careerists using the Labour Party as a ladder to fortune and riches.

But as we have reported before, much of the Party members’ anger is not shown on the Final Agenda due to the right wing controlled Conference Arrangements Committee ruling out of order 106 motions out of the 524 originally submitted. It is not only Constituency Parties which have suffered, unions like AUEW-Engineering Section, NUPE, AUEW-TASS, and ACTT have had their resolutions chopped as the CAC has tried to cut out the most critical resolutions.

This has resulted in a sharp drop in the number of resolutions in some of the key areas, as this table shows:






Incomes Policy






Public Expenditure



Public Ownership






They hope to remove the most severe criticisms of the government and calls for socialist policies from the Conference floor.

But in spite of these manoeuvres (and an apparent effort by the right wing ‘Campaign for a Labour Victory’ to get a few motions in) the overwhelming majority of the agenda is hostile to the government’s policy.

Paisley CLP calls upon the Conference to reject the “government’s economic strategy which has led to: (a) a totally unacceptable record level of unemployment; (b) an average reduction in real wages of 12% since January 1975; (c) inflation still running at 17%; (d) cuts in public spending which have seriously damaged working class living standards.” Coventry South East CLP adds in an amendment that these policies have made possible “the return of a Thatcher or equally reactionary coalition government.”

This motion [no. 36] sees socialist policies “as the only practical way out of the crisis” and calls for the government to “implement Clause 4[IV] of the Party Constitution.”

The growing calls for the government to stop carrying out Tory-style economic policies is echoed in all the resolutions on the Lib-Lab deal. Not a single resolution or amendment supports this rotten pact. Brighton Kemptown CLP demands that the “government breaks the deal and ends all negotiations with pro-capitalist parties and an end to pro-capitalist policies.”

All the motions in this section put forward the same call for the Labour government to attempt to carry through Parliament socialist policies. If, as is likely, such socialist measures are defeated in the Commons then it would be necessary for the government to call an election and clearly explain why it was essential to implement these policies as the only way to fundamentally improve working people’s standards.

All the resolutions on unemployment reflect the labour movement’s anger at the scandal of the ever-increasing number of unemployed. Unfortunately the CAC has succeeded in cutting out most of the resolutions putting forward a clear socialist, fighting programme against unemployment, though the Manchester Central motion on Youth Unemployment does put forward the demands of the Labour Party Young Socialists and the Youth Campaign Against Unemployment.

There is no doubt that racialism will once again be a key issue at the Conference, though the CAC has ruled out of order all the motions supporting last year’s anti-fascist Conference policy, even the Party Chairman’s own CLP has had its motion dropped! This has meant that there is no comprehensive programme to fight the racists and fascists in the motions. But Deptford CLP, which helped organise the counter-demonstration against the National Front in Lewisham, has an amendment down which calls on the labour movement to “organise counter-demonstrations against provocative marches by fascists” and for a Conference of Labour to be held to discuss how to defend immigrants from attack.

The one section of the agenda where the CAC has done the least damage is that on Northern Ireland, though it cut out a resolution calling for the formation of a Trade Union Defence Force to defend Catholic and Protestant workers. All the motions in this section call on the Labour Party to help organise a conference of all labour movement organisations “to establish a Labour Party” with a “programme capable of uniting Protestant and Catholic workers in common struggle under the banner of socialism.”


It is likely that the Labour leadership will attempt to mute the Party’s criticism of the government’s performance by appealing for party unity in the beginning of the run-up to the next election. We are all in favour of unity, but unity around a programme that will answer working people’s needs, not a programme which has meant a million and a half unemployed, falling living standards and a disastrous run of losses in the local and by-elections.

Party members will do well to remember the comment of Hugh Dalton on the 1929–31 debacle of a Labour government that Labour members “should have kicked up more row, been less loyal to leaders and more loyal to principles.” No matter what tricks the CAC get up to it is certain that this year’s Party Conference will see even more demands from Labour’s ranks for socialist policies.

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Last updated: 19 August 2016