Final Agenda For the Twenty Third National Conference of the Labour Party Young Socialists
Date:April 1984
Organisation: Labour Party Young Socialists
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

4th October 2010

With thanks to neilcaff for forwarding this to the Archive, a useful document which gives an insight into how the issue of Ireland was perceived by sections of the UK left. As has been noted here … The Labour Party Young Socialists were…

…the youth section of the British Labour Party, and was effectively a part of the Militant Tendency within the Labour Party during most of the late 1960s and 1970s and through to the 1980s.

But as neilcaff also notes this was not an exclusively Militant environment.

this [was] a debate by people aged 16-23. Also I think it should be emphasised that this was conference of young people of 2,000 elected delegates. So while the Militant Tendency did have the predominant influence at the conference it by no means totally dominated it either.

Certainly the use of language which uses a number of terms in some motions interchangeably, most notably Republican and Catholic, appear drawn from a wide variety of stances, reflecting the different views on the matter on the left in Britain during this period.

From this remove one of the most striking proposals is for the establishment of a ‘trade union organised workers defence committee to protect working class homes against sectarian and state violence’, a policy that had been characteristic of Militant thinking on Ireland both long before this and well after.

It’s also notable that some of the motions argue that ‘the only way forward for Northern Irish workers in the formation of a Labour Party based on the Trade Union Movement with socialist policies, and sees the importance of the British Labour movement in the achievement of this aim’.

The status of Sinn Féin and the IRA is subject to sharply varying viewpoints. Sunderland North LPYS suggests that: ‘Individual terrorism is incapable of inflicting defeat on the armed force of the police and military… Conference also deplores the stance of those groups in and around the Labour movement, who liaised with self-confessed Nationalist Parties while ignoring the achievements of the TU movement and YS….Conference also deplores the stance of those groups in and around the Labour movement, who hand the bosses’ kept press a gift to use against the Labour movement by association with terrorist groups.’

Manchester Central LPYS (p.59) while criticising ‘the overall strategy of the Republican Movement’ argues that ‘The Republican Movement has mass support, the election of Gerry Adams in the general election proves this. This support shows that they are not individual terrorists. The Republican prisoners are prisoners of war and should be treated as such.’

Horsey and Wood Green LPYS also takes emollient stance as regards Sinn Féin, arguing that ‘as Socialists we have a duty to defend the right of Sinn Fein to organise publicly and to defend anti-imperialist militants that are harrassed and imprisoned due to their opposition to the British presence’.

Overall a very useful addition to the Archive. More documentation like this indicative of the approach of various political parties on this discursive policy discussion level would be very welcome to add to various Clárs already in the Archive.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 04 Oct 2010 14:16:20

    Bloody hell, people had longer attention spans in the 1980s it seems.

    By the time the section on Ireland is over, that booklet is on motion number 139, having already filled 61 pages with small print, and as far as I can tell from the contents at the start that only accounts for half of the items on the agenda.

    Did LPYS conferences sit for a month at a time?

    The leftist trainspotter in me would love to see the rest of it, just to try to work out what motions were coming from what factions. The ones on Ireland fall into three categories: Motions which reflect the views of Militant, motions which are straightforwardly supportive of the Provisionals and finally a small number of motions which are Left Republican in tenor.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 04 Oct 2010 16:14:18

    In reply to Mark P.

    “The leftist trainspotter in me would love to see the rest of it, just to try to work out what motions were coming from what factions.”

    I seem to have the same trainspotter 🙂 Likewise.

    Agree with you though I also seem to see a vague hint of a WP line as well (though that and the Militant one wouldn’t be a million miles apart).

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  • By: neilcaff Mon, 04 Oct 2010 16:49:00

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    According to people who were there at the time LPYS conference ran for 3 days. Generally around 2,000 young people, overwhelmingly working class, were in attendance.

    Although it’s correct that the main faction that opposed closer support for the Provisionals was Militant in fact their views on the Provo’s and individual terrorism in general was (and still is) actually quite mainstream in the labour movement.

    It’s was a fairly common view in the labour movement that individual terrorist campaigns such as those waged by the Provo’s were fundamentally undemocratic and anti working class for two reasons.
    Firstly, whatever the intentions of the perpetrators in general working class people tended to be the victims of terrorist actions. This view was particularly reinforced after the Birmingham and Guildford bombings.
    Secondly, the closed, undemocratic, conspiratorial nature of terrorist group was seen as the opposite of how the labour movement should operate. (Insert jibe about Militant’s entryist work here)

    As for the factions themselves it seems Ken Livingston’s gang and Socialist Organiser (now AWL) were the main Provisional cheerleaders while those supporters of the Tribune group tended towards a soft left Republican slant.

    In terms of factional support the out and put pro-Provo’s would have been people inclined to Ken Livingstons

    Re The WP. One of the amusing parts of ‘The Lost Revolution’ was reading the WP attempts to gain influence among the various left factions in the LP in the ’80’s. Only the Militant were seen as having a decent position on the Provos but since they were “Trotskyites” Stickie supporters in the LP were encouraged to back the witch hunt against Militant!

    As Comrade Stalin didn’t say, never let principled political agreement get in the way of a bit of Trot bashing.

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  • By: Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung Thu, 07 Oct 2010 08:30:21

    […] Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS): Final Agenda For the Twenty Third National Conference of the Labour Party Young Socialists (British … […]

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