Liverpool General Transport Strike Centenary Conference
68 Hope Street, L1
Saturday 8th October
You may not have known of the significance of the 1911 conference at
John Moores University on Saturday 8th October, it was advertised for
several months under the auspices of the year of radicalism celebrating
1911 and has never been so hotly debated!
It was the culmination of a series of events beginning last year in September
where an event was staged at the Rapid paint shop, followed by an event
at the FACT and also the calendar of the Nerve special edition on 1911.
The Nerve calendar photos ran continuously over the whole day in all
rooms including the main hall. It was a daylong activist conference really,
with those most politically active in the city, including the authors
of several Labour movement books and popular Socialist speakers.
Left Wing MP John McDonnell and RMT awkward squad speaker Bob Crow were
joined by Tony Mulhearn (ex-council leader turned Socialist party member)
and a host of equally good speakers. It took the form of a congress with
those wishing to go to particular meetings for an hour each session. Luckily
food from Baguette Bite was ordered in to keep the synapses firing. Big
up to Yvette and Steve they certainly prevented the rancour developing
– for a hungry mob is an angry mob.
There were two big open forums with questions and answers from the panel,
one at the beginning and one just before the last sessions, these were
rounded off by singing the Internationale led by Liverpool’s Socialist
choir. All in all there was a good comradely atmosphere.
Despite a sectarianism that we have yet to emerge from and a long history
of acrimony between groups in Liverpool, the entrance was open to all
and operated on a concession basis of £3 and £5, but this
It was how the Labour conference should have happened, instead of the
Milliband charade that hid behind police barriers and away form the people.
With speakers from Ireland’s SIPTU Union in Dublin, Francey Devine
spoke on the connection to the 1913 Lockout – celebrated in the
culture to this day unlike 1911 – and Larkin’s role both here
and Ireland. The speaker sang a few rebel Larkin songs and answered questions
It had relevance to the on-going struggle in Liverpool today, anti cuts
etc, coincidently, the James Larkin flute bands paraded by the building
at the same time. A large and raucous celebration of Liverpool Irish heritage
was in the city, with about 10 bands and the festival of Irish culture
showing films all over the city.
Eric Taplin a noted historian kicked off proceedings and he is still
as passionate 30 years on from his books publication. Around 150 people
attended and these are the people who are currently engaged in the anti
cuts protest as well as active union members in their own right. It was
a good event to get involved with and mix with others.
A national mobilising conference is in the offing on the 19th in London
with the major offensive by the unions protest strikes on 30th November.
There were some great political bookstalls and discussions on syndicalism
and the role of the trade unions throughout the day and at one point Bob
Crow said “We don’t need a party to organise a general strike”
to which one member of the audience replied “How to prepare for
general strike is with collecting battle funds now, a triple alliance
and the mobilisation of others outside the traditional union structures”
triggering a great round of applause. “Union membership is down
to 6.7 million members yet opposition is growing across the country”
another speaker reported.
There were some good questions put to the panel, from people all over
the North West, Manchester, London and Wigan. Familiar local activists
provided the bulk of the audience. Those groups in attendance were North
West Labour History Group, Nerve, Mersey Solidarity Federation, Socialist
Party, Socialist Workers Party, PCS, RMT and UNITE sponsoring it.
This was a step forward to some kind of unity in the on-going campaigns
over health, pensions, jobs and welfare attacks. A coach was being organised
for the blocking of Westminster Bridge over the passage of the NHS reform
bill, it was free the next morning and several people including MP John
McDonnell were going. All in all a positive, inspiring and confident atmosphere
was generated from the event.