“The defeat of John Mc Donnell’s campaign, the upcoming likely fights around public sector pay and the amputation of what remained of Labour Party democracy are obliging the CP and its supporters to re-assess their traditional support for Labour. This is one more stage in the process of making the socialist party to replace it. Now who is going to start organising the spaces where these debates can be had?”
It is worth noting that when Respect was initiated, the CPB debated joining the nascent coalition. Alas, a majority voted to stick with Labour. Times have changed, as Liam notes, but there would be obstacles to the CP signing up to Respect – the Mayoral elections, the fact that Respect does not operate in Scotland, etc.
I think Griffiths is right to try to open a debate within the CPB, and the Labour left, about the representation of working people. Though they might be considered by the CPB as part of the sectarian left, the Socialist Party have been campaigning for a new workers party for a while now and the SWP make up the majority of Respect – The Unity Coalition.
(Respect is going through some internal wrangles at the moment, which can be used to attract the Labour left and might give the CPB pause for thought: I cannot view John Rees’ recent statement in isolation from the recent debates and last Friday’s hit-piece by Newsnight: “Labour not only wants to avoid having rows in the media but it wants to avoid having any debate at all.” Rightly, Respect refused to talk to Michael Crick, who cut his teeth witch-hunting Militant in the early eighties, but unfortunately the debate was not carried out openly within the party. In future, I suspect that things will be different.)
Whilst holding the “reclaim Labour” position, the CPB have stood candidates in elections to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, and in England as part of Unity for Peace and Socialism, the development of which is still being considered. The Socialist Campaign Group has failed to challenge the leadership at Westminster or Edinburgh and is haemorraging members: the latest loss was Bob Wareing who has been deselected as MP for Liverpool West Derby, a position he has held since 1983.
The stark reality behind new Labour’s plans for conference
Wed 26 Sep 2007
ROBERT GRIFFITHS highlights the stark reality behind new Labour’s plans for conference.
OVER 100 years ago, the TUC initiated the steps which led to the founding of the Labour Party.
This was a great political leap forward for working people and their families. They had seen through the Liberal Party’s claims to speak for labour, to represent the interests of workers as well as those of factory owners, coal barons and shipping magnates.
Although many delegates to the Labour Representation Committee were still wary of socialist ideas, the resolution adopted at the committee’s second conference in 1901 urged trade unionists to unite on an independent political platform for:
“(1) The defence of the legal rights of combination.
“(2) The passing of such laws as will put an end to a system under which the producer of wealth has to bear an enormous burden in the shape of rents and profits which go to maintain large classes of non-producers.”
Millions of working-class voters subsequently elected Labour governments in 1924, 1929, 1945, 1951, 1964, 1966, 1974 (twice), 1997, 2001 and 2005.
They did so not because they believed that it would lead to a socialist society. Most people long ago realised that Labour Party leaders “played the game” to win votes and not upset the Establishment too much. Compromises came to be expected from Labour governments in office, some sellouts even.
But all Labour regimes tried to redistribute wealth, improve social and welfare provisions for workers and their families, defend and enlarge the public sector, extend democratic rights, oppose overt forms of racism and, in international affairs, uphold the League of Nations and the United Nations in the face of naked military aggression by one sovereign state against another.
Labour often fell a long way short. The Communist Party in Britain was formed in 1920 to mobilise workers and people generally to fight for progress and socialist revolution. Communist attempts to stay in and then affiliate to the Labour Party were rejected by right-wing Labour leaders, despite at times winning substantial trade union support.
Nevertheless, a large section of the working class has stayed loyal to Labour. The Communist Party has long recognised this reality, working in alliance with others on the left to improve Labour’s policies rather than try to replace it as the mass party of the labour movement.
But the “tectonic plates” have been shifting in ways which the trade union movement and the left can not ignore.
In its first term, the new Labour government honoured commitments to a national minimum wage, increased employemnt and trade union rights and devolution for Scotland and Wales. But, since 2001 in particular, new Labour has governed primarily in the interests of big business.
Wealth has been redistributed, but to the richest one-tenth of the population, who now own 71 per cent of Britain’s vast wealth, while the poorer half of the population own just 1 per cent, down from 6 per cent when new Labour first took office.
The basic state pension has been continuously devalued and future workers will have to get to 68 before qualifying for it.
‘Transforming Labour’s annual conference into half big business seminar, half Nuremberg rally will do nothing to make it “more democratic”.’
Unlike those trade union delegates in 1901, Gordon Brown and new Labour believe that our anti-trade laws should remain as repressive as they were 100 years ago, and that the real wealth producers in our society are the multimillionaire City fat cats, PFI pirates and private equity tax dodgers.
New Labour has indulged in an orgy of privatisation and contracting out. The profiteers have been given a red carpet into our state education and health services. PFI repayments will cost more than £100 billion over the next 12 years.
Our civil liberties have been curtailed to a degree unknown in peacetime, with internment without trial and expensive ID-card “dog licences” on the way. Incessant government attacks on asylum-seekers and migrant workers have stoked up racism, turning the BNP into the most successful fascist party in Britain’s history.
Blair – with Brown’s shameful acquiescence – has locked us into the foreign policy of the most reactionary circles of US monopoly capitalism. The United Nations has been treated with contempt. Hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers have died so far in Afghanistan and Iraq, while the giant US energy, construction and armaments corporations have reaped the benefits.
Now, Prime Minister Brown is ripping up international disarmament treaties by committing Britain to the US Star Wars project and a new generation of nuclear weapons.
We do not have a Labour government in any social democratic sense. Brown’s latest proposals to abolish contemporary motions at the Labour Party annual conference will complete the anti-democratic, anti-trade union drive begun by Partnership in Power.
His claim in last Saturday’s Guardian to want “every member to have an equal say from the start of the policy process to the end” would make a cat laugh.
Completing the transformation of Labour’s annual conference into half big business seminar, half Nuremberg Rally will do nothing to make the Labour Party “more open and democratic.” Nor will giving members a plebiscite every four years or so on the basis of take it all or leave Labour without an election manifesto.
If Brown really is keen to “show members – and future members – that what they say counts,” when will they get an opportunity to vote for a referendum on the EU constitution – sorry, reform treaty – for public ownership of the railways, for withdrawal from Iraq, against replacing Trident or for fair taxation of the super-rich?
One wonders how and why trade union representatives on Labour’s national executive committee fell for such tosh last week.
As experienced negotiators, would they go back to their members in a workplace and say: “The boss and his management team have asked us not to table proposals at the annual pay negotiations in future, because it embarrasses them. So, we have agreed that our ideas will instead go direct to a joint policy forum which may, after a year or two, put unamendable proposals to a future annual meeting.”
What has been conceded in return? “The boss has promised to listen more as he continues to cut our pay, raid our pension fund, outsource our jobs and spend our taxes on new weapons of mass destruction.”
And what if he doesn’t listen? “We will review the situation after two years and ask him to restore our right to table proposals.” And if he doesn’t hear you or refuses? “We’ll table a resolution.”
Sharp-witted Morning Star readers may now be spotting a flaw in the logic.
Trade unions, the Communist Party and the non-sectarian left must do all in their power to combat the most reactionary new Labour policies, despite this latest feeble cave-in by union representatives.
The Left Wing Programme provides a unifying, coherent and progressive alternative with its proposals for a wealth tax on the super-rich, a windfall tax on banking and oil superprofits, public ownership of transport, energy, banking, armaments and pharmaceuticals, an end to privatisation, equal pay audits and a huge programme of council house-building.
But we can no longer ignore the elephant in the room, which is that the Labour Party in the grip of new Labour.
Some unions have already disaffiliated and more may regretably follow as their members have enough of attacks on their jobs, pensions and living standards.
Individual membership has more than halved – from 407,000 in 1997 to 182,000 today – and millions of former Labour voters have deserted the Labour Party at the ballot box.
The trade unions and the people of Britain need a mass party of labour. If, as in the US, we all agreed that we do not have one, we would be united in trying to create one. Opting out of the struggle to reclaim or re-establish a mass political party of the labour movement offers no solution.
From this Labour Party conference, every trade union, whether affiliated or not, and every socialist organisation has a responsibility to outline its proposals for reclaiming or re-establishing Britain’s mass party of labour.