Monday, April 11, 2005

Labour without labour?

In the past, Socialists supported Labour candidates for one of two reasons: 1) they misunderstood the red-tinged capitalism of the Labour Party or 2) they understood that the labour movement was intrinsically linked to the Party. Even though the Party leadership has always been at heart reactionary, prepared to progress only so far, there were always avenues within CLPs and affiliated groups through which working-class people could influence policy and organise on a large scale.

This is no longer true.

On paper, trade unions still reserve influence in the LP, but in practise the Blairite leadership is fundamentally isolated from the labour movement and the traditional Socialist wings within the Labour Party. It's an ongoing struggle, and one that the Left is currently losing, as can be seen from the massive decrease in both membership of and grassroots activity within the Labour Party.

This begs the question, where now for the trade unions?

RESPECT, a result of middle-class radicalisation and Muslim hostility towards the war in Iraq, will inevitably fail not because of the opportunism of their politics, but because thus far they have been unable to form any substantial lasting relationship with those unions now disaffiliated to New Labour. If and when they can achieve this, they may begin to make progress.

From this, we can see that the labour movement will be fundamental to pursuing a Socialist agenda in the UK. A while ago, various unions surprised the media by electing confrontational, left wing leaders, and the government has been forced to re-think many neo-liberal plans in the face of trade union opposition. But the link between New Labour and the unions survives.

After all the attacks on the public sector, union member dues are still being used to finance the Labour Party. Depending on your views on the Labour Party and its future, this could be justified or not. But either way, we must consider what the future of a labour movement wholly separated from the Labour Party could be.

It's something British Socialists should think very seriously about. The oft reported call for a "mass workers' party" is redundant in Britain without the mass support of organised labour.

Socialist Party views on New Labour and trade unions.

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