Monday, 28 November 2011

The labour party on N30 and beyond

Alot of talk this week will be on the big one day public sector general strikes this wednesday of course but many including Len Mcklusky are still hoping the Labour party will back these strikes.

In this piece in the Morning Star :

Len tries to make out Labour can be workers friends and that it can be reclaimed and will hopefully support the unions on strike this week. Sorry Len i do not share this optimism with you pal.

Len speaks a good game but i am yet to be convinced he is serious a bout taking back the labour party. The fact he thinks he can convince Ed Miliband who condemned the strikes on June 30th this year already means nothing to him clearly. It will be interesting to see if Len changes his mind if Ed fails to back these strikes which i suspect he will not.
The pension reforms being force fed to workers by this Con-Dem government and being threatened all the time with taking away any offers and increasing anti trade union laws is as thick and fast as ever from the tories.
But also dont forget these proposals were drawn up by a Labour lord Lord Hutton who suggested these cuts to workers pensions after the Labour government had negotiated a deal not so long ago that was fair.
Ed Balls yesterday on TV admitted that Labour would be having to do something similar making workers in the public sector work longer, pay morea nd get lessas a result of their agreement that workers must pay for a crisis that they did not cause.

With the labour leadership Balls and Miliband together workers do not have a ally at all in fact Miliband was photographed laughing and joking with David Cameron and Nick Clegg on 30th of June this year disgustingly.

I hear that many labour councils and labour members are supporting this week's strikes. I think this is great of course i'm not dogmatic against la bour if their membership supports striking workers that is a good thing but be under no illusion this is easy for the members to back as they hold little influence on the leadership and are many ordinary public sector workers too.
For them to be serious about opposing this government they must urge their councillors and MP's to move to a no to all cuts position and refuse to make cuts at a local council level next year.

As public sector workers prepare for the planned 30 November one-day strike, the question of a political voice of opposition to cuts, along with their strength in the union, is posed.

Pieces like this on Labour List only set to underline many socialist party members views that Labour cannot be reclaimed and a new workers party is needed.
In the piece the new labour member claims that strikes damage labours electorability and Labour should not be backing strikes instead siding on the side of the public. Not bothering to mention ordinary public sector workers are not only members of that same public but are also tax payers who can vote. This blairite writes them all off in one fail swoop.
I would think it is sufficient to say that as the Labour Party currently stands, it is not really possible to openly campaign for socialist policies, and even if we could, it wouldn't sound plausible to the electorate, bearing in mind the policies carried out over the 13 years of the previous Labour governments. So we see the clear need to independently put socialist policies before the electorate, and try to build a pole of attraction around which the unions can organise politically.

TUSC and the Socialist Party could and should be playing the part of exerting a gravitational pull on the labour movement (and party) towards socialism. But to be able to do that requires a medium (field) of comradely debate and approach.

On the other hand, we do believe that the few socialists who are labouring away to change the Labour Party are pursuing a futile task. Never in its history has the left been so weak both in the Parliamentary Labour Party and among the rank-and-file.

We have pointed out many times that they are like prisoners smuggling the occasional note between the bars to workers outside. Very few workers participate in what is increasingly an empty shell. In fact even the 'shell' may no longer exist if Miliband gets his way and further dissolves the party, particularly the influence of the trade unions within it.

Small cabals - who have no connection with the radical and heroic periods of Labour - run a machine totally alien to working class people. Any socialist - inside or outside the Labour Party, and it is mostly the latter - is bound to come into collision with them.

This would be the case if the LRC or Socialist appeal our comradely cousins still inside the Labour party from our militant days every organised properly into a serious force instead of working largely as individuals. If they took a stronger stance on cuts and fought the labour leadership and appealed to workers to rejoin the party on mass. But so far this is not happening.

It is unrealistic to think that workers who are losing their jobs - some of them never to work again - and many seeing vital services destroyed should engage in polite exchanges with 'Labour... Yes Labour councils and councillors'. It is legitimate to express anger and, yes, rage - not just against the Tories and Liberals - but against a Labour caste at local level which is inflicting terrible punishment on working people.

It is also necessary to forcefully take up and oppose those who seek to excuse Labour sell-outs. Some on the left refused to endorse the Socialist Party's implacable opposition to 'all cuts'. But we were at one with those like Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS civil servants union and Bob Crow, leader of the RMT transport workers union. Those who are prepared to accept 'some cuts' are acting as a left flank, apologists for Labour councillors and councils who are betraying everything which the Labour Party originally stood for.

For instance, Waltham Forest council - controlled by Labour - has inflicted £3 million of cuts to wages and conditions of its workers yet £18 million has been paid to 'consultants' whose main job is to make these cuts to jobs and services! And this is as typical of 'Labour' councils as Tory or Lib Dem.

Will local government emerge at the end of the 'cuts programme' in the absurd position of the NHS where "in 2006, Accountancy Age reported that the NHS was spending more on consultants than all Britain's manufacturers put together"? [London Review of Books.]

This scandal was pushed through by the likes of New Labour health ministers Alan Milburn and Patricia Hewitt, who then got cushy, well-paid jobs in the health private sector!

On reclaming the Labour party we can never say never where politics are concerned. Nor is it theoretically excluded that if a mass workers' party is not urgently built, the impulse for a new party could come from within even a bourgeois party.

Such is the depth of the present economic and social crisis that, in time, this can find an expression even in such a party leading to a left split, out of which could come the basis of a radical or even a new mass workers' party.

Something like this happened in Greece where the 'left-wing' of the liberal capitalist party the Centre Union - led by the late Andreas Papandreou - came out of that party following the overthrow of the Greek military junta in 1974.

Such was the sweep of the revolution in the post-1974 period and the colossal changes in consciousness which this evoked that the objective basis for the new mass socialist party Pasok was created. The present 'Pasok' is a million miles removed from its socialist origins.

But we do not think that it is likely that Labour could be transformed in Britain in the next period. We cannot just 'wait' for future events to hopefully change the Labour Party, while in the meantime the working class goes to hell in a handcart.

We have to seek to exert pressure now through a new workers' party, no matter how small initially. The Labour party has been transformed under the New Labour counter-revolution carried out first by Blair, then by Brown and today by Miliband into a capitalist formation.

In fact, Tony Blair recognised this when he declared that New Labour was an entirely 'new party'. Conversely if Labour is to be 'transformed', as some still hope, then this would effectively mean setting up a new party, which by standing on clear socialist policies would represent a clear break.

Labour's current policies are a continuation of Blair's pro-capitalist agenda. This is expressed in terms of policy; witness Miliband's completely pro-capitalist assault on the trade unions at the TUC. It is reflected also in the internal organisation and character of the Labour Party which is fundamentally different from what existed in the past.

The old Labour Party, of which we were a significant force (through Militant - now the Socialist Party), involved the participation of the working class and the trade unions. It was a 'bourgeois workers' party' - with a pro-capitalist leadership at the top but a base among workers below. But it was also very open and democratic, and the leadership was forced to take account of the rank-and-file and its views.

Those who seek to argue that 'nothing has fundamentally changed' in the character of the Labour Party are mistaken. Compare the present situation in the Labour Party to the 1960s. Harold Wilson, supported by Barbara Castle the Labour minister at the time, tried to push through anti-union legislation.

This was massively opposed by the rank-and-file of the party and the majority of the National Executive Committee. If Wilson had not retreated he would have been compelled to resign. Neither could he militarily support US imperialism on the Vietnam War- despite the urgings of the then US President Johnson - for the same reason.

Tony Blair, however, got the support of Labour's conference delegates - who in the past were solidly to the left of the leadership - for the obscene and criminal Iraq war.

Some object that to describe New Labour as 'capitalist' is an 'exaggeration', because workers are still voting Labour. This, it is argued, indicates that Labour - 'warts and all' - is 'different' from the other two capitalist parties.

Yes, Labour is 'different', in the same way as the Democratic Party in the US differs from the right-wing Republican Party. The Democrats are more 'liberal' but are still a pronounced capitalist party.

So also was the Liberal Party in the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. Sections of the working class and the trade unions in Britain saw it as an alternative until mighty events - the decline of British imperialism and its inability to continue to grant concessions to the working class - undermined this. This prepared the way for the rise of the Labour Party itself as a mass political expression of the trade unions.

Those who furnished the mass basis for the Labour Party were the sons and daughters of workers who previously voted Liberal. This will happen with the building of a new party.

Even to those who hope that Labour can be changed, we pose the questions: 'What do we do now in the political and electoral arenas? How does the labour movement exert pressure on Labour in order to defeat and change its present craven capitulation to big business, which is disheartening its former and present supporters? By propaganda or vague hopes for the future alone? The bureaucratic caste which dominates Labour is totally impervious to this.

But Labour's reaction could be different if a new party was formed, with a solid base among trade unionists. Electoral success for such a party could force change in the current anti-working class, anti-union stance of New Labour. More importantly, it would provide a political voice to millions who are effectively disenfranchised.
We face much ridicule from others on the left and even from some within the Labour party which i accept is enivitable while people still feel the labour party can be changed.
But Keir Hardie in Britain and James Connolly in Ireland - who were pioneers, like we are today for workers' parties - were also ridiculed. They got very small votes initially (Hardie gained 8% of the vote in his first parliamentary election in the Lanarkshire coalfields). They were proven to be correct and their critics silenced by the development of the kind of parties they campaigned for.

What is TUSC ?

The trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) was set-up last year to enable trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists who wanted to resist the pro-cuts consensus of the establishment parties to stand candidates in the 2010 general election.

By registering TUSC with the electoral commission, candidates could appear on the ballot paper as Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition rather than as 'Independent' which they would otherwise have to do under electoral law.

TUSC came out of a series of discussions by participants in the No2EU-Yes to Democracy coalition, which contested the 2009 European elections with the official support of the RMT transport workers' union, the Socialist Party, and others - the first time a trade union had officially backed a national electoral challenge to Labour since the party's foundation.

TUSC is a coalition with a steering committee which includes, in a personal capacity, the RMT general secretary Bob Crow, and fellow executive member Owen Herbert; the assistant general secretary of the PCS civil servants union, Chris Baugh, and the union's vice-president, John McInally; the president of the National Union of Teachers, Nina Franklin; and the recently retired general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, Brian Caton. The Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party are also represented on the committee.

TUSC is a federal 'umbrella' coalition, with agreed core policies endorsed by all its candidates but with participating organisations accountable for their own campaigns. Its core policies include, among others, opposition to public spending cuts and privatisation, student grants not fees, and the repeal of the anti-trade union laws.

It makes a clear socialist commitment to "bringing into democratic public ownership the major companies and banks that dominate the economy, so that production and services can be planned to meet the needs of all and to protect the environment".

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