As Marxists we are always looking to open up more and more democracy this is no different when it comes to the trade unions. We advocate a democratic fighting union with its member’s interests at heart.
If the whole of the trade union movement, from top to bottom, was to launch a serious struggle against the cuts it would be impossible for the government to implement its programme.
Unfortunately, that has not been the case up until now.
In the coming months hundreds of thousands of workers, perhaps even millions, will be attracted to the trade union movement as they look for a way to fight the cuts.
If they are lucky they will join a trade union whose leadership has a clear and determined strategy to fight every cut. In many cases, this will not be the case.
Over the last twenty years an increased tendency in the leadership of the trade union movement, at national and sometimes at local level, has developed towards accepting the 'logic of the market' - that is, the logic of cutting workers' pay and conditions! Many trade union leaders have become used to administering defeat rather than leading a struggle to defend their members' interests.
This does not mean that workers should turn away from the trade unions. As 30th November 2011 showed, the trade union movement - which organises over six million workers - has enormous potential power when it stands together and gets off its knees.
However, in many cases in order to defeat the cuts it will also mean campaigning to transform the unions into democratic and fighting bodies.
This will mean campaigning to commit the trade union leaders to action, or if that proves impossible to replace them with leaders that will fight in their members' interests.
Other demands that will form an important part of the struggle will be for unions to be democratically controlled by their members and for all full-time officials to be regularly elected and to receive a workers' wage.
The National Shop Stewards Network has an important role to play in bringing together militant trade unionists from different sectors in order to share experiences.
It will also be necessary, however, to building fighting union lefts in every union.
This has started and some success has been made in such unions as the PCS, RMT, and FBU etc who are all fighting left unions with a good recent record of fighting for member’s interests. Workers are always attracted to trade unions and organisations which stand up and fight for them. They will be put off by unions throwing in the towel and acting as a damage limitation exercise and not really believing they can win.
It is key that the trade unions are as open and as democratic as possible shifting unions away from talking shops and a route for labour party careerists to forge a career is important. Union structures need to be as transparent as possible too with regular bullet inn’s branch meetings and a open and clear environment for good comradely but positive debate with the aim to forward workers interests at all times.
Union membership is lower than it’s ever been but this can be changed if unions give a lead. Show that an alternative is possible and begin to put down real markers to fight for such ideas.
It is a disgrace for example when unions such as unison attack its own members for daring to put forward the idea of breaking with new labour and questioning the unions funding to then be attacked and witch hunted through the courts over jumped up claims. This is not on and unions like this should be ashamed and should be fighting the cuts instead of wasting members money on such pointless actions.
Unions and their leadership should always be accountable to teh rank-and-file of its membership as at the end of the day its members money that keeps the union going. Unions have to show some fight to recruit the next layer of workers. But as socialists we advocate going much much further than just recruiting. We need to get organised fight for democracy within our unions and fight for the union we're in to be opposing all cuts and following the lead of such trade unions as PCS, RMT, FBU etc who are some of the best militant unions going.