Saturday, May 01, 2010

Red not Brown

Labour's campaign in this General Election has been a car crash (literally -

Those of us who wanted to see Gordon Brown's claim to the Labour leadership tested in a ballot have been vindicated to a degree that we could not have anticipated and, in the circumstances, would not have desired.

However trade unionists need now to do what we can both to stand by and hold on to a union-linked political party.

Many good socialist comrades (quite understandably) cannot stomach voting for a Party that - in Government - could find the time and energy for imperialist wars but not to repeal the anti-union laws.

However - in the great majority of constituencies across the United Kingdom - there is no viable alternative to the left of Labour.

The Liberal Democrats may be more progressive than the New Labour Government on civil liberties and nuclear weapons, but they are in favour of "savage" public spending cuts and so are clearly to the right of the outgoing Government on the most important issue of the moment.

The Lib Dems are also - inevitably - to the forefront of those promoting coalition or even a National Government (the most threatening option of all for the working class).

The Blairite idea that the historic creation of the Labour Party (initially as the Labour Representation Committee) in 1900 was a mistake (and that "progressives" should have stuck with Lib-Labism) was always an attack upon the link between our Party and our unions.

The link - and in particular the pathetically poor use of that link by the leaderships of the affiliated unions over thirteen years - comes in for justified criticism from the left.

However those who really hate the link between the trade union movement and our Party are those to whom the very idea of political influence for the organised working class is anathema.

What has been going wrong is not that our unions have backed Labour - but that Labour, in Government, has not backed the unions and the working class.

It is not the fact of our organic relationship with the Party founded by the unions that is a problem - it is the utter inadequacy of our attempts to derive benefit from that relationship for union members.

We should neither forget the Labour leadership (non) election nor forgive the craven support shown for Gordon Brown by decisionmakers in Unison and other unions back when we had the chance instead to support the a real trade unionist.

As we watch the car crash we should remember that the hands on the steering wheel have been those of the leaderships of the largest affiliated unions.

Nevertheless, the answer to the shortcomings in the relationship between our Labour Party and the organised working class is clearly not to collapse into support for Nick Clegg and a (purportedly) "progressive" politics from which all influence for the collective organisations of our class are systematically excluded.

Between now and Thursday we need to get our members to vote Labour. Beyond that we need to equip ourselves to participate in the coming struggle within the Labour Party in order - at the least - to press the case against participation in a National Government.

Whilst the prospect of electoral reform may rewrite the rules which have governed the relationship between Party and unions for a century, for now the interests of trade unionists are best served by a Labour vote backed by a serious attempt to hold Labour Parliamentarians to account in the face of the working class.

I wouldn't vote "Brown" but I will vote Red.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"However - in the great majority of constituencies across the United Kingdom - there is no viable alternative to the left of Labour"

Interesting statement, Jon. Which constituencies would you suggest there is a viable alternative to Labour?