But the Leader of the Party appears not to want the union link any more (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23234340). He may say he wants to "mend" not "end" the link but if you look at what is being said that's not true.
Our latterday Kinnock says;
"I believe we need people to be able to make a more active, individual, choice on whether they affiliate to the Labour Party.
So we need to set a new direction in our relationship with trade union members in which they choose to join Labour through the affiliation fee: they would actively choose to be individually affiliated members of the Labour Party and they would no longer be automatically affiliated."
The key word here is "individual". The Party will happily take money from willing trade unionists, who will be able to participate in fundraising, door-knocking and generally promoting the political careers of the well-connected with wealthy backers, whilst enjoying all the power and influence which comes of being a Party member these days.
A good, socialist case can be made for the Labour-union link (http://l-r-c.org.uk/news/story/not-just-in-defence-of-the-union-link/) but that's not our Leader's politics. He has chosen the side of "Progress" and those who don't really want the union-link.
Because, if we all just choose as individuals whether or not to affiliate to Labour then there will be no more organic a link between our Union and our Party than there is between the Party and any other civil society organisation.
Individual UNISON members might join the Party, be active in it and even be selected to stand for office, but UNISON as a collective organisation would have no voice (and the fact that we have used our voice poorly and weakly too often is no argument for silence).
Without collective affiliation, how long will trade union delegations still attend Party Conference? Why would there be dedicated seats on the National Executive for bodies which did no more than happen to have in membership a number of disconnected and unorganised individual members of the Party?
Similarly, on Planet Miliband (which appears now to be a satellite of Planet Mandelson), since there would be no affiliation, there could be no disaffiliation and so "Progress" can deliver to the anti-Labour Left the prospect of trade union support for other candidates (which both parties to this unholy alliance have long sought).
It is an irony that Miliband may have been encouraged to believe that this approach to "opting-in" is something the Party could easily survive by a misunderstanding of how it is that as many as a third of UNISON members come to pay into the "affiliated" section of our political fund. If so, he has been very poorly advised - and anyone who thinks the UNISON system amounts to "contracting-in" needs a tutorial in UNISON Rules and processes.
For a son of his father Miliband also exhibits little comprehension of the history of Labourism. "Contracting-in", when it was introduced in 1927 by the Baldwin Government, cost Labour 1.3 Million affiliated members and a quarter of its income.
But that was "contracting-in" imposed upon us by our enemies as revenge for the General Strike, resisted by a united front of the Party and trade unions, and preserving the vital collective nature of union affiliation which anchors the Party to the wider movement. This would be an attack from our own Leader, dividing the Party and movement in order to individuate (and thereby neutralise) the union link.
The half-baked plans of Ed Miliband will do damage to the Labour Party of which Stanley Baldwin could only have dreamed.
The question confronting the trade unions is a much bigger dilemma than my parochial worry about whether I put on that Red Rosette tomorrow. The question is, shall we resist?
Ed Miliband is gambling that our desperation to oust the Coalition will mean that we will swallow anything. I don't think that any self-respecting trade unionist who has hope in the Labour Party should do that.
Any trade union leader who supports Ed Miliband on this question would be writing off the idea of a Party of Labour in this country.
If I wear that Rosette tomorrow, it will be because I am not yet ready to take that step.
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