Monday, July 08, 2013

What do I do with the Rosette Ed?

I'm off work tomorrow, and have been intending to do some work, as a Labour Party member, in a local Council by-election.

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.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

My it's echoey in here...Jon, from reading your comments over the years, I sometimes wonder why you ever wear a Labour Party rosette? Do you keep your fingers crossed behind your back at the same time? And hasn't the relationship between the Labour Party and Trade Unions changed one iota since 1927? So because Stanley Baldwin was in favour of opting in in 1927, we should be against it in 2013? ...that's a pretty threadbare argument. Are all the APF payers you know in Brighton pinning on rosettes to campaign for the Labour Party or are they voting Green, Lib Dem or not even voting at all?
South London Lad
UNISON APF Payer

Anonymous said...

Of course we all want to see a Labour Party which goes back to its roots and remembers how and why and by whom it was created in the first place. But I don't remember the last time Labour Party implemented a major policy specifically with the interests of the working class in mind. Yes they claim the minimum wage helped the WC have a slightly more decent life and by there is no way anyone can deny they looked after the NHS, schools... much better than the current regime. But come on, there is a lot more negative far outweighing these positives. Take child poverty, gap between rich and poor, abandonment of Clause 4, refusal to renationalise, real-term drop in many workers' wges.... So Labour abandoned long ago to be the party of labour! So this policy, though it may sound tough in the current situation TUs find themselves with extreme lack of self-confidence, may be a blessing in disguise. Let TU members leave the party in their droves. Then they may find the courage and self-confidence to set up their own organisations which they can be proud of and stop kowtowing to the party which has moved on. I know many good Labour supporters who only stick with the Party in the hope that it will reverse some of it's policies. But the longer we wait the more we see more of the same. So let's unite and build a real workers' party