Thursday, August 08, 2013

Statement of the "Defend the Link" platform...

A number of socialists are participating in debates around the nature of the political party which may emerge from the Left Unity project initiated by Ken Loach (http://leftunity.org/) - indeed, Left Unity is gathering "platforms" at such pace it may soon be seen as the Clapham Junction of the left.

With the greatest of respect to all comrades involved in those debates (and indeed to those other socialists who are abstaining from that debate, having already found their own revolutionary Party), I can't help feel that their debate amounts to arguing about where to build an extension to a house facing imminent demolition.

The revolutionary left beyond the Labour Party is as weak, divided and irrelevant as at any time in my adult life - and this is clearly related to the similarly desperate predicament of the Labour Left (not to mention the virtual absence of a Communist Party of any weight or influence).

In the absence of both a global alternative to capitalism and a credible domestic alternative to neo-liberalism, the reaction of workers to a series of political "offers" from the left over the past twenty years has been (at least south of the border - and outside of some very specific local circumstances) one of consistently supreme indifference.

There is a massive constituency for socialist politics well to the left of current Labour policy and practice - but this constituency is not available, nationally, to be won to a "new political project". It expects (not unreasonably) to be offered a left alternative by a credible party of (potential) Government.

For as long as the Labour Party retains an organic link to the organised working class through the collective affiliation of some trade unions to the Party it retains both the potential to be an expression of the interests and policies of the organised working class and the potential to be a party of Government.

It is for this reason that our ruling class, its spokespeople and political representatives have always hated and feared the relationship between Labour and the trade unions, expressing that hatred in the 1927 Act which replaced "opting out" of political funds with "opting in".

With almost thirty years of hindsight we can now begin to grasp the scale of the ambition of the Thatcher Governments to neutralise political opposition to our ruling class, which far exceeded the ambition of the Baldwin Government in 1927.

By rewriting the terms of the "postwar settlement" Thatcherism drove Labour rightward - and its bastard child, Blairism, planted the seeds which, watered by Lord Sainsbury's proto-Tory paid help (Progress) and tended now by Ed Miliband, germinate as a proposal to end collective affiliation by trade unions to the Labour Party.

For Ed Miliband this is not a conscious attack upon trade unions. He is simply playing a game which he believes will lead to the state funding of political parties (so that the catastrophic decline in popular engagement with political parties over past decades ought not to undermine the career prospects of the career politicians whose pursuit of the "centre ground" has contributed to that decline).

He's wrong of course. The Tories will outwit him. His motive in any case is reactionary in the extreme. None of that matters much.

What matters is that we are on the brink of the eviction of the trade unions from a position of (even potential) influence over our political life.

Socialists ought to see that, whatever our sound and considerable criticisms of the way in which the union link has been used for many years, the defence of the link is a task of the very greatest importance.

Workers and our trade unions need a political voice in the here and now even more than we need a revolutionary party that may one day lead us to a new Jerusalem - and also more than we need a particular result out of the next General Election.

A year from now, if Ed Miliband has had his way, it may be time for socialists to squabble about which "platform" to stand on to catch the train to the new politics of the future - right now though anyone with a grasp of socialist politics should be focused relentlessly upon defending the Labour-union link.

Already two affiliates (TSSA and BFAWU) are aligned with the "Defend the Link" campaign and its "Tolpuddle Statement" (http://defendthelink.wordpress.com/). Other trade unions - and CLPs - need to stand firm.

The establishment of a Party which (however imperfectly) gave voice to the interests of our class gave genuine meaning to the struggle of the Chartists and Suffragettes - without a working class party the franchise is a tool of little use for working people.

The immediate task of any socialist in Britain must be to defend the relationship between our trade unions and the political party we created.

I'll look for another "platform" if the Labour Party train definitively departs from its relationship with the trade unions - but, since that would be an enormous strategic defeat, I shall hope never to have to do so.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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