The row over the selection process for a new Labour candidate in Falkirk, Scotland, has highlighted relations between the unions and the Labour Party. New battle lines being drawn for the future of working class political representation in Britain. Rob Sewell, editor of Socialist Appeal, looks at the latest political developments between the Unions and the Labour Party.
The row over the selection process for a new Labour candidate in Falkirk, Scotland, has highlighted relations between the unions and the Labour Party. New battle lines being drawn for the future of working class political representation in Britain.
The selection process in the Falkirk Labour Party was halted by national Labour officials after it was alleged that UNITE the Union had been “flooding” new members into the party to influence the outcome. National officials took the step of suspending a prospective candidate, Karie Murphy, who is close to Len McCluskey, the union’s general secretary, as well as Stephen Deans, the chairman of the local party.
Miliband’s spokesman claimed that UNITE had done “something wrong” in Falkirk after it had signed up more than 100 Labour Party members, some allegedly without their consent. He then went on to say that McCluskey needed to “take some responsibility” for what the union had done in Falkirk.
Len McCluskey denied any wrong doing and hit back saying that an internal and unpublished report into Falkirk was being used to “smear UNITE and its members”. He then called for an independent inquiry as the party’s investigation was “a disgrace”.
In the process, Tom Watson, MP, resigned as the party’s campaign manager. Watson came to fame over his role in taking on Rupert Murdoch over the phone hacking at News International and has strong links with the unions, especially UNITE. He is detested by the Blairites for his role in trying to oust Tony Blair from the Labour leadership.
Watson’s resignation shows how relations at the top of the Labour Party have deteriorated, reflecting growing divisions over the trade union-Labour link. With the unions pushing for a greater say in the party, the Blairites have gone on a vicious counter-attack and are using Falkirk as a line drawn in the sand.
The allegation by these characters of a trade union takeover of the Labour Party reeks with hypocrisy. For the last 20 years, these same Blairites, who took over the party machine, used all the underhand methods, including gerrymandering, to force through an “approved” list of Blairite candidates. In turn, they relied heavily on right-wing trade union leaders to carry this out. As a result, the Parliamentary Labour Party was almost stripped bare of any working class representation, which was substituted by a horde of stinking middle class suited careerists and carpetbaggers, who had a complete contempt for the working class and the traditions of the labour movement.
The Blaitite takeover of the Labour Party in the guise of New Labour was carried through with the full backing of big business, who wanted “their man” in control of the party. Blair’s aim was to destroy the traditional Labour Party and sever the links with the trade unions. “My vision for New Labour”, stated Tony Blair, “is to become as the Liberal Party was in the nineteenth century.” It was the first Labour leader in history to have come out openly to state the Labour Party should never have been created in the first place!
“I want a situation more like the Democrats and Republicans in the US”, Blair said. “People don’t even question for a single moment that the Democrats are a pro-business Party. They should not be asking the question about New Labour.”
He managed to get rid of Clause Four, the party’s commitment to the socialist transformation of society, as well as ditching all of Labour’s left policies. He undermined party democracy and concentrated power in an unelected clique. The Annual Party conference became a rally for the Blair leadership. Blair turned his back on the unions and slavishly embraced big business and the market. “The Labour Party is more pro-business, pro-wealth creation, pro-competition than ever before”, bragged Gordon Brown, as Labour presided over the greatest polarization of wealth in 100 years.
While the trade unions and working class were elbowed aside, the Social Democratic traitors were welcomed back with open arms. Lawyers, barristers, City traders, businessmen and women, and the like, were parachuted into Labour Parties, “to represent the people”. As a consequence, ordinary working class representation in Parliament has been reduced to a miniscule group, the smallest number since the formation of the original Labour Representation Committee.
Nevertheless, Blair failed to break the union-Labour link. By 2010, there had been a massive backlash against Blairism. The election of Miliband was viewed as a change. But the Blairites still infest the apparatus of the Party and above all the Parliamentary Party, which they see as their sole preserve. This is where they build their careers and their links to big business, as well as a stepping-stone to the House of Lords. All those Blairites, including Blair himself, after the last election, moved on to big business careers with a string of directorships to their names.
They are alien class elements, Tories and Liberals masquerading as “Labour” representatives. These are bourgeois “entrists”. They have nothing in common with the Labour movement or the interests of the working class. As the saying goes, when the pool is stagnant – and the Labour Party has never been so empty – the scum rises to the top.
This song and dance about the “influence” of the unions in the Labour Party reflects the fears of the bourgeois that a more radicalised trade union movement could have an effect in the party, shifting it to the left.
What the bourgeois, their media and their representatives within the party conveniently ignore is the fact that the trade unions were the very backbone in the formation of the Labour Party in 1900. The Labour Party was set up as the political expression of the trade unions and the working class. The trade unions have supported and financed the party ever since its formation. Today, UNITE is the biggest trade union affiliate of the Labour Party and has paid more than £9million to the party since 2010.
While Blair tried to reduce the party’s dependence on the unions, he embraced millionaires and their money. But this proved unstable so they looked to state funding as an alternative, anything to reduce the influence of the unions. This, however, has been kicked into the long grass.
The Labour Party was established to represent the working class in Parliament, not to provide a vehicle for middle class careerists. It is time the working class, through the unions, took back the party. They should clear out the bourgeois infiltrators and make way for working class representatives. We believe Labour should have worker MPs on a workers’ wage, and not people seeking to profit on the backs of the party.
That is why the policy of UNITE towards the Labour Party is absolutely correct. Why should the unions pay money to feed these careerists? The Blaitite objection is that UNITE is recruiting working class people to the Labour Party. They see this as a threat to their domination. UNITE has correctly agreed to recruit union members to the Labour Party and fight for greater working class representation through the party, including in Parliament. This is a struggle to bring the Labour Party back to its roots and socialist traditions.
Of course, all this is an anathema to the Blairite careerists. And behind the Blarites stands big business. The British ruling class wants a tame Labour Party loyal to capitalism. That is why they are desperate to give support through the media to their loyalists in the party. They were behind Blair all the way in his attack on the trade unions and the party’s working class base.
This row in Falkirk is only a symptom of what is to come as pressure builds on the unions from a radicalised rank and file. The ranks of the unions need political representation. That is why the Labour Party was created in the beginning. Pressure will build up in the unions to bring the Labour Party back under its control, in order to reflect the real interests of the working class.
The sectarian groups on the fringes, who have no perspective or understanding, in calling for trade unions to disaffiliate from the Labour Party, have de facto supported the demand of the ruling class, and the Blairiets, for Labour to break with the unions. This is a disgraceful position. Fortunately, they have no influence and never will. They will continue with their efforts to build their “mass revolutionary parties” of two men and a dog.
The real fight is going to unfold in the Labour Party at a certain stage. This episode in Falkirk is just the beginning. Other unions should follow the marvellous example of UNITE and recruit thousands of their members into the party. That is the real way forward. It will break the grip of these careerists and carpetbaggers and take the party back to its socialist traditions.
Every Socialist Appeal supporter should immediately raise resolutions at their unions, trades councils, and party branches supporting the efforts of UNITE to increase working class representation in the party and calling on all others to follow this correct example.