The prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn victory has not only transformed the political landscape, but has become a massive attraction for those unions that had previously turned their back on a Blairite Labour Party. Those that had split from Labour, such as the RMT and the FBU, are now thinking about returning if Corbyn wins.
The prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn victory has not only transformed the political landscape, but has become a massive attraction for those unions that had previously turned their back on a Blairite Labour Party.
Those that had split from Labour, such as the RMT and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), are thinking about returning if Corbyn wins. Both these unions are currently backing the Corbyn campaign, despite not being affiliated to the Labour Party, with the FBU famously providing Jeremy with the use of a fire engine as a platform for a spontaneous speech outside his recent Camden rally.
There are even some moves in the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), led by Mark Serwotka, to re-evaluate their position. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS said his organisation had never been linked to the Labour Party given its right wing agenda, but “If Jeremy Corbyn wins, that would change everything,” he said.
In June, at the massive national anti-austerity demonstration in London, called by the People’s Assembly, Serwotka urged supporters to pay the £3 registration fee to take part in the leadership vote. He has said that talk of affiliation was still “premature” but added: “The rise of Jeremy Corbyn is changing everything by the day… let’s see where we end up.”
The RMT was expelled from Labour in 2004 after affiliating some of its branches with the Scottish Socialist Party, in breach of party rules. Now the RMT has endorsed Corbyn and given £25,000 to his campaign.
One spokesman for the union said a vote could be held at the RMT’s annual meeting next year to discuss re-affiliation. “It would be entirely a matter for the democratic structures of the union,” he said. “If Jeremy Corbyn wins it may well reopen the debate … it may well spark renewed interest in that area.”
Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the FBU, said it was a “no-brainer” that the trade unions would back Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership election. “We hope that under his leadership we would see a shift in focus away from the accumulation of wealth for the few towards policies for the majority,” he said.
The FBU ended its Labour link in 2004, partly in protest at the government’s handling of the fire service strikes of that year. An FBU official said re-affiliation was possible but was not on the agenda as yet.
These left wing unions should certainly re-affiliate to defend Corbyn against the expected Blairite plots to oust him and sneak in a rightwinger. They must work to strengthen the fight for socialist policies.