A party of Labour?
The recent furore over Unite’s Labour candidacy election aspirations in Falkirk and the following planned reforms to get rid of the collective presence of unions out of the Labour Party, have led to a renewed shouting match in the Movement around the whole question of the representation of organised labour.
On the one hand there is the Communist Party of Britain and its veteran industrials especially arguing to maintain the Labour link within the Unions in order to take the Parliamentary road to socialism further forward. A touching blast from the past perhaps.
Then there are others like the General Secretary of the RMT, and a good swathe of other trade unionists, arguing, after years in other parties themselves, that there should be a new party of labour. Whether this, like the Socialist Labour Party or Socialist Party, would focus on parliamentary elections and aspirations is unclear. There are of course many believing that they already are the alternative new party of the working class, but not many workers seem to have heard of them.
What is clear is that the debate on either side of retaining the link or forming something new is largely framed in the one identical social democratic framework. This makes one position no more really than a reflection of the other apparently complete opposite position.
The idea seems to be that organised labour must pay money to a party to get it elected into Parliament and local government in sufficient numbers to transform the country in the interests of progressive trade union reform and working people generally.
The underlying assumption of this is that the parliamentary system and the state will yield to such aspirations and any progressive election result. The assumption is that socialism can be introduced by Parliamentary reform. What is being called for is therefore neither particularly old, nor particularly new. There is a chorus of repetition of the age old view that workers must delegate responsibility to elected representatives in an employers’ system and parliamentary set up.
While the frustration and genuine motivations in the current maelstrom of activity and struggle is understandable, a conventional route through Parliament is precisely the thing that led us here into this mess in the first place. Workers have to run and govern and administer the country in a new way to get out of the mess. The City of London and the EU would not permit a British elected government to protect its economy and stem the neoliberal flow of people, goods, services and capital.
The real debate is not about parties and parliament but about power, who has it and how can we build new structures to exercise it over and against the 1%. Labour in its true sense the totality of work, creates all value, so we remain with the conundrum how do the creators of all value rule to further their interests domestically and internationally.
The union Labour link was truthfully speaking broken by the Labour Party 1997-2013 particularly through its refusal to restore proper trade union and employment rights. To expect the same party to restore or renew it is just as misleading as to expect unions to at this stage of the struggle to put their resources into a new parliamentary outfit when they should be dedicating all of their funds on the political task of fighting for wages and against redundancies.