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Labour shadows show: We need a new workers' party!
WHAT DO the results of the election to Labour's Shadow Cabinet tell us about the direction, or even likelihood, of Ed Miliband's party leading a fightback against the coalition cuts?
Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist, Chair, Campaign for a New Workers' Party
In a sense - not much. Outside their own constituencies, many of the new frontbench spokespersons are hardly well-known - nor could they be, since 22 of the new team have only been MPs for five months.
The most prominent decision by Labour's new leader, which exercised the media, was the choice for Shadow Chancellor, the MP who would lead Labour's argument against Tory chancellor George Osborne's cuts package.
Alan Johnson, former Communication Workers Union (CWU) general secretary before going into parliament, came sixth in the shadow cabinet elections, but was chosen by Ed Miliband for the 'top job' over Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper. Johnson, a prominent supporter of defeated leadership challenger David Miliband, is unlikely to inspire trade unionists in coming cuts battles; indeed, he didn't even get the backing of the CWU when he ran for Labour deputy leader three years ago.
Miliband won't be taking Labour into general, or principled, opposition to the cuts. In his first TV interview as Labour leader, shortly after the shadow cabinet was named, he warned he would not support public sector strikes over pensions, and that industrial action would alienate the wider public and undermine Labour's efforts to fight other spending cuts.
"I don't think we should be talking about industrial action. I think it is very premature to be talking about that", he said. Didn't take long, did it?
So when would be the 'right time' for Labour to respond? When would supporting workers and communities resisting the cuts be the "right thing to do"?
In Coventry, Labour is pre-empting the coalition government's cuts, starting on 19 October (the day before the Comprehensive Spending Review), by formally beginning procedures for over 1,200 jobs to go on the council - without that party producing a leaflet, petition or meeting in protest.
Rumours that Neil Kinnock is preparing to make a major speech attacking "the grotesque spectacle of a Labour council, a Labour council, scurrying around the city handing out redundancy notices by taxi", as he did against the socialist Liverpool council in 1985, appear unfounded!
The election of Ed Miliband and his shadow cabinet, even if containing many of 'the Next Generation', has not fundamentally reversed the direction that Labour has taken over the last 20 years. Labour is a party now happy to manage the market economy, and accept all its limitations, even if that means being embroiled in the sacking of thousands of workers across the country.
The coming cuts battles will be the catalyst in town after town, for the idea and building of a new party, firmly rooted in the organisations and communities of working people. The idea will grow that, let down by the three main parties, working people need their own party that will properly defend the idea of public services and public ownership against the current common agenda which accepts that the victims of the recession should be further punished, rather than the culprits.
In The Socialist 14 October 2010:
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