Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 10 October 2012

Editorial of the Socialist

Labour Party conference - not fighting austerity

Labour marries big business on the funds of the trade unions, photo Suz

Labour marries big business on the funds of the trade unions, photo Suz   (Click to enlarge)

Income will not return to pre-crisis levels until 2020 and Tory leader David Cameron says there is no 'plan B' - just unrelenting austerity.

Contained in that fact is unbearable suffering: children without enough to eat, with the Con-Dems' cold cruelty encapsulated in the recent news that a baby starved to death in Tory-run Westminster; the elderly choosing between food and fuel; and families unable to pay their rent as benefits are slashed and wages stagnate.

Many working class and middle class people will have hoped that Labour Party conference showed there is a party ready to fight this.

Media commentators, particularly Polly Toynbee, went into paroxysms of ecstasy during the conference, particularly after leader Ed Miliband's 70 minute speech on 'One Nation' Britain, claiming the slogan from the Tory prime minister of the late 19th century Benjamin Disraeli. In fact, Miliband uttered the phrase 44 times!

Speaking without notes he attacked the bankers - but also denied he was 'Red Ed'. The conference revealed a party with no plans to provide a lead in the fight against cuts - far from it.

One demonstration of this is Labour's apparent complacency about the welfare state being destroyed over the next three years - willing to wait patiently for a 2015 general election rather than seeking any of the many opportunities to push for a vote of no confidence.

Perhaps the most revealing speech of the Labour conference was that of shadow chancellor Ed Balls, continuing his theme from TUC Congress where he made it clear that a Labour government would continue with austerity measures.

Labour, he confirmed, would continue the pay freeze, would maintain Thatcher's anti-union laws and would not commit to renationalising the railways.

Reversing government policy on all these issues would be immensely popular. In particular, amid the farcical Con-Dem retreat on the West Coast mainline soon after the announcement of further hikes in fares, renationalising the railways has enormous support among working class and middle class people.

In Manchester, Balls was unrepentant, almost boasting that he would make "tough decisions... it's not my job to make everyone happy", stating that Labour would continue the cuts.

Unfortunately, some of the trade union leaders, even those who argue against austerity, remain tied to Labour. "Ed Miliband made it abundantly clear that Labour will get us off the miserable path dug by this government.

"His speech marks the long-awaited rebirth of a radical social democracy in this country. We can now start hoping once again.

"In particular, working class people can feel that the party is back on their side." This is the verdict of Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, and echoed by other union leaders like Paul Kenny of the GMB after the Labour leader's speech.

Considering that the union leaders went into conference attacking the Labour leaders for their stated intention to stick with the Con-Dem cuts, including the pay freeze, many union members will be asking what's changed to signal this conversion? But perhaps of more importance, what will be the effect on their strategy going forward?

Two days before the speech, Len told the Sunday Times: "Of course we are trying to influence the party again.

"It really is a question of us having to go to our activists and get them to join the Labour Party. The answer we get back is 'why?' and we have got to be able to say that we are trying to win Labour back for our core values: a belief in collectivism, a belief in fairness, justice, equality, decency and respect and to kick the new Labour cuckoos out of our nest."

However Len and Co must look reality square in the eyes and acknowledge that nowhere during this conference was there evidence of the trade unions' influence on the party.

In fact, a motion was passed which merely 'noted' the pay freeze in the public sector. Instead of proposing a programme to defend workers and trade union members, the conference seemed to be looking at how to defend the jobs of Labour councillors!

Council cuts

One of the most nauseating moments was the sight of Tony Benn's son Hilary praising Labour councils who have all implemented the Con-Dem cuts: "Now while Labour councils are fighting for a fair deal for their communities, they are also facing impossible, agonising choices.

"But with a quiet and steely determination, they are making those choices not because they don't care, but because they do.

To choose is to express our Labour values and to show that we can make a difference to people's lives... however tough it gets... we don't write people off. We stretch out a hand and pull each other up."

Not one Labour council has made a stand against the cuts. But some Labour councillors are starting to rebel: in Lambeth, Southampton and Hull.

Those who have voted against cuts are now suspended from their Labour groups with the threat of de-selection before the next council election.

It is their anti-cuts battle that the leaders of the affiliated unions should put themselves at the head of.

The Socialist Party does not share Len McCluskey's belief that Labour can be reclaimed for working class people.

Every time Len senses a glimmer of hope with 'one nation Ed', Miliband's action ridicules him. After a delegate shouted out a defence of comprehensive schools during a 15-year old Academy school student's speech, the Labour leader showed a refusal to condemn privatisation in education when he later tweeted: "The person who shouted during the speech by a year eleven pupil was totally wrong and doesn't speak for Labour. The hundreds who applauded her do."

During the Blair and Brown years the affiliated unions were powerless to check, let alone reverse New Labour's neoliberal direction.

This speech confirmed that Miliband is essentially no different from his predecessors. Trade unions backing anti-cuts candidates in elections would put far more pressure on Labour from the left than the current strategy of the Labour-affiliated unions, in a similar way that Jean-Luc Mélenchon's Left Front pushed François Hollande leftwards during the French presidential election.

But reclaiming the Labour Party for the working class would require a mass influx of workers, organised around a campaign to remove the Blairites and recreate the party's democratic structures.

A socialist programme would need to be adopted, including opposition to all cuts. The Socialist Party has concluded that this is not possible - and that instead what is required is the creation of a new mass party of the working class.

If such a party stood on Unite's programme of opposing and reversing all the cuts, abolishing the anti-union laws, etc, it would provide a positive pole of attraction for all those millions of people opposed to the Con-Dems' austerity.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is an attempt to build a bridge to such a party. Plans to build it should be stepped up, including holding meetings and debates on the issue of political representation and developing supporters groups inside the unions.

See debate with Owen Jones in October's Socialism Today, the Socialist Party's magazine:

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 10 October 2012:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Tories promise more pain... Kick out the 'nasty party'!

Labour Party conference - not fighting austerity

Arguing the case for a 24-hour general strike

Birmingham Tory conference demo

'Millions crying out for leadership and for an alternative'

Anti-austerity candidates selected for November contests

No welfare cuts

Health workers must fight attacks on jobs and pay

Politicians line up to attack abortion rights

The hidden homeless - "Sofa surfing is my lot"

Them & Us

Transport feature

Send the transport privatisers packing

International socialist news and analysis

Venezuela presidential election

Greece: escalating the action against austerity

South Africa: 'What are we doing about this government that is killing us?'

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Why we're marching on 20 October

More success for Socialist Students

Save East Midlands ambulances

Campaign Kazakhstan: A musical and political evening

Youth Fight for Jobs and Education fortnight of action 13-27 October

Dewsbury fights health service cuts

Waltham Forest: Parents and staff unite against school sell-off

Sunderland anti-fascists stand up against divisive EDL

Socialist Party workplace news

South Wales bus workers receive strong support for strike

Fighting the construction industry blacklist

Workplace nurseries saved in HMRC

Leeds solidarity with Crossrail battle

Mid Yorkshire Health admin staff ballot for strike

Bin workers' strike threat

Workplace news in brief


TV review : Masters of Money - Karl Marx

Marx was right!


Home   |   The Socialist 10 October 2012   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  

Related links:

Labour Party:

triangleThe end of the Tories?

triangleHousing crisis: Corbyn's positive measures blanked by Labour's right

triangleThe Tories must be driven out

triangleLabour Party conference: Action against establishment sabotage still needed

triangleLabour mayor needs to stop all cuts


triangleSwansea Socialist Party: Mother Jones - A US labour pioneer

triangleSalford Unison condemns pay cuts

triangleNasty party out the Tories

triangleDon't wreck our rec! Campaigning to save green space in Standish


triangleWorkplace news in brief

triangleCarlisle NHS campaigners hand in petition to MP

triangleThe fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against capitalist austerity


triangleWho's watching who?: The fight for justice, trade union and democratic rights

triangleCWU fights court attempt to stop national strike


triangleWaltham Forest Socialist Party: Black workers and the British trade unions


triangleManchester rally discussed unionisation and nationalisation

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



The end of the Tories?



Nasty party out the Tories


Black history

The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against capitalist austerity



Housing crisis: Corbyn's positive measures blanked by Labour's right


Universal Credit

Major attacks 'Universal Credit', half a million more face poverty


Them & Us

Them & Us



NHS meltdown - fight the Tory cuts



IMF helps cause inequality it slams



Tories wreck our NHS



Monarch abdicates responsibility to workers



Capitalism and human progress



Bending the knee v Trump



The Tories must be driven out



Labour Party conference: Action against establishment sabotage still needed



Anti-austerity opposition needed to seize on Tories' weakness

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

triangle11 Oct CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

triangle11 Oct The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against...

triangle11 Oct Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

triangle6 Oct Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

triangle4 Oct The nasty party turns on itself... but the Tories must be driven out

More ...

triangle16 Oct Teesside Socialist Party: After the party conferences

triangle17 Oct London: TUC lobby & rally; and London march

triangle18 Oct Warrington & St Helens Socialist Party: 1917-2017; the October Russian Revolution

triangle18 Oct Hackney Socialist Party: 100 years ago - the Bolshevik-led revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice