Ringing bells in the GMB
When Kevin Parslow's report on the Unite union's policy conference, (socialist 725) said: "On the Labour Party, Unite will continue its strategy of working to 'change from within' with its radical policies," it rang bells with the situation in my union, GMB.
GMB's leadership still clings to Labour. Their only real argument is that, despite everything, they have to support Labour as the 'only show in town'.
This position is becoming increasingly difficult to justify, given Labour's experience in power at central and local government and their failure to offer any real alternative to the Con-Dems' austerity agenda.
A political executive report produced by GMB's Central Executive for the recent annual congress reflects this.
The document is scathing in places about the 'New Labour' project. It correctly points out that "New Labour fell under the spell of the free market gurus" and that in power they pushed forward privatisation everywhere, and as a result "the gap between rich and poor widened under New Labour".
The report recognises problems with the Labour Party, its MPs and councillors, and highlights how Progress and other similar networks have grown up within Labour to push forward right wing policies.
They argue: "we need to re-engage our key activists to join with others and rescue local Labour parties from falling membership".
They say that in recent years they introduced annual audits of MPs supported by GMB resources. Fundamentally they say Labour must be reclaimed.
The report argues that unions "will have to be far more aggressive in our arguments for progressive economic and social policies ", but does not explain how they think workers will want to join Labour.
For example, GMB members in local government facing attacks on jobs, pay and conditions from Labour councils, will probably not be too keen!
The report does not mention unions already outside the Labour link such as the RMT and PCS, or initiatives such as the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
Labour long ago stopped even being able to claim to be a vehicle for working class political representation.
Trade unions should wake up to this reality and work to build alternative poles of attraction that represent members' interests. Clearly the leadership is under increasing pressure on this key question.