Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/773/17078
Unite and Labour - it's time for a rethink!
The leader of my union Unite, Len McCluskey, has spent years trying to save Labour for working people - to save it from irrelevance and political extinction. Len, the Labour party leaders' attack on Unite shows that it's time for a rethink!
I'm a bus driver and I've known Len since I was unfairly sacked from my previous job eight years ago for my activity as a T&G rep. He helped get my job back.
Before he became general secretary, Len argued unions had never seriously tried to stop Labour's move away from socialist politics. He said he'd persuade Unite members to become active Labour members to change the party back.
Socialist Party members were sceptical - but at least he made a serious try. Unite had plans to recruit 5,000 to the Labour Party. Falkirk seems the only place these plans got anywhere. But we oppose Unite giving support to Labour because it opposes our union's policies and our members' interests. We want a new mass workers' party and my workmates are angry when I say Unite is Labour's biggest donor.
I did join Labour in 1974 as a teenager. My family always supported Labour. Labour's members were council workers, factory workers and transport workers then. The clue was in the name. Apart from the MPs and bigwigs the most middle class members were mainly teachers! The party changed.
It wasn't so much expulsions that undermined Labour's mass membership - there were only a few hundred. It was more the policies, really starting with Kinnock, that drove out working class activists. These policies gradually changed Labour so it became like the other parties. That's why we set up the Socialist Party.
Len always said if his aim to change the Labour Party failed, there'd come a point when we'd have to look elsewhere. We've reached that point.
Both the other major parties are in government, so why isn't Labour raking in supporters? Because it backs the same austerity cuts. Without union leaders' backing it would be nowhere. Unite should help build a genuine alternative.
In The Socialist 10 July 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party review