Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 17 July 2013

Editorial of the Socialist

Urgent - trade unions must build a political voice for the working class

London Firefighters demonstrate against the closure of Bow firestation, photo Naomi Byron

London Firefighters demonstrate against the closure of Bow firestation, photo Naomi Byron   (Click to enlarge)

"If others want to stick around and be insulted by those whose only interest is our money and not our ideas then that's a matter for them." RMT general secretary Bob Crow made it clear that the Labour leadership's attack on the unions, and Unite in particular, should be a defining moment for working class political representation.

From the platform at the 129th Durham Miners Gala Bob made the case for a new mass party for working people: "We need an alternative party of labour." (See RMT press release on

He reminded the massive crowd in the Gala's Big Meeting on Saturday 13 July how the trade unions broke from the Liberal Party over 100 years ago, because it was incapable of representing workers' interests, to form the Labour Party.

On top of all the crimes of New Labour over the last two decades -privatising public services, maintaining Thatcher's anti-union laws, conducting wars, etc - the Labour leaders' recent confirmation that a Labour government will stick with the Con-Dem cuts surely urgently raises the question of a political alternative.


Unite members in action: Strike at 'One Housing', June 2013, Woodgreen site, London

Unite members in action: Strike at 'One Housing', June 2013, Woodgreen site, London   (Click to enlarge)

Bob Crow's speech got a huge response from the crowd. There was also support for the Unite general secretary Len McCluskey as he rose to speak.

As with many trade unionists around the country, the Gala audience wanted to show solidarity with a trade union leader under vitriolic attack from all the enemies of the working class, including the Blairites, the Tories and the right-wing press.

Len got the best reception when he attacked the Labour leadership for their attempt to scapegoat the unions around the Falkirk selection process where Unite had pushed for its preferred candidate. "Labour doesn't have an automatic right to exist...

"The Parliamentary Labour Party today does not look like, or think like, the working class communities it seeks to represent. That is a serious problem... That is what Unite was fighting for in Falkirk - to give the working class a stake in our democracy. I make no apology for that."

But as with the week before, when he cautiously welcomed Labour leader Ed Miliband's 'reform' of how the unions affiliate to Labour, even agreeing with Tony Blair, Len's refusal to draw the necessary conclusions, left many bewildered and disorientated, if not angry and frustrated.

Len posed questions without answering them: "But if we are to go out and convince thousands of working class men and women that they want to sign up to be associate Labour Party members they will not be interested in the rulebook, or even the history.

"They will want to know - will Labour make a difference? ... Will it be different not just from Cameron and his crew but from the Blair-Brown years as well? If we can say 'Yes, Labour has learned, and Labour is on your side' then this scheme will work.

"But if our people - our members - are unclear as to the answer then no amount of persuading will get them to sign up."

This doesn't address Miliband's proposed 'reforms' of the Labour Link which will further dilute the already neutered role of the trade unions in the Labour Party as a collective force for the working class.

Miliband is under pressure from representatives of the capitalist class to block a voice for the working class in this way.

Moreover, given Labour's commitment to working within the limits of capitalism and to maintaining cuts if it forms the next government, and Labour councils' record of implementing cuts, the answer is clear - Labour offers no alternative to austerity.

Rank-and-file trade union activists are disgusted at Miliband's actions, particularly calling in the police to investigate the Falkirk allegations, but also Labour's out-and-out anti-working class policies.

As Bob Crow angrily said on Saturday, why hasn't Miliband called in the police to investigate the scandalous injustice meted out to miners at Orgreave, or the Shrewsbury pickets 40 years ago still continuing today after successive Tory, Labour and Con-Dem governments?

We encourage Unite branches to discuss the model motion (see box) and all members of the affiliated unions to raise Falkirk and the question of disaffiliation in their branches.

Break with Labour

Bob Crow speaking at the NSSN's lobby of the TUC, 24.4.13 , photo by N Cafferky

Bob Crow speaking at the NSSN's lobby of the TUC, 24.4.13 , photo by N Cafferky   (Click to enlarge)

We say it is time for the trade union movement to take the bold step of breaking with New Labour, not to go into 'non-political' trade unionism, but to use its political strength to form a new collective voice, a mass workers' party, that could appeal to the disenchanted, the poor and all the victims of austerity and the capitalist system by putting forward fighting socialist policies.

Undoubtedly, there will be some in the unions and on the left who argue this is impossible. Ultimately they hope against hope that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, Labour can somehow be reformed.

The Falkirk debacle is a damning demonstration of the lengths to which the Labour leadership and their ruling class backers, including in the press, will go to resist any challenge to their complete control of the party and its policies and candidates.

New formations

TUSC logo

TUSC logo

The early Labour pioneers, such as Kier Hardie, prepared the ground for the advances Labour made from 1906 onwards when workers' mass struggles against the system showed the need for the working class to take independent political action.

Who could question that, given the pro-cuts policies of all the traditional main parties, alternatives can't develop rapidly in the resulting political vacuum.

Despite their limitations new formations have emerged in Europe. In Italy, Beppe Grillo's Five-Star Movement appeared to come from nowhere and in Greece, Syriza's anti-austerity programme sparked its rapid electoral rise.

In Britain, anger at the main parties has been demonstrated by abstentionism and votes for the right-wing nationalist Ukip, including by a section of workers who want to 'kick the main parties'. This adds urgency to the need to build a real workers' alternative.

Imagine a left challenge with the financial resources of the unions or even just the 3 million annual affiliation fee of Unite to Labour compared to the shoestring that the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) attempts to operate on, notwithstanding the involvement and backing of the RMT.

The Socialist Party is also a key component of TUSC and we believe that it is tenaciously playing a pioneering role, arguing the case for a political voice for the working class and providing a way for anti-cuts fighters to stand as candidates against councillors voting through austerity.

TUSC sees itself as facilitating and campaigning for the building of a new mass workers' party. A new formation, based on the unions and the resources provided by their millions of members and the basic anti-cuts and anti-capitalist policies expounded at Durham by Len McCluskey and Bob Crow, embracing all those being battered by these brutal cuts would have a massive appeal across society and, in fact, shove the political debate to the left.

What Unite should do:

Unite members, in their branches, stewards committees and constitutional committees of the union, should pass resolutions defending the union against these attacks and calling for a full, democratic discussion of the alternative. In particular, they should call on the leadership to implement the following plan of action:

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

In The Socialist 17 July 2013:

Socialist Party news and analysis

'We've had enough' - All strike together!

Urgent - trade unions must build a political voice for the working class

Fire cuts, pay cuts, pension cuts, job cuts

MPs' pay to rise to 74,000...

Another drugs company scam

G4S tagging scandal: another failure of privatisation

Them & Us

International socialist news and analysis

USA: Zimmerman, Trayvon and racism

'Black July' - Sri Lanka 1983 and the beginning of civil war

Socialist Party feature

End violence against women!

Socialist Party review

The story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs

Socialist Party workplace news

Lecturers in Wales expose working conditions

Victory for teachers at UEL

Equinox workers strike again

Fight Royal Mail privatisation!

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Greens rejected in Brighton

Bedroom tax non-payment soars in Scotland: Stop evictions

Councils: Don't do the Con-Dems' dirty work!

'Sick Of Your Boss?' week of action reports

Durham Miners' Gala shows mood for new party

Campaigning against anti-LGBT bullying in schools

Lincolnshire - save our libraries

Building the Socialist Party

Readers' comments

Who are the real criminals?


Home   |   The Socialist 17 July 2013   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleHinkley workers win back unpaid wages after sit-in protest

triangleWorkplace news in brief

triangleWoolwich ferry workers win automation campaign

triangleUnite victory in EDF meter workers' union recognition fight

triangleSadiq Khan's bus drivers' London licence doesn't go far enough

The Socialist:

triangleIdeas matter: help us fight to win with May Day greetings

triangleMembers dig deep into their pockets to support the party

triangleInternational Women's Day

triangleSocialist Party congress 2018


triangleWalkout from undercover policing inquiry

triangleJeremy Corbyn and Brexit


trianglePassing the council cuts test

triangleThe Socialist inbox

Working class:

triangleRefugees march against racism and to demand rights


triangleLeaked pay deal: fight for a genuine pay rise


triangleHated Blairite mayor ousted: now fight for a no-cuts Newham!

Labour Party:

triangleLeicester: Blairites block Labour Party democracy


triangleHow can Unite lead fight against cuts?


triangleSwansea Labour council votes for cuts

Bob Crow:

triangle15 years since the invasion of Iraq: what we said

Trade unions:

triangleToys R Us, Maplin: worsening retail crisis claims more jobs


triangleWe feel that we will win - a striker speaks

Len McCluskey:

triangleUnite union sector conferences: coordinate action over pay

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit



Passing the council cuts test


Them & Us

Them & us



Cuts harm kids' health



The Blairites are NHS privatisers - to save it means sacking them



Hands off free school meals!



Russia, spies and nerve agents



Zero new homes 'affordable' in Blairite Manchester



Spring Statement 2018: Tory austerity staggers on despite economic and political weakness


What we saw

What we saw



Sainsbury's raise really a cut: fight for 10 with no strings!



Profits up Wages down



Determined UCU strikers: We're out to win!



Capitalism oppresses women - fight for socialism!


Them & Us

Them & Us

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018