Unite “at a turning point”

Socialist Party Unite members

Following the scandalous referral from the Labour Party, the police will not be investigating any allegations surrounding the recruitment of Labour Party members in the Falkirk constituency or the selection process for a Labour candidate.

This action by the pro-big business Labour leadership prompted the suspension of Stevie Deans, the Falkirk party chairperson, by Ineos, owner of the Grangemouth oil refinery where he works, on the grounds of ‘bringing the company into disrepute’. It was withdrawn when the 450-strong Unite branch at the refinery threatened to walk out unless he was reinstated immediately!

Stevie and Unite’s preferred candidate, Karie Murphy, remain suspended by New Labour. Yet a BBC investigation for ‘The Report’ programme suggested that Unite had done nothing wrong in Falkirk. Indeed, the only possible membership irregularities did not involve Unite members.

When the Falkirk selection process was halted by Labour’s National Executive Committee, the NEC only saw extracts from the full report!

Miliband wants to force his proposals through at a special conference of Labour next spring. He clearly believes this would make him more popular.

In reality, social attitudes are far to the left of Labour on issues such as nationalisation and support for trade unions.

Since 1997, Labour has lost 4.5 million mainly working class votes at general elections. These moves could lose them more as workers turn away from a party increasingly involved with big business.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said this was a clear ‘turning point’ in the relationship between Labour and the unions in his speech to the special meeting of the Unite Executive with Regional Political Committee members on 24 July, which was broadcast live.

However, he did not reject the proposals outright. Although previous press reports had said he would endorse them, he offered a ‘wait-and-see’ approach to the Collins report.

He also called on Labour to move away from the policies of austerity. Nevertheless he seemed broadly favourable to Miliband’s proposals.

This position is the worst of all worlds; if Unite is to remain affiliated to Labour and try to implement its political strategy, it and the rest of the unions need their collective voting power to assert their strength. The Miliband proposals would eliminate that collective power.

It would be far better though for Unite and the other unions to break the link with New Labour and form a new worker-based party which would reflect union policies and keep the collective strength of workers’ organisations.

The resolution passed at the Unite North-West Regional Committee (below) is a welcome first step. In the closed session of the Unite EC/RPCs, support was expressed for Unite to maintain its collective strength and for a discussion throughout the union on its political strategy.

Branches and constitutional committees of the union must take this up and convince the Unite leadership to reject dilution of its power and assist with the establishment of a new mass workers’ party.

Resolution passed at the Unite North-West Regional Committee

This Unite region is appalled at the smear campaign being orchestrated against Unite the Union by the Labour Party for nothing more than campaigning for the union’s referred candidate in Falkirk.

Our union has been more than patient with new Labour giving loyal support and considerable financial backing while they have failed to adopt policies which are demanded by Unite and are vital in offering working people an alternative to the neo-liberal policies which have destroyed our economy and social system.

Many Unite members had already come to the conclusion that reclaiming the Labour Party was impossible because there are no democratic structures which would allow it. This latest affair categorically shows that this is the case.

Instead of joining the Tories and their friends in the media in accusing our democratic union representing 1.5 million workers of scandalous behaviour in Falkirk, Ed Miliband should have focused the country’s attention on the Tory’s own arcane funding arrangements from individual multi-millionaires including stockbrokers and hedge fund managers who created the world’s economic catastrophe.

However it is impossible for New Labour to take the moral high ground on this issue as their bureaucracy have long indulged in the practice of parachuting in MPs who have not been selected by their local constituency members and have accepted funds from dubious sources and from people who are accountable to nobody.

Therefore we call on the EC to:

1. Hold an emergency meeting where they can pass a resolution to remove from the rulebook the reference to Labour Party affiliation.

2. The EC will then organise a recall rules conference to discuss the change and the political representation of the working class

3. With the support of conference Unite should then convene a meeting of trade unions and trade unionists with the aim of creating a new workers’ party which would meet the union’s demands for a programme of policies including scrapping the cuts, the anti-union laws and renationalising all public services.