Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 8 July 2008


The working class needs its own party

Campaign for a New Workers

Campaign for a New Workers' Party conference 2008, photo Socialist Party

THIS MONTH talks will be taking place between union leaders and the New Labour government. Most of the national trade union leaders are hoping that the talks will lead to a ‘Warwick Two’ agreement, which they hope will result in a few scraps being thrown to the trade unions. This is a vain hope.

The first Warwick Agreement, reached in the run-up to the last general election, did not agree to any of the trade unions' central demands. Much of what it did agree, including some pensions protection and the expansion of apprenticeships, has not taken place.

For example, Warwick One promised that Royal Mail would remain in public hands. Three years on and the postal workers' union, the CWU, is still threatening to withdraw funding for New Labour in the next general election in order to try and force the government to keep this promise.

However, just to make New Labour's anti-union position crystal clear, Brown has made a statement before the talks even begin, saying: "There will be no return to the 1970s, 80s or even 90s when it comes to union rights." For Brown even the 1990s, which were the culmination of more than a decade of Thatcher's brutal union bashing, were too benign a period for the trade unions and the workers whose interests the unions are there to defend.

Brown went on to say that: "The countries that prosper in future will be those that combine fairness with flexibility, to ensure full employment. There can be no question of any reintroduction of secondary picketing rights."

Translated from New Labour speak, this means that Brown will continue to back to the hilt the policy of British capitalism of relying on a 'flexible' workforce - ie a low-paid casual workforce. It also means it will never repeal anti-trade union laws because to do so would strengthen workers' ability to fight against low pay and casualisation.

This is a defining moment, comparable to the anti-union 'Taff Vale' ruling a century ago that led to trade unionists splitting from the Liberals and founding the Labour Party. And yet the pro-government trade union leaders continue to argue in favour of the unions funding New Labour because it gives them 'influence' over the government. The trade unions have less influence over the Labour Party and Labour government than at any time in the last 80 years.

The need to break the union link with Labour is urgent. Since 1997 well over £100 million of ordinary trade unionists' money has gone to fund the Labour Party - the party of pay restraint and privatisation. As this year's trade union conferences have shown, an increasing number of trade unionists are no longer prepared to accept this.

Socialist Party members are playing a key role in campaigning to break the link. However, this does not mean supporting non-political trade unionism. On the contrary, the trade unions should begin to use their political funds to create a party that stands in their members' interests - a mass workers' party.

Political representation

We wholeheartedly welcome the recent statements made at the Campaign for a New Workers Party-hosted forum by Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, the railway workers union, and by leading figures in the PCS, the civil servants union - in support of moving in this direction.

In particular, we welcome the idea of a conference of trade unionists to discuss the crisis in workers' political representation and to look at the way forward - including standing trade union-backed candidates in elections.

The right-wing trade union leaders argue that it is impossible to create a new party. They point to the false starts of the past decade - including the Socialist Labour Party and now Respect - in order to make their case. Following the split in Respect, the four Tower Hamlets councillors who had supported the Socialist Workers' Party-led Left List, have now defected - three to Labour and one to the Tories. Last week one of the Respect Renewal (Galloway) councillors also defected to Labour.

However, it would be completely wrong to conclude from this that it is impossible to build a new mass workers' party. These projects failed, as the Socialist Party predicted, because they were based on incorrect policies and methods of organisation.

It is crucial that any new formation appeals to all sections of the working class. Respect concentrated in the main on one section of society, the Muslim community, which it is important to win, but not at the expense of reaching out to other sections of the working class.

A prerequisite for a successful new party is that it involves significant sections of young people and workers moving into struggle. Unfortunately, this was not the case with Respect. The top-down bureaucratic approach that was taken by both leaderships of both the SLP and Respect repelled a new generation of activists who, given their experience of the pro-big business parties, have an understandable suspicion of parties.

For any new broad formation to be successful it is crucial it has an open, welcoming and federal approach. Federalism was adopted by the early Labour Party enabling it to bring together many different organisations and trends, preserving the rights of all to organise and argue for their particular points of view.

A party started on such a basis could very quickly gain support in the coming period. The working class in Britain is voiceless and faced with a choice between three capitalist parties. Ironically, the most effective means of putting pressure on those capitalist parties would be the existence of a coherent voice for the working class.

This is graphically demonstrated by, despite its weaknesses, the effect of the growth in support of the Left Party in Germany. Its leader, Oskar Lafontaine, has correctly declared that the Left Party is pushing the political debate in Germany as the capitalist parties are forced to react to the Left Party's success by retreating, as has taken place, for example, with the SPD (social democrats), which has now come out in opposition to some of the counter-reforms it previously introduced when in power.

The pro-government trade union leaders warn that we must not 'rock the boat' or we will face a return to the Tories. Yet, in reality, we already have a government that carries out Tory policies. As a result of those policies New Labour faces losing the next general election because it is profoundly unpopular. Being asked to choose for the rest of our lives between New Labour and Tory governments is no choice at all.

We appeal to all readers of The Socialist to join the Campaign for a New Workers' Party and to assist in the historic task of the working class of England and Wales to build a mass political party that stands in its interests.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation £


Your message: 


In The Socialist 8 July 2008:

Striking back against low pay

Campaign for a New Workers Party

The working class needs its own party

CNWP conference: Wanted - a new mass workers' party

Socialist Party news and analysis

UK economy sliding into recession

Rich get richer: Why should we pay the price!

MP backs student fees campaign

Bonuses for chiefs, pay restraint for civil service workers

Government lies on public-sector pay

High farce from Boris Johnson

G8 leaders' 'world hunger' banquet

On the other side of the financial divide...

Socialist Party NHS campaign

Defend the NHS!

Property deals threaten private nursing homes

Cancer vaccines: who decides?

Marxist analysis: history

Terry Fields: A socialist voice that rocked Whitehall

Socialist Party LGBT

Marching against homophobia & racism

Socialist Party workplace news

Argos warehouse workers vote to strike

DWP strikes bring talks

National Shop Stewards Network Conference: Organising migrant workers

A day in the life of a call centre worker

Call centre charter: A framework for workers' rights

RMT conference discusses crisis of political representation

Shop Workers' Union Usdaw

Socialist stands for Usdaw general secretary


Home   |   The Socialist 8 July 2008   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:

Working class:

triangleBolivia elections: Crushing defeat for the right as MAS secures landslide victory

triangleMayor and government compete to attack London transport: fight for no cuts!

triangleGreek workers and socialists celebrate convictions of Golden Dawn fascists

triangleSouth Africa: Working class unity to stop violence against women


triangleSheffield: Tree-cutting council must admit it was wrong

triangleStarmer's 'Militant moment' - labour movement fightback needed

triangleCorbyn suspended:

Workers' movement needs a fighting political voice


triangleUnison general secretary candidate and Socialist Party member Hugo Pierre, left, supporting a UCU picket line in February 2020. Click here for why the Socialist Party backs Hugo for Unison general secretary.

triangleTories put profit first: Gambling with our jobs and lives


triangleWandsworth Town McDonald's strike protest, one of six sites in South London taking action on 12.11.19. Photo Isai Priya

Labour Party:

triangleNon-fiction: This Land - the story of a movement

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis


Labour Party

Corbyn suspended:

Workers' movement needs a fighting political voice



We need union action, not platitudes!



BAME Covid deaths due to capitalist inequality, confirms government



Tories' school meals outrage



Food and a capitalist Brexit: No trust in Tory Deals!



Don't let Tories starve our kids



Tory 'Starve a Kid to Save a Quid' scheme



Boots launches £120, 12-minute Covid test



Under the microscope


Grenfell Tower

Grenfell watch: landlord's £800,000 saving



Mayor and government compete to attack London transport: fight for no cuts!



Are cooperatives the answer to a failing capitalist system?



Even more delay in stopping school transmission?



Locked down, hard up - Fight back!



Unite votes to cut affiliation fee to Labour

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: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

October 2020

September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020