IN his speech to Unite leaders earlier in the week, the union’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, effectively threw in the towel and capitulated to Ed Miliband’s plot to break the Labour Party completely from the trade union movement and turn it into nothing more than an open bourgeois party along the lines of the US Democrats.
McCluskey’s speech attempted to portray his grovelling acceptance of the right-wing plot as some kind of ‘victory’.
He completely backed Miliband’s plan to end the union block vote in the party, saying that the status quo was ‘indefensible’. Not only that, but he went on to list all the reactionary policies carried out by the Blair and Brown governments, including the illegal Iraq war, as evidence that the block vote didn’t work anyway, and that the unions had been powerless to stop the Blairite right-wing embracing the bankers and ignoring the working class, so losing it would be no big deal.
McCluskey is peddling the fairy tale that more can be done if you are on your knees! He is saying that capitulating to Miliband’s proposals would be an opportunity for Unite to increase its input into Labour policy, not through the block vote but through Unite members becoming individual members.
This is a fantasy that McCluskey is desperate to sell to the working class to try and cover up his colossal political cowardice and his refusal to insist that the trade unions, that is the organised working class, should have the whip hand inside the Labour Party which they founded and finance.
This fantasy has been taken up by the Stalinist Morning Star which claims that although McCluskey is in total agreement with Miliband, he has in reality ‘thrown down the gauntlet’ to the Labour leader.
This line is also being being used by the right-wing Tory minister Michael Gove to demand a total exclusion of trade unions from the Labour Party. He said: ‘Far from liberating Ed Miliband to take a more centrist position, so far the reforms appear to be enhancing the capacity of Len McCluskey, and others like him, to set a more left-wing agenda.’
Gove’s position has been taken up by the bourgeois press, with the Daily Telegraph in an editorial calling for Miliband to completely ‘repudiate’ McCluskey and prove to the capitalist class that the Blair government was not just an interlude – in other words, to prove that he will break the Labour Party completely from the organised working class to render it fit to form a coalition government for the salvation of capitalism, when required.
Whilst the Stalinists obediently fall in line with McCluskey’s capitulation and act as his cheerleaders in order to cover up his betrayal, the Tories are serving notice that ending the trade union block vote does not go far enough. They are demanding that every vestige of trade union influence on the Labour Party be ended immediately.
This demand from the capitalist class and its political representatives reflects the huge crisis which British capitalism faces today.
They are acutely aware that the Tories, even in coalition with the LibDems, are simply not strong enough to drive through the kind of austerity measures necessary to prevent complete collapse.
In their weakness they are relying on the Labour Party entering a reactionary coalition to smash the trade unions and create conditions where the Welfare State is destroyed completely and workers reduced to a life of absolute poverty.
This necessitates the destruction of any link, no matter how small, between Labour and the unions.
The gauntlet that McCluskey has thrown down is not to Miliband but to the working class. It must be picked up through demanding that the leadership of Unite and every other union immediately fight these plans, and that leaders of the McCluskey type are sacked!
They must cease union finances to the Labour Party until Miliband and the right-wing are driven out and the Labour Party starts to fight the Tories’ austerity onslaught instead of supporting it.
At the same time, the TUC, instead of marking time and trying to fool the working class by saying that they have been discussing the practicalities of a general strike for the last year, must call an indefinite general strike.
This must be a political strike to bring the coalition government down, and in its place bring in a workers government that will expropriate the bosses and the bankers and bring in a socialist planned economy that will provide jobs and homes for all as well as further developing the NHS and the Welfare State.