ON Wednesday night the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, launched a scathing attack on the leader of the largest trade union, Unite, denouncing him for a ‘reprehensible’ attempt to divide the Labour Party.
The cause for this outburst aimed at Len McCluskey was an earlier interview by the Unite general secretary in which he warned that Miliband ran the danger of being ‘seduced’ by Blairites in the shadow cabinet and that if this happened Labour would certainly lose the next general election and he, Miliband, would be ‘cast into the dustbin of history’.
In this interview McCluskey actually went out of his way to praise Miliband for doing a ‘good job’ since being elected as leader against his openly Blairite brother David – although he was careful not to specify exactly what good he has actually done.
Referring to the recent intervention by Blair, in an article demanding that the Labour Party return to the monetarist fold and embrace all the cuts and privatisation policies of the coalition, McCluskey told the New Statesman:
‘My message to Ed is to take no notice of the siren voices from the boardrooms of JP Morgan or wherever else he (Blair) is at the moment.’ He described Blair’s supporters in the Labour Party as being ‘locked in the past’ and ‘deniers of what happened in 2008’.
McCluskey then went on to say that the Labour leader must offer a ‘radical alternative’ to the coalition’s policy of savage cuts to pay, jobs and benefits, warning that if Miliband goes into the next general election with an ‘austerity-lite’ programme, Labour will be defeated.
The 1.4 million members of Unite, along with the millions subsisting on benefits that are being cut to levels that cannot sustain human existence, will be in complete agreement with McCluskey.
Indeed they will think that his friendly warnings to Miliband are wide of the mark.
It is not a question of Miliband at risk of being ‘seduced’ by the siren whispers of the Blairites, the issue is that the world crisis of capitalism is driving all those who seek to maintain capitalism at all costs to attack the working class.
The reformist Labour Party, which can only conceive of working within the capitalist system and winning a few crumbs from the capitalist table in periods of comparative prosperity, are now faced with a capitalist system that can no longer afford any reforms and must attempt to destroy all those gains made in the past.
Their response is to go along with every cut, every ‘sacrifice’ demanded of the working class in order to keep this bankrupt, decaying system afloat.
What Miliband’s outburst against McCluskey signals is that he is positioning the Labour Party not to come up with a mythical radical alternative to savage austerity cuts, but to collaborate in pushing them through as part of some coalition with the LibDems or a government of ‘national salvation’ including elements from the Tory party.
It is the trade union movement that stands at the crossroads today.
Left leaders like McCluskey continue to sow the illusions that the only possible future for the working class lies in electing a Labour government and praying that it will somehow come up with a magical formula to rescue capitalism without destroying the working class in the process. The trade union movement must break with reformism and take the road to revolution.
The question of the hour is building a leadership within the unions that is prepared and ready to lead this struggle – a struggle that must take the immediate form of calling an all-out general strike to bring down the coalition and go forward to a workers government and socialism.
This leadership is being built only by the WRP and we call on every worker and young person to join us today.