AT this year’s annual conference of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) the right-wing of the trade union bureaucracy will attempt to commit the working class to staying in the bosses’ and bankers’ EU at all costs.
A motion to the TUC Congress proposed by the giant Unite union makes this clear, saying: ‘Our movement cannot countenance a cliff-edge Brexit. The economic and social shockwaves would echo the financial crisis of 2008, leaving no one in our movement untouched. No measure can be ruled out to avoid this outcome.’
The motion goes on: ‘If, despite itself, the government reaches a withdrawal deal that is put to parliament before March, the prospects that it can meet the tests set by Congress or the Labour Party are remote. When this happens, our movement must be prepared, politically and industrially, to mobilise against it.’
Given that Unite has refused to mobilise any real campaign against a Tory government that has for over a decade systematically destroyed the jobs and living standards of its own members, it is instructive that they are now threatening a campaign to bring down the Tories if they don’t cave in to all the demands of the EU.
This is made clear at the end of the motion, which states: ‘Congress believes a defeated deal would be tantamount to a confidence vote in the government, warranting an immediate general election. Congress does not rule out the possibility of a popular vote being held on any deal in order to break parliamentary deadlock or overcome the Fixed Term Parliament Act.’
The Unite motion is saying that the trade union leaders are determined to overturn the EU referendum vote at all costs and are quite prepared to throw their weight behind the demands of the capitalist class for a fresh referendum to achieve this result.
This struggle will be carried on by the Unite leadership, along with the leaders of the majority of the TUC, which has campaigned relentlessly to keep the British working class enslaved to the bankers and bosses that run the EU, into the annual conference of the Labour Party later this month.
Here, we can expect the three biggest unions affiliated to the Labour Party, Unite, GMB and UNISON, to use their block vote (40% of the eligible votes at the conference) to try and reverse the Labour Party manifesto, which it stood under in the 2017 general election.
This manifesto, which won the overwhelming support of the working class and destroyed the Tories’ parliamentary majority, unequivocally committed a future Labour government to honour the 2016 referendum result to break with the EU. At last year’s Labour Party conference, Jeremy Corbyn said that he was not planning on calling for a second referendum on Brexit although he was careful not to rule out Labour backing one. Clearly, the trade union bureaucracy are intending to exploit Corbyn’s prevarication and drive forward the demand for a ‘people’s vote’ at the conference.
With the Tory press this week demanding that Labour right-wing MPs either remove Corbyn as party leader or split at the Labour conference to join in a reactionary coalition with Tory ‘remainers’ the Unite leadership is joining in with its own plans to keep the working class under the domination of a collapsing European capitalist system.
Union leaders who, as we have said, have refused to lift a finger in defence of their members in the face of savage Tory austerity cuts, are now threatening industrial action and mass mobilisation to defend the bosses and bankers of the EU. These leaders must be thrown out of the movement – their allegiance is to the capitalist class not the working class.
The TUC Congress, which starts on September 9, is of decisive importance. Unite’s motion must be rejected out of hand and instead trade union branches must put forward emergency motions demanding that the TUC general council gives its full and unequivocal support to the last Labour Party general election manifesto commitment to leave the EU.
The WRP and Young Socialists will be lobbying the TUC Congress on September 9 to fight for these demands. We call on every worker and young person to come to the lobby and join the WRP and YS.