LEN McCluskey, addressing the Unite policy conference in Liverpool yesterday, stated that the unions and the NHS face ‘the fight of our lives’ to see off a Tory government in the 2015 general election and pledged to throw the financial weight of the union behind the Labour campaign on the grounds that the Labour Party is the best hope of ‘draining the swamp of ill treatment’ and turning back the ‘rapacious privatisation of the health service’.
McCluskey went on: ‘We have a clear and vital choice before us. It’s whether we can evict the present ruinous Conservative coalition from office and get a Labour Prime Minister into Downing Street. There is no third option.’
Only four months ago, McCluskey announced that Unite – the biggest Labour Party donor – was cutting its funding to the party in half, from £3 million to £1.5 million.
The cut was in response to moves by Miliband to end union influence in the party and transform it into a US Democratic-type of party, funded by the unions but who have absolutely no influence on it.
At the same time as Unite announced cuts to funding, McCluskey was issuing stern warnings to the Labour Party that its support for the coalition’s cuts to the pay of public sector workers raised the prospect of the unions creating a new workers party if Labour lost the general election – which he predicted it would do if it campaigned on what he called ‘a pale shade of austerity’.
Now all of a sudden he says: ‘Let there be no doubt. Unite stands fully behind Labour and Ed Miliband in the increasingly radical agenda he has outlined’.
What is this radical agenda that has caused such a damascene conversion by McCluskey?
In an article for the Stalinist Morning Star published on Monday, he wrote: ‘Labour now has to decide which side of the divide it chooses to stand on. Ed Miliband has started on this, taking on the fuel price racket, promising a new era of housebuilding, a living wage to lift people out of poverty and social care fit for our elderly.’
What McCluskey omits is that all these promises are meaningless given the Labour Party’s commitment to carry on with every austerity cut made by the coalition in order to pay off the trillions of pounds of national debt caused by the banking collapse.
Miliband has not made a single pledge to reverse privatisation.
On the same day of the speech, Labour’s shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, was giving the lie to McCluskey’s claim, when he told the London Business School that any future Labour government would be ‘pro business’, cutting business taxes in order to promote competition and make Britain a welcoming home for capitalist investment, while reiterating his commitment to match all the cuts introduced by Osborne.
Despite all the bluster and threats from McCluskey, it is clear that the trade union leadership is faithfully falling in line behind a Labour Party committed to the survival of a bankrupt British capitalist system at the expense of the working class.
Under the pressure from its members, the Unite leadership has been forced at times to issue militant sounding calls, but when push comes to shove it has run a mile from any real fight.
At a time when workers are voting overwhelmingly for strike action to defeat Tory pay cuts, these leaders have consistently refused any call for bringing down this weak, divided coalition.
Instead they are working overtime to restrict action to a one day protest despite a TUC resolution calling for a general strike.
This leadership cannot be allowed to continue on this treacherous path.
The way forward has been shown by the Young Socialists who have organised a march from London to the TUC conference to demand that these leaders either call a general strike to bring down the coalition immediately or be removed.
Every worker and young person should join this march.