The Socialist

The Socialist 13 September 2007

Fighting Unions Need a New party

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Fighting Unions Need a New party

Smash the pay freeze

Defend public services

RMT protest against Tube privatisation, photo Paul Mattsson

RMT protest against Tube privatisation, photo Paul Mattsson

Insisting that public sector workers must accept below inflation pay rises - in reality, pay cuts - Gordon Brown showed how little difference there is between the Blair and Brown governments. It was "to prevent inflation, maintain growth, so we never return to the old boom and bust of the past", he explained at the recent TUC conference.

Councillor Dave Nellist, Chair, Campaign for a New Workers' Party.

It is not a message he ever delivers to company boardrooms, where pay (sorry, remuneration) can be counted in millions of pounds. For Brown, the rich getting richer is a positive sign of an economy doing well.

But what about the millions in insecure, low-paid, often temporary jobs, trapped at precisely the 'minimal wage'? For them it is a sign of a government that, despite what it says, just doesn't care for the majority of ordinary working-class families. Part of the reason is that, when it comes to elections, Labour believes it can take working people's votes for granted, because they have nowhere else to go.

Paul Kenny, General Secretary of the GMB (General and municipal workers' union), Britain's third largest union, said before the same TUC conference, that the GMB could consider disaffiliating itself from Labour 'in frustration at the government's policies' (The Times, 10/09/07).

Such a decision would be welcome if it meant that the GMB would join with others in building a new, working-class alternative to the Labour-Tory-Lib Dem axis. But not if it is the GMB's intention merely to disaffiliate in order 'to have a relationship with parties (in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) that can make policies'.

Nothing stops the GMB - or any other union - representing their members and negotiating with any elected authority in local, regional or national government. But they would have even more influence if they were joining with community campaigners, for example on the NHS, as well as socialists and others, who are politically challenging those parties as well.

For that is what is lacking in Britain today. The three main parties, Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrats, are so close together that I challenge anyone to work out from reading a speech by Brown, Cameron or Campbell, which one of them wrote it.

Britain's three main parties act more like three wings of the same party - united on privatisation and PFI, and on working-class sacrifices to preserve the economy (for the rich). There is no major national party, based on working people and their families, calling, for example, for a major increase in the national minimum wage; the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan; decisive action on climate change; an end to PFI and privatisation; or opposition to Trident and for the billions of pounds spent on nuclear weapons to be spent on public services instead.

That party still needs to be built, and union activists could have a crucial role in campaigning for that.

The Establishment has three parties - isn't it time that working people had one of their own?

In this issue

Fighting Unions Need a New party

Postal workers: "We have the power!"

TUC conference: Standing up to Brown's attacks

Needed: a combative trade union movement

War and terrorism

Iraq: Get the troops out now

Workplace news and events

Tube workers' strike scores victory

Bosses get away with murder

Socialist Party NHS campaign

Nurses strike

Manchester cuts maternity services

Leeds - no more deficits and cuts

APEC summit

APEC summit: Thousands defy police crackdown

Socialist Party news and analysis

Overcrowded prisons, overworked staff

Keeping tabs on the millions?

A life of debt and poverty?

Socialist Party feature

Tory party struggles to recapture territory taken by New Labour

International news and analysis

Impressions of China

Socialist Party review

Robert Blincoe - a life that illuminates an age


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13 September 2007