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From: The Socialist issue 598, 21 October 2009: Postalworkers must win

Search site for keywords: Unite - Labour - Labour Party - CNWP - Construction

Union activists discuss pulling the plug on Labour

A RECENT special meeting of Unite's United Left (UL) in the north west discussed the question of political representation. Supporters of the Campaign for a New Workers' Party (CNWP) clearly won the argument for trade union disaffiliation from New Labour. I had ten minutes to speak for breaking the link. The person defending Labour claimed Vauxhall wouldn't have been saved if it wasn't for Peter Mandelson!

Paul Astbury

I work as a plasterer. I said that now we don't have direct labour organisations employing construction workers for local authorities, it has meant much worse conditions in the building trades. I remember what Labour was like in the past, including when socialists ran the council in Liverpool. What we have now is New Labour, a party of bankers and billionaires.

Several Socialist Party members spoke. Dave Walsh explained why the Labour Party was formed against the Liberals, who like New Labour now, claimed to represent working people but didn't.

Harry Smith said if we don't provide an alternative, then the BNP will claim to. We need a genuine working class party to oppose the far-right, as well as the bosses' parties. Another Socialist Party member explained the situation facing Steve Acheson, victimised and blacklisted by construction industry employers. He urged Unite to get behind people like Steve 100%.

"After 12 years of being kicked in the bollocks by New Labour on top of the Tories," said CNWP supporter and longstanding Unite activist Eddie Roberts, "I move for disaffiliation of Unite!"

A guy who joined the Labour Party only 12 months ago thought it was time to break the link. A senior Unite activist said: "If I saw a real alternative party going forwards, I'd join it."

I answered that we're not launching a new party now but we're campaigning for one. Unite's funds should be used to support unions like the RMT standing in the elections, and to support our members like Steve Acheson, not for supporting New Labour politicians who put people like Steve out of work.

If it had been put to the vote, we would clearly have won it for disaffiliation. Everyone said we had won the moral argument in Unite's biggest regional United Left. Other regional ULs should hold similar debates. Unite should take it to the membership and let them decide whether we keep giving millions of pounds to New Labour or pull the plug.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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Article dated 21 October 2009

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