An axis for unifying the left

Submitted by AWL on 7 December, 2007 - 9:39

Extracts from an AWL leaflet distributed at a regional meeting of the National Shop Stewards Network, held in Glasgow on 1 December.

“In backing the Labour Party rule changes (to ban unions and CLPs from submitting motions to annual Labour Party conference), union leaders have effectively disenfranchised millions of trade unionists who remain organisationally affiliated to the Labour Party.

The issue here is not just one of union democracy – i.e. the fact that none of the union leaders had a mandate from their membership to back the rule changes. The much more fundamental issue is that the union leaders share the Labour Party leadership’s goal of fundamentally recasting Labour-union links.

The shared aim is to reduce the unions’ role in politics to that of lobbying behind the scenes.

… In place of a negative – and ultimately apolitical – campaign for trade union dis- affiliation from the Labour Party, socialists need to focus on the issue of re-establishing a political voice for the trade union movement.

Socialists in the unions need to campaign for a reversal of the Labour Party rule changes — if only to highlight their significance, and also the undemocratic role played by union leaders in supporting those changes.

But this needs to be linked to a positive campaign to prevent the labour movement from being driven out of politics, and to re-found a political party based on the trade union movement.

…At the moment, however, the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) represents the most serious and significant step in that direction.

… After a limited period of (apparent) unity under the umbrella of the Scottish Socialist Party, the organised left in Scotland is now more divided than it has been for over a decade.

The decision of the SWP and the Scottish section of the Socialist Party to pull out of the SSP not only divided the left. It also demoralised many activists and, as shown by the results of the Holyrood elections, undermined the credibility of the left in general.

Within the Labour Party there still exist the Scottish Campaign for Socialism, and Socialist Appeal. But, in general, the Labour Left is now only a shadow of its former self.

In the short term at least, there is no sign of a possible (re-)unification of the organised left. But that should not stop the different organisations of the left from working together in specific initiatives…

The different organisations of the left in Scotland should help build support for the LRC, in particular by encouraging affiliations by all levels of the trade union movement in Scotland, and by being actively involved in the setting up of local LRCs.

This is not a proposal for the left in Scotland to dissolve itself into the LRC. Well over a century ago – and the Blairite counter-revolution has thrown back the labour movement that far — the Independent Labour Party (ILP) recognised the need to build a new political party based on the trade unions.

The ILP maintained its own existence, but combined this with organised campaigning for the creation of a much broader union-based party.

For all the ILP’s political limitations, its general political orientation made sense: combining campaigning for the ILP’s under-standing of socialism with campaigning to win trade unions over to the idea of independent working-class political representation.

More than a century later, a similar approach now needs to be taken by today’s organisations of the socialist left.”

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