Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/806/18450
Break with pro-cuts Labour now
A Labour defeat, said Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, was likely if it went into the 2015 general election promising "a pale shade of austerity".
In reality, in Labour-run councils around the country it is austerity red in tooth and claw that Labour is administering at this very moment, leaving millions of working class people devastated and without a choice at the 22 May local elections.
But much heat was generated following Len's remarks to a Commons Press Gallery lunch. There was talk of Unite forming a new workers' party, maybe with the GMB and the RMT unions.
The RMT is part of TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition which already has over 440 no-cuts candidates in place for May's poll.
The reality of what Unite is doing is, so far, a little different. Len's remarks suggested he could see the union donating money to other parties, or form a party of its own, which would need changes to be passed at next year's Rules Revision Conference, if Labour was to lose the general election.
Nevertheless, Len has since defended the union's political strategy at a United Left (UL) meeting in London.
Unite would continue to attempt to get better representation for workers and trade unionists in Labour despite the events in Falkirk and the subsequent defeat there, which Len does not consider a defeat.
But Falkirk was the jewel in Unite's 'reclaim Labour' crown. A significant number of the 700 Unite members recruited to the Labour Party as part of its campaign were in the Falkirk constituency.
The result, however, was the disgraceful spectacle of Miliband calling in the police to investigate.
The big majority of unions, including Unite, then voted for the constitutional reforms put forward at Labour's recent special conference following the Collins Review, which will finally end the remnants of the affiliated trade unions' collective political voice within Labour.
Len's views were taken up by Socialist Party members in the UL meeting. There is no enthusiasm among Unite members to join a party making cuts.
Of 1,900 members in the Greenwich council branch of Unite, only two are Labour members.
Len outlined his "Ten-point plan to help Labour save Britain from Tories" in the Daily Mirror on 5 April.
It includes policies such as building 200,000 homes a year to employ half a million construction workers (although Len admitted that five million people are in "housing crisis"), the removal of the private sector from the NHS, the renationalisation of the railways, raising the minimum wage by £1.50 an hour, and removing the anti-trade union laws.
These are all policies which the Socialist Party and TUSC supporters would agree could form the beginnings of a programme to benefit workers and their families.
Of course, the Socialist Party would argue that to permanently help the vast majority of people would mean proposing a socialist plan of production through nationalisation of the big firms in the economy and ending capitalism. But Labour's manifesto won't even go near Len's policies.
Much was made of the Labour Party's decision to support Royal Mail re-nationalisation last year. Yet its party conference has more of the trappings of a rally than a policy making body.
And within minutes Chuka Umunna, shadow business minister, and other New Labour apparatchiks were ruling out any such commitment in Labour's election manifesto.
There will be a few sops to the unions but the overall manifesto will not be radical at all.
The truth is that Len and others, have put forward radical programmes which have no hope of being adopted by New Labour.
Some in Unite say now is not the time to form a new party a year before the election. But for them, there is always an excuse.
It wasn't 'right' when Tony Blair was prime minister (because Gordon Brown was waiting in the wings for his chance), after Labour's defeat in 2010 (wait for a new leader and elect Ed Miliband) or when Unite proposed its political strategy to transform Labour (recruit 5,000 Unite members to Labour but which has yielded only hundreds and ended in the Falkirk events).
The truth is that pleading with the pro-big business leadership is having no effect whatsoever.
And the danger of waiting until after the general election to draw this conclusion is that millions of workers will not have a party to vote for in 2015 or in May or worse, will fall into the hands of the Thatcherite Ukip.
Support in the polls for right-wing populist Ukip reflects the disgust among voters at the political system and how Ukip is presented by the BBC and other media outlets as the best weapon to beat the establishment parties.
A new mass workers' party would be able to cut across the growth of Ukip by offering genuinely pro-working class policies, instead of the Tory policies with a fig-leaf of pro-working class rhetoric provided by Ukip.
Unite's strategy of trying to push Labour to the left from inside the party has failed. If the trade union movement was to launch a new workers' party that would be far more effective in exerting pressure on Labour and all the capitalist parties, just as Ukip has acted to put rightward pressure on the Tories.
Rather than giving even £1.5 million a year to Labour, halved from last year's affiliations, think what could be done if Unite's money was put into building a new party putting forward trade union and socialist policies, which could gain the support of millions of workers.
This should be the urgent task of Unite and other unions currently propping up Labour.
In The Socialist 9 April 2014:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Reviews and readers' comments