Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 5 August 2020

Editorial of the Socialist issue 1097

Labour payouts: unions must discuss political representation

While only mildly criticising the Tories, Starmer has acted firmly to remove all remnants of Corbynism at the top of Labour, photostream/CC

While only mildly criticising the Tories, Starmer has acted firmly to remove all remnants of Corbynism at the top of Labour, photostream/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Unite union leader Len McCluskey rightly stated, in an interview with the Observer, that the Labour Party leadership has misused trade union members' money. He was referring to the Starmer leadership's decision to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds in settlements and apologise to eight people who had contributed to a scurrilous anti-Corbyn BBC Panorama documentary last year on antisemitism.

Jeremy Corbyn also criticised the settlements, calling them "a political decision, not a legal one". When he was Labour's leader, lawyers had advised him that the party had a strong case against the eight.

This latest episode in the long-running use of antisemitism alle-gations against Corbyn supporters adds to the list of rightward leaps spearheaded by Keir Starmer.

Rightward lurch

In the Observer, McCluskey warned Starmer not to go "too much to the right" and to stick to the ten pledges he made in his campaign to become leader. The pledges included the Corbyn policies of abolishing tuition fees and returning public ownership to rail, mail, energy and water.

However, after his victory, Starmer set about decisively shifting the party away from the Corbyn era. While only mildly criticising the Tories, he acted firmly to remove all remnants of Corbynism at the top of Labour, getting rid of Jennie Formby as general secretary and Rebecca Long-Bailey as shadow education minister, among numerous other changes.

'Blairism' has returned in more ways than as a political categorisation, as the new general secretary, David Evans, was once an assistant general secretary under Blair himself.

Regarding keeping some of Corbyn's popular policies, Starmer knew they would help him to win the leadership, fully aware he could later drop them.

His pledges included that Labour should "work shoulder to shoulder with trade unions" and "maintain collective links" with them. But the influence of the unions on the Labour Party was drastically reduced during rightward steps between 1992 and 2015 to create the firmly pro-capitalist New Labour, and they have not been reversed.

Today the affiliated unions only have a third of the members of the party's National Executive Committee and less than a sixth of the National Policy Forum. Their affiliation fees provide the party with less than 15% of its income. So Unite, despite giving over 7 million to Labour since the start of 2019, is not able to prevent Labour's political misuse of that money on the settlements to the eight, even in alliance with the other affiliates.

Nor can it stop the many other misuses of its money in the course of the party being taken further and further away from representing working-class interests.

The explicit rightward path of the Starmer leadership makes it all the more urgent that trade union and anti-austerity activists, along with socialists inside and outside Labour, discuss how a vehicle for socialist, working-class political representation can be re-established.

Perpetrators into 'victims'

Seven of the eight people being given the financial settlements are former Labour staff members. They claimed to be defending their reputations after a representative of Corbyn's leadership called them "disaffected, politically hostile former employees" who gave "malicious, selective briefing" to the Panorama programme.

That they were politically hostile to Corbyn's leadership was never in doubt. Moreover, they were part of a Labour machine which in April 2020 was exposed in a leaked report - into Labour's handling of antisemitism complaints - as acting over years to undermine Corbyn. The report cited instances of anti-Corbyn senior staff using racist and other abuse, failing to deal properly with antisemitism cases, and even trying to prevent a Labour victory in the 2017 general election.

John McDonnell subsequently commented: "The same procedures must apply to those implicated in this report as apply to other party members. If charges are serious, implicated members are suspended pending the outcome of investigation and discipline. Those found guilty of serious contraventions of our rules should be expelled."

Not surprisingly, no such action has been taken by the Starmer leadership. For them it's one rule for those on the right, while regular reports have continued of Corbyn supporters being suspended or expelled, in most cases on trumped-up charges.

Meanwhile, Labour's left figureheads have - both today and throughout Corbyn's leadership years - failed to go on the offensive against the politically motivated, false accusations of antisemitism, and to explain to a wide audience why antisemitism and socialist ideas have nothing in common.

Even Rebecca Long-Bailey, the politically closest leadership contender to Corbyn, argued for an apology and settlement to be given to the eight.

A fight against the right on that issue was just one of the many struggles needed to transform Labour away from a pro-capitalist agenda. Others should have included pushing for the reintroduction of mandatory reselection for parliamentary candidates; measures to transfer power from the party bureaucracy to the membership and affiliated unions; and demanding that Labour councillors must refuse to pass on Tory cuts.

Building an alternative

Len McCluskey - who has affirmed he will stay in office until April 2022 - mentioned in the Observer a "major gathering" in the autumn. At this stage his position is: "It's not supposed to be an alternative. It's supposed to be a declaration that we are here. We are going nowhere. And we stand for those principles of radicalism and socialism that we've fought for all our lives."

However, the scenario of prolonged capitalist crisis that has begun will be accompanied by battles between working-class and capitalist interests that will make that position untenable. The vast layer of workers and young people who face relentless attacks from the bosses on jobs, pay, terms and conditions precisely need the development of a clear and determined political alternative to Blairism.

Standing for 'principles of radicalism and socialism' will not be compatible with funding Labour MPs and councillors who implement austerity and other measures in capitalist interests.

This is why the Socialist Party has called for discussion in the workers' movement on the need for a new mass workers' party.

A 'major gathering' of trade unionists and socialists is definitely needed, in the form of a conference that can democratically discuss and debate how political representation for the working class can concretely be re-established in the situation created by Starmer's leadership.

Current support for Corbyn and his policies was shown in the response to a defence appeal for him, after he was personally threatened with legal action. In just over a week, 325,000 poured in from over 17,000 donors.

Some of the most rabid right wingers in Labour are raring for more action against Corbyn than those legal threats.

Among them is former speech writer for Blair, Philip Collins, who used his column in the Times to hurl unpolitical insults at Corbyn and end with: "Kick Corbyn out. Take away the whip, expel him from the party" (24 July).

However, most Labour pro-capitalist strategists are highly wary of such moves, realising they could possibly drive Corbyn and his support base towards a new party.

Either way, with or without the involvement of any particular individual, the need for a mass workers' party that can discuss and adopt a socialist programme is inherent in today's situation.

The Socialist Party has already initiated a call for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) to once again stand anti-cuts candidates in the next local and mayoral elections, following TUSC's suspension of standing in the last local elections.

Presenting candidates who will fight for workers' interests can only aid the discussion on how a mass workers' party can be built, while in the meantime playing an important role in putting a socialist alternative on the ballot papers.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

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.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 5 August 2020:


NHS pay: 15% for all now

From first wave to second? Capitalism's Covid failures

Capitalism's 'vaccine war' shows need for socialist cooperation

Tories' obesity plans - blaming individuals not the profit system

What we think

Labour payouts: unions must discuss political representation

Workplace news

Wales: GE Aviation workers march to save jobs

PCS union: Reject longer DWP opening hours

'First you clap us then you slap us': hundreds march for NHS pay rise

Sick pay victory at Homerton hospital!

Unite union branch pledges to support socialist candidates who oppose cuts

Oppose BT site closures - national strike ballot needed

Workplace news in brief

No going back

What would socialist universities look like?


Cuba: Covid-19 and the 60-year-old embargo

Anniversary of nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

80 years since the murder of Leon Trotsky rally


A-level results day 2020: Fight for our future!

Fighting to end racism and capitalism

North London: Socialist Party speaks at BLM protest

Young Socialist day of action

Doncaster: Vigil for murdered women

Engage for Change Hull - trade union youth festival goes online

Campaign stalls on jobs, pay, NHS and racism

Why I joined - Covid changed my outlook

Socialist Party meetings: Online and in-person

The Socialist summer schedule


Home   |   The Socialist 5 August 2020   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:

Labour Party:

triangleLiverpool Socialist Party: The Labour Party - what is its future?

triangleNon-fiction: Left Out - the inside story of Labour under Corbyn

triangleWhy I joined the Socialist Party: Tories and Blairites only care about corporate greed

triangle100 years since the foundation of the Communist Party of Great Britain

triangleWorkers need a new mass party to defend their interests


triangleJobs, training, pay, we want a future!

triangleA Socialist Party poster held on the Saturday 12 September demonstration in Bristol, part of a day of action in solidarity with NHS & social care workers who are demanding increased pay. Photo by Mike Luff

triangleCovid testing the TUC

triangleWaltham Forest Socialist Party: Trade unions in the era of Covid and capitalist crises


triangleTUSC to stand in elections again against pro-austerity politicians

triangleA critical election for Unison general secretary

triangleLincoln: Save Drill Hall


triangleHackney & Islington Socialist Party: Tories in Crisis

triangleSocialist Students & Young Socialists national zoom rally


triangleMass protests in Israel demand Netanyahu's resignation


triangleTrade unionists and artists stand with Maxine Peake

Len McCluskey:

triangleA fighting programme for Unite

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Britain's fragile Covid equilibrium is coming to an end



NHS workers: "We deserve a fair wage" - 15% now!



Capitalist profit and the race to develop a vaccine



Covid and the third sector: for public planning, not charity stopgaps



Under the microscope



'Covid marshalls' must be accountable to communities



Blame politicians, not workers and young people



Johnson's brinkmanship over EU deal deepens capitalist splits



Sketch: The rule of six - some guidance from your government



Our lives and livelihoods at stake



Safety overridden in drive to bolster the economy



U-turn Tories' splits are growing



A critical election for Unison general secretary


Minimum wage

Callous Tories threaten not to uprate the minimum wage



Under the microscope

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020