It is with great interest that the broad labour movement must follow the ongoing events concerning the future of the link between the Labour Party and the Trade Unions, for, underneath the masks of Party democracy and workers representation the leading protagonists are wearing on the stage of this farcical play, we find the ugliness of their true intentions. Indeed, this is nothing but a power struggle between the modern servants of the British financial oligarchy. An intent by both sides, the petty bourgeois labour politicians on the one hand and the petty bourgeois trade union bureaucrats on the other, to demonstrate to their masters their political importance as pacifiers, modifiers, regulators, of the political beast that is the British working class, and the danger Its political unification within the Labour Party holds for the British establishment.
The labour movement must not forget the role the trade union bureaucracy has played in the past to endorse and strengthen the right wing’s position inside the party. A process which in its latest historical culmination had as a result to open the road for the establishment of New Labour and effectively a Party leadership that would walk hand in hand with the needs of the British financial oligarchy. Nor should it forget how the bureaucrats as early as the days of Ramsey McDonald have fully supported every purge that has taken place against socialist members throughout the party’s history.
The trade unions as institutions have at this stage of history completed their life circle within the bourgeois democracy and have assumed in full, their reactionary role by becoming an integral part of the modern bourgeois state. Not because it was their destiny as institutions in the general terms of their historical existence, but because it is the destiny of every political institution that tries to reform the state. Marxists oppose all aspects and manifestations of reformism for precisely this reason; as the effort to reform the state will result to the self-reformation of that political force and in the end to its assimilation to the state apparatus. To reform a state of affairs is done by firstly accepting the basis upon which the particular state of affairs abides; to reform bourgeois society de facto means to accept the existence of a society based on human exploitation and class division.
Thus the modern bureaucrats infested by this degeneration bourgeois society offers to the ones that wish to take their place in the bourgeois state of affairs under the sign or reformism, driven by the hunger for more prestige and recognition within the bourgeois establishment, have become a parasitical cast, feeding of the livelihood of the working class economically and enjoying the institutional power organised labour provides. They have become so attached to bourgeois democracy and the state that the more ruthless bourgeois law becomes the more important they become in their role to ‘save’ society from the escalation of the class struggle. In their eagerness to demonstrate their ability to perform this task they have become most proficient in moderating any attempt by organised workers to spontaneously move to strike, being the first to use the anti-union laws as an excuse to stifle any industrial action. We need not go too far in history for such an example; the events that took place only last month concerning the workers of Brighton & Hove council is good enough. There the GMB bureaucracy moved swiftly to avert the wild cat actions taken by the council workers against the cuts, managed to split the workforce and force upon them a deal on behalf of the council leadership.
So when Peter Mandelson once stated that New Labour should had changed the rules in relation to the link when they had the chance, it was hardly a case of missing an opportunity, rather a case of not having the nerve to go through with an historic change that might back fire. It has always been easy to control and ‘work’ with, a handful of trade union bureaucrats who themselves carry the votes of hundreds of thousands of organised workers through their corrupted individual unions. What happens though if they are not there to play the role of the dam that holds a potential flood of workers becoming politically active inside the party? Who takes over their positions in the executive committee and other important party committees? Who takes over their weight of votes in the conferences? The CLPs? Party cadres and the rank and file? That is a scenario with an unpredictable for them ending. British bourgeois democracy faces a distinct particularity that most western bourgeois democracies don’t, in that the electoral system in general supports a two party parliamentary democracy. Unlike the Democratic party in the US the Labour party is built on democratic centralist values like most social-democratic parties, with a political structure that even now offers to the rank and file the ability to take part in policy making, locally and nationally. Thus the Labour party provides itself through its history, structure and British electoral system particularities, as the only political outlet for class conscious workers who wish to advance their struggle from the economic/trade union level to the political. If the link was to be broken the illusion of political representation would suddenly be dispersed from the consciousness of six million workers. Should they wish to be represented there after they would have one and only one choice; to individually join the Labour party.
Yet Party members and organized workers are asked to passively pick the lesser of the two evils. The ‘left’ in its inadequacy to offer any class analysis to the issue, is in effect throwing the British working class to a political dead end, and attempts to preserve the illusion of workers representation through left reformism. Like the trade union bureaucrats the left reformists stood silent whenever the right wing of the party attacked socialists in the past and were instrumental to the party’s complete takeover by the right. Ask Tony Blair and he will, as he has in the past, give direct thanks to Neil Kinnock for his success against revolutionary elements in the party at the time, that allowed New Labour to become a reality. During that period the left reformists were not so eager to criticize the right for the undemocratic methods carried against socialists. Nor were they capable of halting the ruthless advance of British capital against British workers from the late 70s onwards after the total collapse of their British social-democratic experiment; and today given the chance they would be the first to leave the party had there been an electorally viable choice of establishing another party. They hold no allegiance to anyone but to themselves and their illusion of democracy and equality within a corrupted and ruthless system, longing for the days they held the key to the soul of the British worker.
The British working class must take an active role in this debate and push through a position that represents its own interests. It should render this bureaucratic link to political irrelevance by workers individually joining the party, forcing a class presence that will create political tremors throughout the British establishment. By preserving and strengthening the link that exists locally between CLPs and local trade union branches, as the only true Trade Union Labour party link, and the only link that can provide political unification of workers inside the party, it can start transforming the British political scenery allowing for the first time to envisage a different tomorrow in a revolutionary manner.