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Submitted by martin on Fri, 29/12/2006 - 00:45

Obviously Tom agrees that the unions have changed. But he then says that the changes in the Labour Party are only a reflection of those changes in the unions, and not a matter of a significant change in the structure of the Labour Party and in its relationship to the unions or to the working class.
In the previous bout of debate on this, Tom was very explicit about this, asserting for example that Blair was "a typical Labour leader", in fact somewhat less bad than Wilson or Callaghan; that working-class support for the Labour Party was unchanged; that the role of conference within the Labour Party was unchanged; and much more on the same lines.
He summed it up by asserting that the only change in the "bourgeois workers' party" nature of the Labour Party is that it had become a "business unionist" bourgeois workers' party. I.e. there is no tilt to the bourgeois pole in the contradictory combination "bourgeois workers' party"; there's only been a change on the "workers" side, with the unions becoming "business-unionist".
"Business unionism", historically, means unionism on the lines of Samuel Gompers and the early 20th century American Federation of Labor: running trade unions as "businesses" whose sole "business" is to improve wages and conditions for their members (sometimes militantly), while opposing any idea of a workers' or labour political party.
So "business-unionist bourgeois workers' party" is a puzzling formula. But if it conveys any idea at all, it is that the changes in the Labour Party are merely reflections of changes in the unions. AWL collectively has argued the contrary case in some detail for over ten years now.
In his latest contributions, Tom goes further along "nothing-has-changed" lines by applauding Arthur's assertion that the political life in the CLPs today runs as high as it ever did, except maybe in the early 1980s. Publicly-available measures, for example the numbers and the politics of CLP delegates at Labour Party, indicate the contrary, and cannot reasonably be dismissed by reference to anecdotes about inactive Labour Party wards in the early 1970s.
It's no answer at all to claim that we must minimise the adverse changes in the Labour Party in order to keep people's spirits up for efforts like the LRC and the McDonnell campaign.
What would Tom say to someone who claimed that we should insist that the unions today are as militant, as bubbling with life, and as well-organised as they ever were, or otherwise we would fail to keep people's spirits up for the tasks of trade-union work?
Martin Thomas

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