Fighting for a workers' government

Submitted by Anon on 3 May, 2005 - 11:34

One thing is certain about the General Election. The new government after 5 May will be one that most working-class people regard as arrogant, unresponsive, accountable, and one that is attuned more to the drives of global capital than to the wants and needs of most voters.

A third Blair-Labour regime, a Labour/ Lib-Dem coalition, or a Tory/ Lib-Dem coalition - those are about the only possibilities, and none look good.

The established mainstream political parties have a huge "force of inertia" - money, support from one section or another of the billionaire-controlled media, and organisational machines. Over decades they have "educated" the electorate into thinking that voting for principles is a fool's game, and the best you can ever do is give your vote to the party which seems, as far as anyone can ever tell through the fog of spin-doctoring, to be the lesser evil.

Discontent alone does not and cannot change things. If workers in a factory or an office are discontented with their low wages and poor conditions, that, in itself, will change nothing. Only organisation, and then organised action, will change things. Without it, discontent is eventually ground down into resignation, despair, or apathy.

The same is true in politics. Without organisation, there are no new alternatives in politics.

Where do we start? We need more people to join the Alliance for Workers' Liberty and to promote Solidarity. We want more groups to join the Socialist Green Unity Coalition, and the coalition to move towards wider united action beyond the electoral alliance.

We also want to make the socialist active minority an effective lever for larger-scale organisation.

Some larger-scale organisation already exists. Seven million workers are members of trade unions. We know the weaknesses of union organisation; we do not exaggerate or romanticise; but there are 230,000 workplace union reps in Britain.

That is a body of (more or less) active people greater than any political party can boast.

The unions have policies for public services and public ownership; against privatisation; for rebuilding the welfare state; for workers' rights; against war in Iraq, and for supporting the new Iraqi labour movement; against university tuition fees; and, many of them, for asylum rights.

The policies may be blurred at the edges, but they are a thousand times closer to what working-class people want and need than anything the big parties will suggest in this General Election.

The policies go unheard because the organisations go unmobilised. The unions have not fought for a political voice. Socialists can and must turn the unions round on this.

And turn them round onto a high road for progress, not into a blind alley. The railworkers' union RMT, the most politically vocal of the unions, has got expelled by the Labour Party, but dilly-dallied with Welsh nationalists and Greens, instead of carrying out its own union conference decision to organise a conference of trade unions and working-class community organisation to discuss working-class political representation.

The union movement need not, and should not, relegate itself to the role of occasional funding agency for miscellaneous leftish-talking middle-class political groups. What we need, and what the unions should aim for, is nothing less than a workers' government.

We have a bosses' government - a government that defines its first duty as being "pro-business". We have the Tories and the Lib-Dems, who claim to be even more "pro-business" than Blair and Brown. We have a political system geared to serve the interests of the wealthiest few per cent of the population, with any concessions or improvements for the other 90-odd per cent strictly secondary.

We propose the unions fight for the opposite - a government geared to the wants and needs of the majority.

The big majority should not be reduced to seeking crumbs from the table of the top few per cent. The 230,000 union activists, and the hundreds of thousands of others they can stir into activity, should not reduce themselves to being helpers for midde-class politicians and hoping for a few sops in return. They should seek to put their own women and men, people accountable to the labour movement, into office.

Only a government based on and accountable to the labour movement is likely even to take the minimal steps of restoring the right of unions to take effective industrial action, and rebuilding public services under public ownership. To aim for anything less than a workers' government is to give up on those objectives.

Socialists will want a workers' government to go further - to overthrow capitalism. We argue that it will not be able to make even its minimal reforms stable and solid unless it does that.

That is an argument that we can and will have within the labour movement, as it mobilises politically. But the first step is to define the broad direction: a workers' government.

In the name of that broad direction, we fight for the unions affiliated to the Labour Party to use their strength in the Labour structures to insist on basic working-class policies and to get Blair replaced by a leader loyal to the labour movement.

Given the weight of the "New Labour" army of advisers, spin-doctors, researchers, and political assistants, such a fight would probably end with Blair and Brown, and many of the MPs, hiving off, maybe to merge with the Lib-Dems. But it would also rally tens of thousands of working-class people as the activist base of a new workers' party.

Such efforts require a battle for democratic membership control of the unions' political funds. And the precondition for it all is more, and more active, organised socialists - people who dare to fight to lift the vision of the labour movement above the glum, resigned acceptance of the "lesser evil".

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