The Trade Union Movement, New Labour, and Working-Class Politics

Marxism and Syndicalism

Published on: Sat, 06/10/2007 - 14:18

John Bloxam and Sean Matgamna


Syndicalists varied greatly from place to place and had varying relationships with left-wing politicians.

The pre-World War One syndicalists in Britain — Tom Mann etc — recoiled against the weak-kneed parliamentarians of the Mac Donald-led Labour Party and disappointment with the effects of early labour movement Parliamentary action.

The Labour Party, still heavily entwined with the Liberals in politics, and in many constituencies entangled in electoral pacts with them, must have looked like only another edition of the pre-Labour Party “Lib-Labs” MPs fielded by the trade

What do Marxists do in the labour movement?

Published on: Sat, 06/10/2007 - 12:27

Sean Matgamna and John Bloxam

“It is necessary to find the particular link in the chain which must be grasped with all one’s strength in order to keep the whole chain in place and prepare to move on resolutely to the next link.”

V I Lenin

What is the role of Marxists such as the supporters of Solidarity and Workers’ Liberty in the labour movement? Is it only to develop the influence of Marxism by making propaganda in the existing broad labour movement, essentially now, the trade unions? Or is it to build a revolutionary organisation — an organisation integrated in the broader labour movement, but nevertheless also a

Leon Trotsky: Class, Union, and Party

Published on: Sat, 06/10/2007 - 12:24

Sean Matgamna and John Bloxam

The trade unions are not only the bedrock of the labour movement.
With the Blairite hijacking of the Labour Party, which had been founded at the beginning of the 20th century by the trade unions and socialist organisations to fight for working class interests, the trade unions are pretty much all that’s left of the labour movement.

Even though the number of trade unionists has fallen from its peak strength in the pre-Thatcher years, 25 years ago, it is still a very powerful movement. There are twice as many trade unionists in Britain now as there were in France in 1968, when the working class

The Trade Union Movement, New Labour, and Working-Class Politics: Introduction

Published on: Fri, 24/11/2006 - 11:21

The biggest event in working-class politics for many decades is the Blairite hijacking of the Labour Party, in the mid 1990s. The Blairites have transformed the Labour Party, which the trade unions founded over a hundred years ago, from the treacherous “bourgeois workers’ party” it had been into something qualitatively different..

In the public pronouncements of its leaders, New Labour is an explicitly anti-working-class party. It treats the labour movement and the working class with open contempt and undisguised bourgeois hostility.

If New Labour did and does still belong to the general

The Trade Union Movement, New Labour, and Working-Class Politics: Part III. Trotsky and anti-Labour candidates in the 30s

Published on: Tue, 21/11/2006 - 11:32

“Q: Was the ILP correct in running as many candidates as possible in the recent General Election, even at the risk of splitting the vote?

LDT: Yes. It would have been foolish for the ILP to have sacrificed its political programme in the interests of so-called unity, to allow the LP to monopolise the platform as the Communist Party did. We do not know our strength until we test it. There is always a risk of splitting, and of losing deposits, but such risks must be taken: otherwise we boycott ourselves” (emphasis LDT).

(Once again the ILP, November 1935. Interview by E. Robertson).

“While the

The basic issues in dispute (Part IV of The Trade Union Movement, New Labour, and Working-Class Politics)

Published on: Mon, 20/11/2006 - 12:58

John Bloxam and Sean Matgamna


“Defeats there have been, but there has been no decisive irreversible shift in the class character of the Labour Party.
It remains a bourgeois workers’ party. If any qualifications need to be made to this formula they would be that it has become a neo-liberal, business unionist, bourgeois workers’ party. Labour has never been a workers’ party in any meaningful political sense, it has always been a bourgeois political machine sitting on top of the trade union movement. The union/labour link has always functioned in the last

The Trade Union Movement, New Labour, and Working-Class Politics: Part V. Methods, models, mystifications

Published on: Sun, 19/11/2006 - 13:11


“We would like to see the political funds above the affiliation fee used to organise a wide range of assertive campaigning and organising initiatives both inside and outside the Labour Party. Unions could insist on only funding MPs who would be prepared to be accountable to them. The union could seek to group together and organise pro-trade union MPs, preferably alongside other unions. Support could be given to a campaign to reclaim the Labour Party. Local campaigns could be organised to deselect Blairite MPs and promote democratically accountable

The Trade Union Movement, New Labour, and Working-Class Politics: Part VI. Marxists, militants, and working-class socialism

Published on: Sat, 18/11/2006 - 13:13


J & S argue:

“These facts indicate that a general policy of attempting to win official union backing for socialist electoral challenges to Labour has no grip.
Such a policy could only be implemented if one of two conditions held true: either that we had no intention of allowing the union members a real say in the decision, or, we were deluded enough to think that if we acted as if the majority of the class supported us, they would.”

How could we conceivably engineer “a general policy of … official union backing for socialist electoral

The Trade Union Movement, New Labour, and Working-Class Politics: Part VII. Politics and trade-unionism are not the same thing

Published on: Thu, 16/11/2006 - 13:15


“The fact, that through this mechanism of ruling class domination [the Labour Party] the trade unions have also secured piecemeal reforms and concessions, is no more remarkable than the idea that the union leaderships can sometimes achieve concessions through agreements regulating the terms of the labour contract”.

Here too, one of the old descriptive commonplaces of our tendency — that the Labour Party was the trade unions extending their bargaining on behalf of the workers into Parliament and generalising it into society-wide interests and demands

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