The decision of the Labour Party’s national executive committee to endorse the Collins report on trade union affiliation will ‘further deepen the crisis of working class political representation’, Bill Greenshields told the Communist Party political committee on Thursday (February 20).
Most affiliated unions support the Collins proposals which will end their collective voice in electing the leader of the Labour Party, if endorsed at a special conference on March 1.
‘They have surrendered a powerful weapon in the struggle to reclaim the Labour Party for the labour movement, in return for cut-price party membership dues for union members’, Mr Greenshields commented.
The Communist Party chair quoted from his own party’s Open Letter to the Labour Movement 18 months ago, which warned that ‘should the Labour Party continue on a right-wing course up to and during the next General Election, the trade union movement and the left will have a duty to consider what further steps may be necessary to ensure that the labour movement has its own mass party … The perspective may need to change from one of the labour movement struggling to reclaim the Labour Party to that of re-establishing a mass party of labour’.
Communist Party trade union organiser Anita Halpin agreed that the Collins proposals will fragment the link between Labour and the unions. She highlighted the significance of replacing collective trade union votes by those of individual registered or affiliated supporters by the end of this year.
‘Trade union representatives on the Labour NEC have voted for their own marginalisation, swallowing the worthless carrot of a review in five years’ time’, Ms Halpin pointed out. She also warned that this five-year period would be used to erode and eventually abolish collective trade union participation in the Labour Party, unless the Collins reforms are defeated.
Communist Party international secretary John Foster declared that adoption of the Collins report represented a ‘great strategic setback’ for all those seeking to reclaim the Labour Party for the working class.
Former Unite trade union national organiser Graham Stevenson pointed out that ‘the mobilisation of the working class and the organisation of deeply rooted movements determine the fate of political parties, not vice versa’. This had been the experience of the labour movement ever since the foundation of the International Working Men’s Association by trade unionists and communists, including Karl Marx, 175 years ago in London.
He reminded the Communist Party political committee that their own Open Letter had raised the possible need for the Trades Union Congress to ‘resume its historic responsibility and convene a special conference of all labour movement organisations to discuss the political representation of the labour movement in the House of Commons’.
Communist Party women’s organiser and Unison activist Liz Payne urged the Morning Star to play its ‘unique role’ and facilitate a strategic debate on the crisis of labour movement representation in Britain.
The Communist Party political committee also welcomed the rapid progress of the People’s Assembly movement and called for massive turnouts for the recall conference on March 15 and the Women’s Assembly against Austerity this Saturday (February 22).