One minute to midnight for the unions and Labour!

Submitted by martin on 6 May, 2008 - 3:53

An open letter from trade-union activists to Tony Woodley, Derek Simpson, Billy Hayes, Paul Kenny, Keith Norman, and other leaders of the Labour-affiliated trade-union left. Add your signature!

Dear brothers and sisters

Like ourselves, you will be shocked at the message that has come from the recent Local Government and London Mayoral elections, loud and urgent: we are on course for the return of a Tory government at the next General Election.

Brown is a disaster. So is the whole New Labour project. The good news is that there is still time to reject the New Labour transformations and restore the old, Trade-Union-based, working-class-based, Labour Party — just. Maybe. But time is short now! It is time to do something — to take urgent action, before it is too late.

Gordon Brown's take-over from Tony Blair as Labour Leader and Prime Minister was eagerly looked forward to by Trade Union leaders like yourselves, and by the Labour Left. Brown was likely to prove a great improvement on Blair. So many of you said and may have believed —. Unlike Blair, Gordon Brown — wasn't that how you used to put it? — was "of the Labour Movement tribe".

Brothers and sisters, you must know now, if you didn't before, that there was never any basis for that expectation!

It was always nonsense, always a wilful misunderstanding. Never more than an excuse for a weak-kneed bowing down before Blair, and the Blair-Brown New Labour "project".

Like Blair, Brown was one of the creators of New Labour. He was as responsible as Blair for the hi-jacking of the old Labour Party.

One of his first acts on becoming Leader-Prime Minister was to take the last step in disenfranchising the Trade Unions and the working class in the Labour Party by abolishing Labour Party Conference altogether, by barring unions and CLPs from putting any political motions to it. It was already an empty shell of what it used to be. Brown decided to bury it.

The whole logic of the "New Labour Project" was to abolish the old Labour Party — and Brown is now close to completing it.

Brown, Blair and the other shameless careerist politicians set out to complete the "Thatcher revolution" by carrying Thatcher's policy into the Labour Movement.

They have almost undone and destroyed the last 100 years of Labour Movement history. That's what "New Labour" has been and is: you can not but know that! Working class people know it; they feel its effects.

The single most telling fact in the recent elections is the abstention or defection of traditional Labour voters, alienated by the shift in tax-rates in Brown's last Budget to take money from the low-paid in order to finance a cut in taxes for the rich.

The epitaph on the tombstone of New Labour and Prime Minister Brown? They fell in a valiant effort to redistribute wealth from the poor to the rich! That they fell in that cause before the Tories, the traditional party of big business, is a nice joke, but not one that Labour Movement people will be laughing at.

Brown will have succeeded in the Thatcherite project of destroying the old political Labour Movement unless action is taken urgently and immediately. By you. It has to be action at the next Labour Party "Conference" by the incumbent Trade Union leaders to move a rule change reversing the decision of last year.

It is one minute to midnight on the clock ticking towards the end of the old Labour Party. For any hope of defeating and reversing the "New Labour project" within what's left of the old Labour Party.

Can they be stopped? Yes, Brown can be stopped at the next Labour Party "Conference" — if the "left" Trade Union leaders like yourselves act. IF. And if, then, you go on to reverse the structural changes of the last decade that in sum amount to the hi-jacking of the Labour Party from the Unions and the working class.

We call on you to act, now, against Brown. Don't wait until after New Labour's defeat in the next General Election! It will be much harder then to undo what Brown, Blair and the others have done. We say, you must act now!

If you do act, and this has to be said candidly, it will be a sharp turn-about in the shameful passivity you displayed last year when, after vowing to fight on that issue, you — astonishingly! — went along with Brown, cravenly agreeing to the abolition of Labour Party Conference.

The rank and file of the unions, and what's left of the Labour Party must make their voices heard, demanding that you act, with the urgency that the situation demands. We ask for signatures on this letter.

What if you continue to refuse to act and let the abolition of Labour Party Conference go ahead?

Then we will have to conclude Old Labour no longer exists. New Labour is an open, unashamed, conscienceless party of the rich, governing the country on behalf of the rich, promoting the growth of fantastic wealth and inequality more stark now than for most of the last century.

Six unions are now affiliated to the unofficial Labour Representation Comittee. Two of the most active, RMT and FBU, are no longer affiliated to the Labour Party, and if a third, the CWU, does not now move against Brown, it is likely that its members will push it to disaffiliate too.

For those unions which are willing to do something in politics, together with socialist activists, to convert the LRC into an active Workers’ Representation Committee, advancing workers’ candidates in elections, will be the best way forward. Some of us advocated that the last LRC conference, and we continue to advocate that.

We will need local labour movement political action committees, and where possible work to develop Trades Councils so they can become such committees.

We will have to build a new broad movement for working-class political representation. From the ground up, if need be. This crisis is one minute to midnight for the possibilities of reclaiming a "Labour" core from the death-grip of New Labour.

(All signatories in personal capacity)

Kate Ahrens, Unison
Janine Booth, RMT
Alison Brown, Unison
Tony Byrne, RMT
Liam Conway, NUT
Alan Fraser, GMB
Nick Holden, Unison
Jean Lane, Unison
Chris Leary, Unison
Pat Longman, NUJ
Pat Markey, NUT
Patrick Murphy, NUT
Martin Ohr, CWU
Mick Sidaway, RMT

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