Sunday, 14 October 2007

RMT and PCS unions must take the lead

The objective conditions exist to successfully launch a new working class socialist party.

- Brown is no different from Blair. He has been thoroughly exposed to those who harboured illusions in him.

- Industrial struggle is on the increase. A whole wave of public sector strikes now looks likely.

- The democratic channels within the Labour Party have been closed down. The Labour left is now undergoing a discussion on the way forward.

In these conditions one thing is absent: leadership!

A new party wont come out of thin air. Individuals and / or organisations need to take action. The organisations which would have the most authority and the most ability to launch a new party at the moment are the trade unions.

Clearly, most of the unions are still led by the right, by Blair-Brown apologists or open collaborators who will never take this action. But there are some unions led by the left. The leaders of these unions have already declared themselves for a new party. Chief amongst these left-led unions are the RMT and PCS - also the FBU might be included in this group.

If the RMT and PCS were to lunch a serious initiative to create a new party then undoubtedly they would attract towards it many left-wing union leaders and activists from all the major unions, as well as other organisations and individuals.

What are the leaders of the RMT and PCS doing?

The RMT has, to be fair to them, organised a conference on the question of working class political respresentation. They are also reportedly discussing launching a new party for the London Elections. As soon as this is passed by the union themselves, they need to open up discussions with other unions and left-wing union activists, as well as working class and socialist organisations, with a view to launching a new party as a matter of some urgency.

What about the PCS? This union is led by the left-wing - Mark Serwotka, General Secretary, has been a supporter of parties to the left - including the Socialist Alliance and Respect. The NEC includes a large number from the SP.

Unfortunately the union have not taken any initiatives. True, a large number of the NEC have signed up to the CNWP declaration. In these circumstances however this is not enough - they are leaders of an entire trade union. Have they organised or sponsored any meeting or conference to discuss the question of a new party for the working class?

The PCS should now, at the very least, approach the RMT and others for discussions on jointly launching a new party. If those on the left in the PCS leadership cannot pass motions on the NEC for lack of support, there is nothing stopping them as individuals launching an intiative or discussing with others - they need to be pro-active leaders on this question.

Whether they like it or not, the prime responsibility for launching a new party currently lies with the leaderships of the RMT and PCS. These left-led unions have the authority and resources to pull together thousands of activists as well as different organisations into a new party.

Why is it left to them?

Unfortunately there are currently no other forces that are capable or willing to act. True, mass struggles in the future will throw up new leaders or push existing ones into action. But as we are at the moment, then I'd suggest that the RMT and PCS leaderships have by far the most important and decisive role to play.

There are other left-wing union leaders, but they are less cemented in position and some are in fact isolated. They must still act in a personal capacity to help build any new party or any initiative towards a party.

What about the Labour left?

Undoubtedly somebody like John McDonnell, or any of the other respected socialist MPs, would have the authority to launch a new party and draw towards it thousands of activists and some entire unions. Unfortunately, despite some soul searching and discussion on the way forward, the Labour left are highly unlikely to take the initiative to launch a new party themselves.

A large section of the Labour left would probably jump to something new once it was established. They are either not prepared, or have not yet drawn the conclusions at this stage, to actually take a lead and launch something themselves however. I would of course still encourage them to break with New Labour and lauch a new party. Possibly they could be forced into this action by future events, such as de-selections or even expulsions from the Labour Party. The best way to encourage them to break with New Labour would be a sucessful intiative by the left-led unions that leads to the creation of a new party.

What about Respect?

The fact that Respect is apparently going to approach the RMT, CPB, Bob Wareing MP and others for open discussions is a positive sign. However, given the factional crisis within Respect, which may threaten it's very existance, I would seriously doubt its ability to attract new forces on board at this stage.

It must also be said that many in the labour and socialist movement are critical or wary of the methods of the largest component within Respect, the SWP, as well as their MP George Galloway. How the crisis will play out I've no idea, but I think it unlikely that Respect can go forwards from this.

Any initiative from the RMT and PCS should definitely invite Respect to join with them. Hopefully the best elements, if not the entirity of Respect, would opt to join forces. Any new party or initiative must ensure that it is truly democratic, open and inclusive to avoid the worst mistakes of Respect, as well as having a clear working class and socialist perspective.

What about the CNWP?

The CNWP has attracted a few thousand union activists and leaders to sign up to its declaration. I'm sure that the CNWP would join any new initiative from the RMT and PCS. On it's own however it does not have the same weight as two entire trade unions - an obvious point which I'm sure most CNWP signitories would agree with. It can still play a positive role in developments. What the situation demands now though is conrete initiatives.

What next?

The leaders of the RMT and PCS need to be encouraged / pushed into action. Clearly those active within these unions have the most opportunity to do this. In the wider movement we can help by discussing and debating the strategy needed to launch a new party and trying to engage the leaders of these unions in this.

If a new party or initiative is launched, that's when we can all really get to work, using all the networks we can to help build support and make it a success. The launch of a new party, one backed by entire trade unions from the start, a party that brought together thousands of activists to organise as well as discuss ideas, would be a massive step forwards for the working class and the struggle for socialism.

What do you think? Add your comments!


a very public sociologist said...

Good to see you blogging, comrade. Do it frequently, do it often. Don't be an infrequent'er like me. Down that path lies purgatory.

I've added you to my blog roll.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the Left Unity leadership (ie Socialist party, SWP and CPers) in PCS is that they have seemed fearful of raising a new party amongst the membership, possibly because they worry it helping the right wing in the union in elections.

There was a real opportunity before the SSP split for PCS to back it, however in debates over the political fund, Left Unity went out of its way to say a political fund would not be used to affiliate to a political party -I thought this was a gutless approach. At present, they speak a lot about how successful the PCS parliamentary group is(a cross party group) - it hasnt stopped tens of thousands of job cuts.