Labour, The TUC and the Levy
The crisis of British capitalism is reflected in the war waging inside the Labour party between Ed Miliband and Len McCluskey General Secretary of Unite, the biggest trade union in Britain. According to Channel 4’s Fact-Check, “Unite the union is Labour’s biggest donor by far. It has provided 20 per cent, or £11.9m, of party donations since the election.”
Miliband, in a letter to Labour party members, is propagating the idea of “one nation”, so that Labour can prepare for coalition government with either the Tories or Liberal Democrats. Miliband states “A hundred years ago the Trade Unions helped to found the Labour Party”. From 1900 the working class through the trade unions founded, built and financed the Labour party to advance the cause of the working class by representing it in parliament.
Miliband further comments “The organised trade unions are no longer part of the Labour party, we are changing that relationship between the Labour party and the trade unions”. The actions of Kinnock who drove out the Militant Tendency and Blair who removed Clause 4 from the Labour party constitution were de-signed to kill off the last vestige of socialism in the Labour party. Miliband takes up the right-wing offensive anew and wants to turn the Labour party into an open capitalist party with no connection to the trade unions or the working class, although he wants to continue receiving big donations from unions like Unite.
McCluskey’s compromise is not designed to starve the Labour party of funds but accept abolition of the political levy. The levy is taken from each member’s contributions and goes directly to the Labour party. It is approximately £3 per year on an “in if you do not opt out” basis. As in the same debates about the Osborne Judgement from 1909 to 1913 most Tory and Liberal politicians want an “out if you do not opt in” position which would cost the party millions of lost subscriptions. The Great Unrest forced the 1913 compromise we still have today.
Ending the political levy would abolish the block vote at conferences and TU influence in local associations. It was the response that Jerry Hicks got crucially on Labour party funding in the General Secretary election in April from 80, 000 Unite members that aerated McCluskey to make his stance. The Labour party want money for nothing, vague Warwick Agreement pre-election promises never kept
The rank and file influence in the Labour party is via the TU bureaucracy, who are at one with Labour lead-ers in pandering to Imperialist chauvinism: British jobs for British workers, anti-immigrant bigotry and support for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. We must defeat this reactionary clique by establishing rank and file control. The Labour party membership must be won to this mass struggle. This is how to win the British working class to the revolutionary party.