Don’t go back, go forward

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The post-leadership battle has already begun. James Marshall of Labour Party Marxists calls for the adoption of new principles and decisive measures.

Once Jeremy Corbyn is officially declared winner, a review of our constitution is surely on the cards. Understandably, clause four – agreed in 1918 and then rewritten under Tony Blair in 1995 – has been singled out. It carries totemic status for partisans both of the right and left.

But should the left seek to raise the 1918 Lazarus? Or should we audaciously reach out for another future? Asked if he wanted to bring back the old clause four, comrade Corbyn said this: “I think we should talk about what the objectives of the party are, whether that’s restoring clause four as it was originally written or it’s a different one. But we shouldn’t shy away from public participation, public investment in industry and public control of the railways.”1

Very moderate. Nonetheless very welcome.

Of course, there are those now outside our ranks who are determined to look back. Dave Nellist – former Labour MP for Coventry South East, national chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and a leading member of the Socialist Party in England and Wales – reportedly insists that the old clause four must be “reinstated”.

As an aside, comrade Nellist says, when Corbyn is elected, he is “going to have to create a new party in the same way Tony Blair did in the 90s.”2 A good king/bad king contrivance forced upon SPEW because of its abject failure to recognise the underlying continuities amidst the retrogressive changes imposed during the 1990s. However, even the most blockheaded Victorian worshipper of royalty did not claim that, having succeeded his brother, the ‘good’ king Richard, the ‘bad’ king John founded a brand-new English kingdom.

SPEW seriously wants us to believe that Labour pre-1995 was a “political weapon for the workers’ movement” and that post-1995 it became a “British version of the Democrats in the USA”.3 Nonetheless in 2015 our supposedly capitalist party is preparing to announce Corbyn as leader. A strategic misjudgement on SPEW’s part, to put it mildly. And, let us never forget, even after Corbyn had actually made it onto the ballot, SPEW was arguing that, the “sooner Unite breaks from Labour …, the better”.4 The unkind will call this a premeditated wrecking attempt; kinder souls will put it down to blundering idiocy.

Suffice to say, when it comes to clause four, SPEW is far from alone. As well as exiles, the mainstream Labour left also looks back to what is, in fact, an anti-working class tradition.

Original

True, the 1918 clause four (part four) committed us to “secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service”.

Mistakenly, this is often fondly remembered as a defining socialist moment. But when it was first drafted – amidst the slaughter of inter- imperialist war – the calculated aim of Sidney Webb, its Fabian author, was threefold.

Firstly, clause four socialism must be implicitly anti-Marxist. Webb well knew the history of the workers’ movement in Germany. Karl Marx famously mocked various passages in the Gotha programme (1875), not least those which declared that every worker should receive a “fair distribution of their proceeds of labour” and that “the proceeds of labour belong undiminished with equal right to all members of society”.5 Contradictory and vacuous, concluded Marx. What is fair? What about replacement means of production? What about the expansion of production? What about those unable to work? More than that, Marx put these and other such woolly formulations down to an unneeded concession to the followers of Ferdinand Lassalle. His Workers’ programme (1862) called for “an equal right to the undiminished proceeds of labour”. Obviously Webb wanted to give clause four a distinct Lassallean coloration not out of admiration for Lassalle, but because he wanted to distance the Labour Party from Marxism.

Secondly, by adopting clause four socialism, the Labour Party could both distinguish itself from the exhausted, divided and rapidly declining Liberal Party and please the trade union bureaucracy. Since the 1890s the TUC had been drawing up various wish lists of what ought to be nationalised; eg, rails, mines, electricity, liquor and land. Clause four socialism also usefully went along with the grain of Britain’s wartime experience. There was steadily expanding state intervention in the economy. Nationalisation was, as a result, widely identified with efficiency, modernisation and beating the foreign enemy. It therefore appealed to technocratically minded elements amongst the middle classes.

Thirdly, clause four socialism could be used to divert the considerable rank-and-file sympathy that existed for the Russian Revolution into safe, peaceful and exclusively constitutional channels. That did not stop prime minister David Lloyd George from declaring, in his closing speech of the 1918 general election campaign, that the “Labour Party is being run by the extreme pacifist Bolshevik group”.6

Almost needless to say, clause four was mainly for show. A red ribbon around what was the standing programme of social liberalism. Yet, even if it had been put into effect, clause four socialism would remain statist, elitist and antithetical to working class self-liberation. Capitalism without capitalists does not count amongst our goals. Railways, mines, land, electricity, etc, passes into the hands of the British empire state.7 Capitalist owners are bought out. Eased into a comfortable retirement. But, as they vacate the field of production, a new class of state-appointed managers enters the fray. In terms of the division of labour, they substitute for the capitalists. The mass of the population, meanwhile, remain exploited wage- slaves. They would be subject to the same hierarchal chain of command, the same lack of control, the same mind- numbing routine.

Marxism, by contrast, is based on an altogether different perspective. If it is to win its freedom, the working class must overthrow the existing state. But – and this is crucial – in so doing the proletariat “abolishes itself as a proletariat, abolishes all class distinctions and antagonisms, abolishes also the state as state”.8 Capitalist relations of production and the whole bureaucratic state apparatus are swept away. Every sphere of social life sees control exercised from below. All positions of command are elected or chosen by lot and are regularly rotated. Hierarchy is flattened. Alienation is overcome. What is produced and how it is produced radically alters too. Need, not exchange, is the ruling principle. And alone such an association of producers creates the benign conditions which allow for the full development of each and every individual.

Admittedly, the old clause four resulted from a far-reaching cultural shift – the Russian Revolution has already been mentioned. But there is also the 1867 Reform Act and the extension of the franchise, the considerable popularity of socialist propaganda, the growth of trade unions, the formation of the Labour Party and the horrors of World War I. Because of all this, and more, capitalism was widely considered abhorrent, outmoded and doomed. As a concomitant, socialism became the common sense of the organised working class.9

Of course, what the Fabians meant by socialism was a self-proclaimed extension of social liberalism. The Fabians would gradually expand social welfare provision and harness the commanding heights of the economy with a view to promoting the national interest.

In other words, the Fabians consciously sought to ameliorate the mounting contradictions between labour and capital and thus put off socialism. As Fredrick Engels damningly noted, “fear of revolution is their guiding principle”.10 And, needless to say, the years 1918-20 witnessed army mutinies, colonial uprisings, a massive strike wave and brutal Black and Tan oppression meted out in Ireland.

Interestingly, before 1918 attempts to commit the party to socialism met with mixed success. The 1900 founding conference rejected the “class war” ultimatum tabled by the Social Democratic Federation.11 Despite that, conference voted to support the “socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange”. The next year a socialistic motion moved by Bruce Glasier was defeated. In 1903 another socialistic motion fell; this time without debate. Two years latter conference passed a motion with the exact same wording. In 1907 the previous endorsement of socialism was overturned at the prompting of … Bruce Glasier. Despite that, the same conference agreed to set the goal of “socialising the means of production, distribution and exchange”.12

The explanation for the seesawing doubtless lies with electoral expediency. While most in the party leadership considered themselves socialists of a kind, they were mortally afraid of losing out in the polls. What appeared acceptable to likely voters set their limits. So, instead of fearlessly presenting a bold socialist vision and building support on that basis, Sidney Webb, Arthur Henderson, Ramsay MacDonald and co chased the capricious vagaries of popularity. With the radicalisation of 1918-20 socialist declarations were considered a sure way of adding to Labour’s ranks in parliament.13 Forming a government being both a means and an end.

Nevertheless, the Blairisation of clause four in 1995 was hugely symbolic, the ground being laid by the Eurocommunists and their Marxism Today journal. Socialism was declared dead and buried, the working class a shrinking minority. Only if Labour accepted capitalism and reached out to the middle classes would it have a future. Neil Kinnock, John Smith and finally Tony Blair dragged the party ever further to the right. Out went the commitment to unilateral disarmament, out went the commitment to comprehensive education, out went the commitment to full employment, out went the commitment to repeal the Tories’ anti-trade union laws, out went the commitment to “the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”.

By sacrificing the old clause four in the full glare of publicity Blair and his New Labour clique sought to appease the establishment, the City, the Murdoch empire, the global plutocracy. Capitalism would be absolutely safe in their hands. A New Labour government could be relied upon not even to pay lip service to a British version of state capitalism. Leftwingers such as Tony Benn, Dennis Skinner, Diane Abbott and Ken Livingstone protested, trade union leaders grumbled, but the April 1995 special conference voted by 65% in favour of Blair’s new clause four.

Needless to say, his version is stuffed full of managerial guff and classless nonsense. Just what one would expect from the architect of New Labour. After all, one of Blair’s big ideas was to replace ‘socialism’ with ‘social-ism’. Another was communitarianism. But, of course, the media glowed with admiration. Crucially, Rupert Murdoch agreed to unleash his attack dogs: within a few months John Major was almost universally derided as a total incompetent, heading a sleaze-mired government.

Riding high in the opinion polls, Blair inaugurated a series of internal ‘reforms’. Conference was gutted. No longer could it debate issues, vote on policy or embarrass the leadership in front of the media. Instead the whole thing became a rubber-stamping exercise. Then there were the tightly controlled policy forums, the focus groups and the staffing of the party machine with eager young careerists (most on temporary contracts). Blair thereby asserted himself over the national executive committee … considerably reducing its effectiveness in the process.

Class lines

Demands for a return of the old clause four are perfectly understandable. But why go back to a Fabian past? Instead we surely need to persuade members and affiliates to take up the cause of “replacing the rule of capital with the rule of the working class”. Our socialism would (a) introduce a democratically planned economy, (b) end the ecologically ruinous cycle of production for the sake of production and (c) move towards a stateless, classless, moneyless society that embodies the principle, “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs” (Labour Party Marxists alternative clause four).

Towards that end our party must be reorganised from top to bottom. A special conference – say in the spring of 2016 – should be called by the NEC with a view to overhauling the constitution and rules and undertaking an across-the-board political reorientation.

As is well known, Labour members loathe the undemocratic rules and structures put in place by Blair. The joint policy committee, the national policy forums, the whole sorry rigmarole should be junked. The NEC must be unambiguously responsible for drafting manifestos. And, of course, the NEC needs to be fully accountable to a sovereign conference.

The chances are that in the immediate aftermath of Corbyn’s victory there will be another huge upsurge in membership. At the very least 100,000 more can be expected to join. But in order to reach out to the millions who are angry, the millions disgusted by corrupt career politicians, the millions who believe that somehow a better world is possible, the Labour Party ought to establish its own mass media. Nowadays that must include internet-based TV and radio stations. Relying on the favours of the bourgeois press and media worked splendidly for Tony Blair. But we will get nothing but lies, distortion and implacable opposition. The dull-as-ditchwater publications of the trade union bureaucracy and the confessional sects are a model of what to avoid. They turn people off. But a media which strives to tell the truth, which encourages debate, which deals with difficult questions, is another matter. We can surely do better than the BBC, Al Jazeera and Sky.

Branding people as ‘infiltrators’ because, mainly out of frustration, they supported the Greens, Tusc or Left Unity in the last general election, does nothing to advance the socialist cause. Such a snarling response is worryingly reminiscent of the cold war bans and proscriptions. New recruits ought to be welcomed, not cold-shouldered.

We are proud of being a federal party. Therefore securing n ew affiliates ought to be at the top of our agenda. Indeed we should actively seek to bring every leftwing group or party under our banner. Labour needs to become the common home of every socialist organisation, cooperative and trade union – the agreed goal of our founders.14 In that same spirit, unions which have either disaffiliated or been expelled must be brought back into the fold.

We are proud of being a federal party. Therefore securing new affiliates ought to be at the top of our agenda. Indeed we should actively seek to bring every leftwing group or party under our banner. Labour needs to become the common home of every socialist organisation, cooperative and trade union – the agreed goal of our founders.14 In that same spirit, unions which have either disaffiliated or been expelled must be brought back into the fold.

At the last Fire Brigades Union national conference, general secretary Matt Wrack asked those proposing reaffiliation “what their strategy” of changing Labour was, “because he had never heard it”.15 Well, Matt, for the moment that strategy goes under the name, ‘Operation Corbyn’. Of course, today both the Rail, Maritime and Transport union and the FBU are backing him … from outside Labour. Moreover, there are unions which have never had an organised relationship with us. Regrettably, Mark Serwotka, Public and Commercial Services union general secretary, was one of those turned away. But, instead of impotently complaining about it on Twitter, he should turn the tables on the Blairites by bringing in his entire membership. Mark, fight to get PCS to affiliate.

For our part, we should commit the Labour Party to reviving the trade union movement. The drop from 12 million members in the late 1970s to some seven million today can be reversed. Labour members should take the lead in recruiting masses of new trade unionists and restoring union strength in workplaces and society at large. In line with this, strikes must be unashamedly supported. There ought to be a binding commitment on councillors, MPs and MEPs to back workers in their struggle to protect jobs, pensions and conditions. Those who refuse ought to be subject to deselection.

The opt-in proposals contained in Sajid Javid’s Trade Union Bill are part of a crude attempt to starve us of funds. But adversity can be transformed into opportunity. Necessity will oblige us to campaign for hearts and minds if the bill passes into law. Nevertheless, the principle we fight for is perfectly clear. All trade unionists should be obliged to pay the political levy. Worryingly, we have met opposition to this within the Labour Representation Committee and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. But the obligation to pay the political levy was agreed practice from 1900 till 1909 and, more importantly, flows directly from the basic requirements of working class collectivism.16

Because of history, because of numerical weight, because of financial contributions, transforming the Labour Party is inseparably linked with the fight to democratise the trade unions. All office-holders in the trade unions ought to be subject to regular election and be recallable. No regional organiser, no president, no general secretary should receive a salary higher than the average wage of their membership. Frankly, Len McCluskey’s £140,000 pay and pension package is totally unacceptable. Rules which serve to blunt, restrict or outlaw criticism of the trade union bureaucracy must be rescinded. Put another way, no more ‘monkey trials’.17

Then there is the trade union vote at conference. It should not be cast by general secretaries, but proportionately, in accordance with the agreed political make-up of each delegation. We have no wish to go back to the days when conference was dominated by four or five men in suits.

Obviously the Parliamentary Labour Party has to be brought into line. No- one knows exactly what will happen after September 12. But we should expect a campaign of manoeuvring, resistance, non-cooperation and if that fails outright war. In fact the first shots have already been fired. Blair’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ opinion piece in The Observer had nothing to do with a final plea in the leadership campaign.18 We all know what the result is going to be. No, its purpose is perfectly clear. Rally the Blairites and their corporate, state and international allies.

Given present circumstances, it is unlikely that the hard right will go for a breakaway. Another Social Democratic Party is an outside possibility. But at the last general election the Lib Dems were hammered. The centre ground has virtually disappeared as a parliamentary force. Hence the Blairites have nowhere to go except the government benches. But, being dedicated careerists, they know their constituents would turf them out at the first opportunity if they switched to the Tories. Instead of the glories of high office it would be the musty corridors of the Lords. So expect them to wage a prolonged, sophisticated and utterly ruthless fightback.

We must respond by constitutionally reversing the domination of the party by the PLP. Tory collaborators, saboteurs, the plain corrupt, must be hauled up before the NEC and threatened with expulsion. If they refuse to abide by party discipline the whip must be withdrawn. We should democratically select and promote trustworthy replacement candidates. If that results in a smaller PLP in the short term that is a price well worth paying.

Another potent weapon against the hard right is the demand that all our elected representatives should take only the average wage of a skilled worker. Here is a principle upheld by the Paris Commune and the Bolshevik revolution. When it comes to existing salaries, the balance should be given to the party. On current figures, that means around £40,000 from each MP (at present they are only obliged to pay the £82 parliamentarians’ subscription rate). That would put a break on careerism and give a substantial fillip to our finances. It ought to be a basic principle that our representatives live like workers, not pampered members of the upper middle class.

Reclaiming

Real Marxists, not fake Marxists, have never talked of reclaiming Labour. It has never been ours in the sense of being a “political weapon for the workers’ movement”. No, despite the electoral and trade union base, our party has been dominated throughout its entire history by professional politicians and trade union bureaucrats. A distinct social stratum which in the last analysis serves not the interests of the working class, but the nation, ie, British capitalism.

Supporting the newly formed Communist Party of Great Britain applying for affiliation, Lenin said this about the Labour Party:

“[W]hether or not a party is really a political party of the workers does not depend solely upon a membership of workers, but also upon the men that lead it, and the content of its actions and its political tactics. Only this latter determines whether we really have before us a political party of the proletariat.

“Regarded from this, the only correct, point of view, the Labour Party is a thoroughly bourgeois party, because, although made up of workers, it is led by reactionaries, and the worst kind of reactionaries at that, who act quite in the spirit of the bourgeoisie. It is an organisation of the bourgeoisie, which exists to systematically dupe the workers with the aid of the British Noskes and Scheidemanns.19”

Despite all the subsequent changes, this assessment retains its essential truth. Labour is still a “bourgeois workers’ party”. However, once Corbyn is formally announced as leader on September 12, things will become rather more complex. Labour will become a chimera. Instead of a twofold contradiction we will have a threefold contradiction. The left will dominate both the top and bottom of the party.

Corbyn is not the equivalent of George Lansbury or Michael Foot. It would be an elementary mistake to assume he was. They were promoted by the labour and trade union bureaucracy after a severe crisis: namely Ramsay MacDonald’s treachery and James Callaghan’s winter of discontent. Corbyn’s leadership is, in the first instance, the result of an historic accident. The ‘morons’ from the Burnham camp lent him their vote. After that, however, Corbyn owes everything to the mass membership. Those already in and those coming in.

That gives us the possibility of attacking the rightwing domination of the middle – the councillors, the apparatus, the PLP – from below and above. No wonder the more astute minds of the bourgeois commentariat can be found expressing genuine concern about what will happen to their neoliberal consensus.

Of course, there is the danger that Corbyn will be drawn into a series of rotten compromises. After all, many advisors will argue that he cannot form a shadow cabinet that mainly draws on the Campaign Group and still keep the PLP right wing on board.

We say, do not try to stop the right if it wants to make a suicide jump. Corbyn should appoint a small, politically tight shadow cabinet. The right should be kept out. Certainly the generous offer by Labour’s “most senior MPs” to make Corbyn into their prisoner ought to be rejected outright. The idea of the “most senior MPs” is to declare an 18-month truce; that is, if Corbyn agrees that the PLP should elect the shadow cabinet. They then want everything put through the shadow cabinet, so as to prevent Corbyn from pursuing “loony left policies”.20 Shadow cabinet collective responsibility would gag him.

While we Marxists want to see the Bonapartist position of leader abolished, it is crystal-clear that today’s situation is extraordinary and therefore requires extraordinary measures.

Corbyn should be urged in the strongest terms to temporarily maintain the leader’s power to appoint the shadow cabinet. A civil war is about to erupt and the left needs every weapon it can get its hands on. So Corbyn should appoint a shadow cabinet and – once again as a temporary measure – maybe seek a mandate for his choice from the NEC or the annual conference.

Corbyn is still talking in a way one would expect from a left reformist, His team have been sending emollient messages about party unity and taking on the Tory government together. But have no doubt: the right will resort to unconstitutional methods in an attempt to undermine, discredit, isolate and then finally oust Corbyn. In this it will be aided and abetted not only by the City, the military-industrial complex and the capitalist press and media. Special branch, MI5 and their American cousins will provide information, advisors and coordination. If he is going to succeed, Corbyn will have to resort to revolutionary methods.

Three clause fours

Original agreed in 1918 and subsequently amended in 1959

Objects

1. To organise and maintain in parliament and in the country a political Labour Party.

2. To cooperate with the general council of the Trades Union Congress, or other kindred organisations, in joint political or other action in harmony with the party constitution and standing orders.

3. To give effect as far as possible to the principles from time to time approved by the party conference.

4. To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.

5. Generally to promote the political, social and economic emancipation of the people, and more particularly of those who depend directly upon their own exertions by hand or by brain for the means of life.

6. To cooperate with the labour and socialist organisations in the commonwealth overseas with a view to promoting the purposes of the party, and to take common action for the promotion of a higher standard of social and economic life for the working population of the respective countries.

7. To cooperate with the labour and socialist organisations in other countries and to support the United Nations and its various agencies and other international organisations for the promotion of peace, the adjustment and settlement of international disputes by conciliation or judicial arbitration, the establishment and defence of human rights, and the improvement of the social and economic standards and conditions of work of the people of the world.21

Blairite version agreed in 1995

Aims and values

1. The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that, by the strength of our common endeavour, we achieve more than we achieve alone so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.

2. To these ends we work for:

* a dynamic economy, serving the public interest, in which the enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition are joined with the forces of partnership and cooperation to produce the wealth the nation needs and the opportunity for all to work and prosper, with a thriving public sector and high quality services, where those undertakings essential to the common good are either owned by the public or accountable to them;

* a just society, which judges its strength by the condition of the weak as much as the strong, provides security against fear, and justice at work; which nurtures families, promotes equality of opportunity and delivers people from the tyranny of poverty, prejudice and the abuse of power;

* an open democracy, in which government is held to account by the people; decisions are taken as far as practicable by the communities they affect; and where fundamental human rights are guaranteed;

* a healthy environment, which protect, enhance and hold in trust for future generations.

3. Labour is committed to the defence and security of the British people, and to cooperating in European institutions, the United Nations, the Commonwealth and other international bodies to secure peace, freedom, democracy, economic security and environmental protection for all.

4. Labour will work in pursuit of these aims with trade unions, cooperative societies and other affiliated organisations, and also with voluntary organisations, consumer groups and other representative bodies.

5. On the basis of these principles, Labour seeks the trust of the people to govern.22

Alternative proposed by Labour Party Marxists

Objectives

1. Labour is the federal party of the working class. We strive to bring all trade unions, cooperatives, socialist societies and leftwing groups and parties under our banner. We believe that unity brings strength.

2. Labour is committed to replacing the rule of capital with the rule of the working class. Socialism introduces a democratically planned economy, ends the ecologically ruinous cycle of production for the sake of production and moves towards a stateless, classless, moneyless society that embodies the principle, “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”. Alone such benign conditions create the possibility for every individual to fully realise their innate potentialities.

3. Towards that end Labour commits itself to achieving a democratic republic. The standing army, the monarchy, the House of Lords and the state sponsorship of the Church of England must go. We support a single- chamber parliament, proportional representation and annual elections.

4. Labour seeks to win the active backing of the majority of people and form a government on this basis.

5. We shall work with others, in particular in the European Union, in pursuit of the aim of replacing capitalism with working class rule and socialism.

Notes

1. The Independent August 21 2015.

2. Coventry Telegraph August 19 2015.

3. P Taaffe, ‘Can Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge help to develop the socialist left?’ The Socialist June 19 2015.

4. The Socialist July 1 2015.

5. K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 24, London 1989, p83.

6. Quoted in R Miliband Parliamentary socialism London 1973, p64n.

7. The Fabians supported the British government in the 1899-1902 Boer War. They justified their stand in a pamphlet, edited by Bernard Shaw, Fabianism and the empire (1900). They did not want Britain to lose out when it came to the divi- sion of the world by the great imperial powers. As might be expected, the Fabians wanted a civilising British empire. The white dominions should be given self-government. However, “for the lower breeds” there should be a “benevolent bureaucra- cy” of British civil servants and military officials guiding them to “adulthood” (G Foote The Labour Party’s political thought London 1985, p29-30).

8. K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 25, London 1987, p267.

9. ‘Common sense’ being the continuously chang- ing but widely held outlook of various classes and strata. Gramsci called it “folklore of philosophy”, because it exists “halfway between folklore prop- erly speaking and the philosophy, science and eco- nomics of the specialists” (A Gramsci Selections from the prison notebooks London 1973, p326n).

10. K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 50, New York 2004, p83.

11. Though it had two guaranteed seats on the LRC’s leading body, the SDF disaffiliated in August 1901.

12. See RT McKenzie British political parties London 1963, pp465-71.

13. Labour gained 15 seats in the December 1918 general election, making it the fourth largest party in parliament after Bonar Law’s Tories, Lloyd George’s Coalition Liberals and Sinn Féin. It had a total of 57 MPs.

14. At the 1899 TUC, JH Holmes, a delegate of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, moved this resolution: “That this congress, having regard to its decisions in former years, and with a view to securing a better representation of the interests of labour in the House of Commons, hereby instructs the parliamentary committee to invite the cooperation of all cooperative, social- istic, trade unions and other working class organ- isations to jointly cooperate on lines mutually agreed upon, in convening a special congress of representatives from such of the above-named organisations as may be willing to take part to devise ways and means for securing the return of an increased number of Labour members to the next parliament” (www.unionhistory.info/ timeline/1880_14_Narr_Display.php?Where=Nar- Title+contains+%27The+Labour+Par- ty%27+AND+DesPurpose+contains+%27Web- Display%27).

15. The Socialist May 20 2015.

16. In 1909, the Tory law lords tried to snuff out the emerging Labour Party through the notorious Osborne judgement. Affiliated trade unions were prevented from funding the Labour Party until Herbert Asquith’s minority Liberal government legalised trade union political funds. But the 1913 Trade Union Act also imposed the condition that individual members could opt out of the union’s political fund – legally backed political scabbing.

17. See Weekly Worker September 9 2009.

18. The Observer August 30 2015.

19. VI Lenin CW Vol 31, Moscow 1977, pp257- 58.

20. www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/senior-la- bour-mps-offer-jeremy-6346452.

21. www.labourcounts.com/oldclausefour.htm.

22. Labour Party rule book London 2013, p3.

One thought on “Don’t go back, go forward

  • September 3, 2015 at 9:49 pm
    Permalink

    This document is useful. Perhaps some more could be analysed about the weight of trade unions in the Party, which has been diminished and atomised by Miliband & Co, and forced to express itself less as class and more as individuals (through affiliation and registration).
    At the same time, to lessen the weight of a few trade union leaders in suits, it is good to pose that they should receive average wage etc. They should be elected at open meetings of the members, and subject to recall. In the conduct of strikes, the national and regional leaders must create strike committees that consult the workers on strike before, during and after every negotiation. The strike committees must morph into permanent committees that continue to meet, consult and discuss, in the places of work, after every strike, whether it was won or lost. And with permanent delegates to their union branches, local trades councils and Labour GCs.

    Something should be said about the campaign for democracy in the Labour Party. It proposes resolutions and investigates closely the perfidious Labour structure and functioning. This is a resource, and if it is not doing well enough, it should be stimulated to do better with fraternal help. Not sure of myself in this matter, as I do not know the exact situation.

    Forward to the organisation of an anti-austerity Labour current nationally, with a political life in the Party, campaigns to be recognised as a tendency of the Party – why should only the right wing tendencies have the right to exist?? – a political life with publications – and delegates in the Peoples Assemblies. Among all the groups to integrate more closely in a combative Labour (anti-austerity) current, one should seek to include the Greens, the environment-climate-anti-TTIP movements, the best of Stop The War, CND and all the workers’ left groups. The anti-austerity Labour current should work in the trade unions, where to help create national anti-bureaucratic currents, and stimulate them to send delegates to the Trades Councils, the Peoples Assemblies and to support all the strikes.

    Membership to the Labour Party should be on the commitment of supporting all the strikes of the working class.
    Publications of Labour should aim at defining what is the working class, what other sectors there are in society, and the historic role of the working class in building the socialist society. Also, the ways and means for the working class to advance its own power, which can only be done by excluding from its ranks those who represent the power and interests of the enemy class.

    Marie Lynam, for the posadiststoday.com

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