Open letter to the labour movement
A broadsheet containing the open letter from the Communist Party to the rest of the labour movement addressing the challenges facing trade unionists, socialists and progressives.
An open letter to Workers, Trade Unionists and Socialists from the Communist Party I am sure you will have been shocked by recent statements from Labour Party leaders on public spending cuts, public sector wages and pensions and on welfare benefits. These statements broadly confirm their support for the rationale and approach of the Con-Dem government towards these issues. They highlight the need for collective thought and action by the labour movement in general - and by the trade unions in particular. As a contribution to the broad, inclusive and intensive discussion that we believe is needed on the left and in the labour movement, the Communist Party has issued the statement below. Please read and discuss it with friends, workmates, trade union colleagues and comrades. We urge you to raise these issues in your trade union and political organisations. I would also welcome any comments you would like to make to the Communist Party directly (please indicate whether you wish them to remain confidential). Our labour movement needs to face up to its responsibilities, in the knowledge that millions of people look to its organisations for support and solidarity. It is with this in mind that the Communist Party feels compelled to raise these issue now, as a matter of urgency. Robert Griffiths CP General Secretary 2 Open Letter to the Labour Movement Britain’s Road to Socialism The Crisis of Political Representation in the labour movement The new edition of Britain’s Road to Socialism, the Communist Party’s programme, adopted in July 2011; presents and analysis of capitalism and imperialism in its current form; answers the questions of how a revolutionary transformation might be bought about in 21st Century Britain; and what a socialist and communist society in Britain might look like. The BRS was first published in 1951 after nearly six years of discussion and debate across the CP, labour movement and working class. Over its 8 editions it has sold more than a million copies in Britain and helped to shape and develop the struggle of the working class for more than half a century. Other previous editions of the BRS have been published in 1952, 1958, 1968, 1977, 1989 and 2000 as well as multiple substantially revised versions. The Communist Party rejects the analysis peddled by the banks, hedge funds and ConDem government that past levels of public expenditure were the main cause of the economic and financial crisis. We reject, too, the remedy dictated by City of London financial institutions and the EU Commission and European Central Bank, notably that massive public spending cuts and a savage attack on the wages and pensions of public sector workers are necessary in order to reduce the public sector financial deficit. The policy of the Labour Party leadership to align itself with this analysis and these remedies is a betrayal of the millions of workers and their families who should be able to look to Labour for support and solidarity. In particular, recent statements by Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Liam Byrne in support of deep cuts in public sector wages and pension entitlements, and in welfare benefits, represent a shameful capitulation to the banks, the Con-Dem regime and the right-wing mass media. The refusal of the Labour Party leadership to fight for policies that would defend public services, jobs, wages and pensions and so revive economic growth highlights the extent to which the interests of the labour movement – which are also those of the people of Britain generally – go largely unrepresented in the House of Commons. Not surprisingly, therefore, in a period of mass local campaigning and big national one-day strikes against against Con-Dem policies, the Labour leadership has utterly failed so far to achieve a clear and substantial lead in opinion polls. The leaders of Labouraffiliated trade unions must know that their members need, in Do you represent a union branch, political organisation or campaigning body? Then send us your comments on the open letter to the labour movement e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org post: CP, Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Rd, London CR0 1BD twitter: @communists1920 Open Letter to the Labour Movement addition to the widest possible mass movement, a Labour Party that defends their interests, stands up for public services, opposes the whole rotten set-up in corrupt, big business, rip-off Britain – and renounces a British foreign policy that mires us in aggressive war, the mass slaughter of civilians, international kidnapping and torture and a new generation of nuclear weapons. This, in turn, raises the need for the affiliated unions to campaign in a more determined, planned and coordinated way to change the policies and if necessary the composition of the Labour Party leadership. The duty of the affiliated unions to fight for progressive, left and socialist values in the Labour Party could not be clearer. At the same time, this is an important part of an even bigger question: how can the labour movement best ensure that its collective views and interests are represented in the Westminster parliament? This challenge must be faced by the whole movement, including those unions not affiliated to the Labour Party. The Labour Party was founded by the trade union movement. It still receives the support of over one-third of voters. But this support is not guaranteed, is increasingly volatile and could quickly disintegrate if the party's right-wing course is maintained. The trade union movement, and its members locally, have a duty to intervene to reclaim the party as political representatives of the interests of working people. Affiliated unions should respond immediately to demands from their members and cease paying financial donations to the Labour Party centrally until its leaders and MPs oppose real cuts in public sector wages and express solidarity with workers fighting to defend their pensions. Affiliation fees should be maintained in order to step up the challenge to the Labour leadership's current policies from “[Labour’s] sudden embrace of austerity and the public-sector pay squeeze represents a victory for discredited Blairism at the expense of the party's core supporters. Unions in the public sector are bound to unite to oppose the real pay cuts for public-sector workers over the next year. When we do so, it seems we will now be fighting the Labour frontbench as well as the government. Where does this leave the half a million people who joined the TUC's march for an alternative last year, and the half of the country at least who are against the cuts? Disenfranchised It is time for those who want a real alternative centred on investment, job creation and public intervention to end the slump – and a Labour party that will articulate that to get organised in parliament and outside.” 3 inside the party as well as the capitalist crisis, public from outside. spending and investment, Affiliated trade unions public sector wages and should meet to convene an pensions, privatisation all-Britain conference at and taxation. the earliest opportunity to discuss the current crisis The TUC should resume of political representation its historic responsibility for workers and their and convene a special families. conference of all labour movement organsations to We believe these actions are discuss the political the most realistic and representation of the effective way of ensuring labour movement in the that the interests of working House of Commons. people are represented in the Westminster parliament. In the face of the current Should the Labour Party ruling class offensive against continue on a right-wing the working class and the course, its future will be at mass of people generally, the risk and the trade union labour movement needs to movement will have a duty develop the maximum to re-establish a mass party clarity and unity. For its of labour capable of winning part, the Communist Party elections, forming a will continue to develop its government and enacting Marxist analysis, project an policies in the interests of the alternative economic and people not the bankers. political strategy for the working class and its allies Affiliated unions should and strengthen non-sectarian also consider demanding left unity. that a special emergency The Communist Party conference of the Labour therefore welcomes the Party be held to consider decision of readers and a fundamental change of supporters of the Morning economic and financial Star to call an all-Britain policy on conference on March 31 (at the Bishopsgate Institute, central London) to discuss the ways in which mass, popular resistance can be built to the Con-Dem government and its policies. This will provide a major opportunity for a wide range of left, labour movement and progressive forces to consider the kind of initiatives and policies that might be necessary. Pointing a way forward in the immediate battles should help create more favourable conditions in which to resolve the labour movement's crisis of political representation. 4 Open Letter to the Labour Movement Read the CP’s response to issues surrounding the struggle to defend public sector pensions. Order online from CP site or by post; £1.50 (inc p&p) ISBN: 978-1908315-07-6 “Our view is that people should run this country, not the economic markets, not the international speculators who are really just loan sharks. They prey on people, they prey on debt. We are now getting the markets choosing Prime Ministers. The markets want to make money, they do not care about the NHS. Our approach is that this is all upside down. We have to stop cutting and cutting, because that is just going to make things worse. It’s like payday loans. When you do not pay loan sharks at the end of the day, you get the bailiffs in. When a country does not pay what it owes, you get pressured to sell off your assets. Someone has got to draw a line under that.” Our argument is that the wrong people are paying the price. The right approach should be that they should grow the economy and tackle tax evasion. “The right approach is that you invest to grow the economy. That is the way to deal with the deficit, through growth. In the short term you tackle the tax problem and you borrow more money to grow. Is austerity the way to fix the problem? – we think not.”