Communist Party Conference Special
A tale of two conferences ... The BDC can do some good work this week, picking up where Amicus left off a fortnight ago. The Amicus conference was very positive, reflecting the rebirth of grass-roots democracy in that union after the petty tyranny of the Jackson years. Delegates passed left and progressive motions on corporate manslaughter, Royal Mail privatisation, the right to strike and repealing the anti-union laws, the water industry, pensions, the EU Services Directive, Remploy, council housing, rights for agency and temporary workers, migrant workers and asylum seekers, action to save manufacturing, the NHS and lesbian and gay rights. International solidarity shone out from the debates on Cuba, Venezuela and Palestine, with guest speakers including South African transport workers leader Randall Howard. Our own Tony Woodley pulled no punches in his attack on New Labour's right-wing and proimperialist policies, including the Iraq disaster. One weakness, however, was on the issue of replacing Trident. A motion opposing a new generation of weapons of mass destruction for Britain was defeated in favour of a statement from the Amicus executive. This strongly put the case against Trident and any replacement – but reserved the right to support them unless or until alternative jobs were found. In reality, though, the money saved by scrapping British nuclear weapons would re-employ every redundant armaments worker a thousand times over. Our BDC can carry the progressive and left agenda further, in the interests of our members and all working people and their families. On manufacturing and the economy, we have motions which
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he decision by Ford to call in banks and investment giants to investigate the prospects for selling Jaguar and Land Rover will have dire consequences for the 19,000 direct and many more indirect workers producing these top cars. This comes only three months after selling Aston Martin. The trade unions were not even consulted. The danger of a sale to private equity asset-strippers and pension-fund raiders are obvious. Naturally, unions are angry and are talking about exerting pressure to find good buyers etc. But now is the time for Unite, with the majority of members in
the Midlands plants, to consider the lessons of British Leyland. Then, promises by Japanese companies and others came to nothing, and after a long drawn out period many BL workers are still on the dole or filling in with temporary jobs. Should we not go down a different road this time? Put pressure on the government to bid for these enterprises - both of which are viable - to take them over and guarantee that work will continue. The question will be asked: where would the money come from? For a start, it is better than paying out years of unemployment and other
social benefits. But the government can find the money for industry. British Nuclear Fuels sold off its US plant for £3 billion, and British Energy received a British government loan of £650 million to prepare the nuclear power industry for full privatisation. Both sections of Unite backed Gordon Brown to take over from Blair. It was claimed that this would ensure he would talk to us on friendly terms. The time to talk has already arrived. Our union should tell him we want financial assistance to stop the rot in manufacturing. There is no other way.
A Tale of Two Conferences cont. from p1 challenge the big business neo-liberal status quo. Governments should act against the asset-strippers, match public money with a public shareholding, regulate the movement of capital and take back control over interest rates. We can reaffirm our stance in favour of public ownership – not least for the sake of the environment – and against all forms
of privatisation. Numerous motions expose the role of the European Union in pushing forward its pro-monopoly and privatisation agenda, not least on pensions. New EU proposals to weaken trade union and collective bargaining rights must be resisted. Other motions for an independent British foreign policy and to re-
democratise the Labour Party deserve enthusiastic support. We also need to protect and enhance our equalities structures as we build Unite – the union. And let's not forget the terrible plight of the Palestinian people. They need our support, which we can show by boycotting Israeli goods and backing the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and its initiatives.
Unite - the union for a new century
he ambition behind the creation of Unite – the union is a bold step. As the founders of the T&G put it about our own union: 'only two things can hinder it – namely – VESTED INTEREST and APATHY'. There are enormous obstacles but one thing is clear, there is the potential to create an entirely new style of trades unionism for the 21st century. Unite – the union must be flooded with the democratic spirit and it must be peerless in its determination to fight back, unhesitant in taking on employers when it is necessary. It must be absolutely incorruptible by those of wealth and power. Unite must not only be the biggest union, it must be the best. Its administration and organisation needs to be lean and hungry, determined to serve the needs of its membership at all times. Its very size dictates the need to absolutely vigilant that democracy is ever-present. Ensuring that the focus of authority rests not with a new bureaucracy but with a new lay member executive, conference and sectional structures has to be central. The T&G was founded upon a vision that rank and file representatives would determine policies to be implemented by full-time officials, in a model compared to Parliament and its civil service. Amicus has a tradition of being rather more commanded by its central administration. This is a challenge to us. Union structures based upon the way in which capital was formed many, many decades ago are at best irrelevant. We have to face capital as it now is. For example, a London Public Transport District, or a Birmingham Manufacturing Local would both make good sense. We have good models already for
community based Locals and these should not diminish our existing workplace organisation. Indeed, the focus of Unite’s activity has to be the workplace. A revitalisation of the shop stewards’ movement is well overdue. It is a commonplace now to note that capital operates more efficiently internationally than it has ever done. Clearly, unions must do the same. But workers live in localities; unions have to be there too. Unite - the union must be based on local units, or as in American parlance, 'Locals’ for each significant local centre, bringing together trade and industry in communities and we must recognise the power of devolution. Wherever Unite - the union organises in nations such as Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Gibraltar, then National Committees for those areas should provide appropriate co-ordination. Locals need to be rooted in democracy, served by the convening of quarterly shop stewards/ representatives conferences. Locals should have their own allocated funds, based upon a proportional distribution. Whilst the nature of the proportional expenditure should be dictated by national decisions, the disbursement of an element of funding should be locally determined. Local Committees composed entirely of lay representatives, with relevant ex-officio servicing employees should be responsible for the day to day administration of the Union at this level. The decisive role of Local officials is mainly to service the daily needs of the membership and they need to be locally accountable. Emphatically, their prime function should be to build self-reliant shop stewards workplacerelated structures. Unite - the union offices should be
where they are needed, not where past tradition dictates. We should see offices placed in positions of easy access to members, e.g. in shopping centres and high streets. . The co-ordination of industrial strategy by the trade groups is vital if we are to match the superior forces of capital, that are organised vertically and with rigour. A collective leadership is by far the best aim for the Unite - the union, but neither do we need to have a vast array of unnecessary bureaucrats. Unite - the union must be clearly led by a predominantly lay member, elected Executive Committee. Unite the union must look like the workforce that it aspires to represent at all levels. To that end, the Union’s basis of representation must be proportionate throughout. We need a defined network of MPs, MEPs, MSPs, Welsh Assembly and council members consistent with the rules and obligations of public representatives. Membership of the Union’s Parliamentary group should be constituted anew. The name of the new union cannot be considered as settled and it is arguable that the process that led to what we have was unsatisfactory. Is Unite so disunited that it needs uniting? Whatever we decide for the longterm, this must be a process based on mass, democratic involvement. The abiding principle here is to 'flatten the pyramid'. The shorter the distance between the leadership of the union and the activists, the better and healthier its democracy will be. This is not to say that it is improper to develop a proper career structure. The first issue of importance is that there should be single status for all employees of the union. But this is an opportunity to establish a new culture for a new century. Don’t let’s waste it ...
Unite for the challenges ahead
his week will go down in history as the last delegate conference of the T&G, for generations the mainstay of the progressive left in the British trade union movement. The main challenge before us is to ensure that the best elements of the T&G tradition are carried forward into Unite, the new union we have formed with amicus. Of course, there are plenty of positive elements in amicus as well, but there will remain fears that the authoritarian and right-wing culture associated with the AEU and the EETPU for many years (up until Derek Simpson’s election in fact) is as yet undead. The rules of Unite go some way towards offering reassurance. They carry forward the key elements of the T&G’s lay democratic structures and procedures. The way is open for the members to have the decisive say in shaping policy and organisation, as they
should. However, rules alone cannot make a union. An active and politically-educated lay membership is also essential, leading in turn to strong leadership at all levels on the key issues facing the working class. This week the T&G should put down clear markers on policy. We need to make it clear that we remain opposed to the New Labour package and we are not prepared to take Gordon Brown on trust. Real changes are needed in government policy if the union is actually going to be able to mobilise its members against the Tories at the next general election. T hi s mus t i nc l ud e t roop withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and a break with George Bush. It must also mean opposition to Trident replacement – our amicus comrades have moved some way in the right direction on this, but there is more work to be done.
We must also fight for the repeal of the anti-union laws, action to help manufacturing, an end to public service privatisation and support for council housing. It will be easy to pass the right policies on these issues this week. But Unite will have to fight for them. The “big four” unions have taken important steps towards a greater independence from ministers over the last few years, but more must be done to really get a grip on the Labour Party. Accepting plans being floated in Downing Street to take policy-making away from Party conference and union involvement will be a step in exactly the wrong direction. If we do not fight now to save the class character of the Labour Party, it will very soon be too late, and the trade union movement will be facing a range of difficult choices. That is the first challenge for Unite.
Blair’s Last Deception – The EU Reform Treaty by John Foster Communist Party international secretary In September 2005, the Trades Union Congress voted overwhelmingly to reject the proposed EU constitution and to congratulate the peoples of France and the Netherlands for voting NO in their referendums. It did so because the Constitution entrenched neo-liberal principles and the privatisation of public services and undermined the democracy of member states. On June 23, the EU Council of Ministers adopted a mandate for what will be called a 'Reform Treaty', to be drafted by an Inter-Governmental Conference for signature by the end of the year. That meeting in Brussels was accompanied by a series of press stories which claimed that the Reform Treaty was something very different from the Constitution. French President Sarkozy, it was claimed, had deleted the primacy of competition. Germany and France had insisted on the inclusion of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Tony Blair had secured an opt-out from the Charter and had deleted clauses for the EU to have a foreign minister and which would over-rule the British justice system. In his final Commons statement, Blair insisted that the document was not a constitution and that there was no need to honour his earlier pledge for a referendum. Anyone can read the actual mandate on the web (Presidency Conclusions: 11177/07). This makes clear that
the Reform Treaty contains virtually every single provision that the TUC found objectionable in 2005. The mandate is directly based on that used by the EU Council in 2004 for the final draft of the Constitution. It simply changes the language and structure. No foreign minister? — Mandate chapter III (12): ‘The Union Minister for Foreign Affairs (creation of new office, its title being changed to High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs)’. No supremacy for EU law? — ‘Whilst the Article on the primacy of Union law will not be reproduced, the IGC will agree the following Declaration: ..in accordance with settled case law of the EU Court of Justice, the Treaties and the law adopted by the Union on the basis the Treaties have primacy over the law of member states’. No insistence on Competition? — ‘The following Protocol will be annexed to the Treaty: Protocol on internal market and competition ... considering that the internal market as set out in Article 3 of the Treaty includes a system for ensuring that competition is not distorted, have agreed that the Union shall take action under the provision of the Treaty’. The prime ministers and presidents were desperate to avoid anything that would expose them to the demand for new referendums. Hence the smoke and mirrors. But the new version retains all the limitations on the democracy of member states and further blocks the ability of their parliaments to take action to restrict the power of Cont. on p4
Blair’s Last Deception – The EU Reform Treaty cont. from p3 capital and defend the public sector. The EU for the first time gains a legal identity as a state • its law will override that of member states • it will have a President to serve for five years • it will have a Foreign Minister, by another name, who will speak for the EU as a whole • it will end the national veto in over 70 new areas including energy, public health, space, EU military operations, cultural p r o je c t s , i n te l le c tu al property rights. There is nothing that limits the drive to privatisation and the opening of public services to competition or the deflationary monetary rules that govern the European Central Bank. That is why, if the TUC was correct to demand a referendum and to campaign against the 2004 Constitution, there even more reason for it to do so now.
Why you should join the Communists!
by Robert Griffiths Communist Party general secretary
Join the Communist Party
the party of working class power
return to Communist Party, Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Rd, London CR0 1BD 0208 686 1659
propaganda for more than 80 years! Britain's Communists have fought back in the battle of ideas, through the Daily Worker and then the Morning Star, through many other publications and political education schools, helping to produce generations of working class activists and leaders. As the Marxist party of the Britain's labour movement, we have always upheld the principles of working class solidarity, militant struggle and the need to integrate battles for immediate gains into a strategy for socialist revolution. Our programme Britain's Road to Socialism shows how a militant mass movement outside parliament, producing a left government of Labour, socialist and Communist MPs, can open the way to a fundamentally better, fairer and more peaceful society. In line with that programme, and as an integral part of the labour movement, we also understand the importance of defeating the New Labour cuckoos in the Labour Party nest. But that will only come about as the result of unity across the trade union movement and the left, and clarity in support of a left-wing programme. Strengthening the Communist Party means strengthening the labour movement and the prospects for unity. In all the causes which unite us – for better pensions, for manufacturing and public ownership, for the Charter for Women, for solidarity with Cuba and Palestine – a stronger Communist Party is vital. You can help build the Communist Party in the most effective way, by joining it. If
Through much of its history, the British labour movement has sustained two parties – a federal Labour Party uniting trades unions, cooperatives and socialist groups; and a Communist Party. The Labour Party was formed at the beginning of the 20th century to secure parliamentary representation for organised workers. It was followed – as result of the First World War and the Russian revolution – by the establishment of Britain's Communist Party in 1920. These were not fundamentally separate processes. Indeed, it took years before the right wing was finally able to exclude Communists from the Labour Party. And it is worth remembering that at Labour's most triumphant moment – the 1945 election landslide at the end of the Second World War – a motion moved by the AEU, the engineering workers union, for the re-affiliation of the Communist Party was only narrowly defeated. It is a fact of history that when the Communist Party is at its strongest and most influential, so the left and the labour movement in Britain make real advances. In all the big battles fought by the working class against mass unemployment and fascism, for decent housing, better wages and conditions, for equal pay for women, against anti-union laws and racism, against imperialist war and in solidarity with oppressed peoples – the Communist Party has been there in the front line, shoulder to shoulder with working people. No wonder the bosses and their mass media have kept up their anti-Communist not you, who? If not now, when?