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unity Communists at the TUC Thursday 17 September 2009 Inside A united front for the left Groucho Theory and pra c t i c e Campaign materials

Don’t mention the class war (or the People’s Charter) Walking to Liverpool’s showpiece conference centre on the waterfront we told each other how nice it is. Not bad for £146 million! ‘Hasn’t Liverpool changed?’, we said. Yes – there used to be 30,000 worke r s beavering away on the quaint cobbles that play such havoc with our heels. It’s a case study of how our world has changed. But hasn’t the world discovered some problems with the notion that property development generates wealth? It doesn’t – the labour of workers makes wealth. The week’s events might be summed up by one simple image. A much-bandaged Basil Fawlty made a come-back, as he bestrode the platform on behalf of Bren…sorry, the General Council, repeating: ‘Don’t mention the class war!!’ Mention of politics, unless it was to observe that the Tories would be bad for working people, was verboten In contrast, this year’s

Institute for Employment Rights fringe took the issues head on. The fringe was so massive that it made congress at its worst look small – you know, when undeclared coffee breaks save us from the slumberous pull of middle-aged Circadian rhythms. The IER fringe heard a remarkable speech. Perhaps the cobbles of the old dock even moved as a clarion call came from a union leader who, as a young man, had once walked across them in his working day. Delegates who have become jaded and too accustomed to sterile arguments might have hoped for more kicking over the traces while a TUC general secretary might have wished for a more sepia-tinted rendition. But it was Len McCluskey of Unite who told the IER that he was proud that his union was poised to support the People’s Charter. And he began to elaborate a serious strategy for taking this forward. ‘Solidarity runs through our veins.’ As Frederick Engels

pointed out long ago but not so far from here, no power on earth can halt a united working class. We need to build a shared narrative between unions, working together to fight for working people in every community, in such a way that they become ready to be there for us, too. We can make laws ineffective, inoperable and a problem for our rulers not us. In the process, we should seek to regain the loyalty of the whole working class. Only then can we turn that common front of mutual loyalty into power. Let’s breathe life into the trades councils. Support every local campaign. Politics hasn’t failed but politicians have. Building a popular movement out of struggle can revive enthusiasm. Maybe this is the only way we can test whether we can reclaim for our class the organs of labour? Unity of the whole of the left in popular and mass struggle can make a difference. continued overleaf

Britain’s got talent ... by Nick Wright But the media moguls who infest our airwaves are world beaters in the exploitation game. The sordid link between the human exploitation of natural talent and the culture of low pay is made explicit in the two minimum wage motions from BECTU and Equity. But it is not just pay and conditions that are driven into the gutter. The twin peaks of monopoly power and global reach mean that even more massive profits are in the reach of big business – if they can just drive public service broadcasting off the air or entangle it further in trash TV. It is the drive to monopoly that is behind the boy Murdoch’s loutish attack on the BBC. There is plenty wrong with the BBC – my current beef is with the increasingly right wing stance of the Today programme while my mum, gets upset when smartarse Oxbridge historians uses the phrase “the Allies” to exclude the USSR. continued overleaf

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Class wa r

Britain’s got talent...

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continued from page 1 But for all that, an accountable public service broadcasting system is the best barrier to the marketisation of the media and a guarantee of quality that market forces can never match. The CWU and Connect arg u e correctly for measures to guarantee universal digital coverage and for the Digital Britain proposals to be implemented to maximize ▲ Len McCluskey: ‘ proud ‘economic growth, social to support the People’s inclusion and job creation’. And C h a r t e r’ the NUJ opposition to ‘top slicing’ and the joint The People’s Charter has the BECTU/NUJ call for industry potential to rally millions behind levies to fund public service progressive policies. Giving broadcasting are good policies. confidence to people to make However, the trade union choices will enable them to movement as a whole has to determine the next steps. come to terms with the fact that Working people will pay for the it is monopoly power and the costs of the crisis, in the form of drive to profit that is closures and cut backs if we do increasingly a barrier to both not build mass resistance. balanced investment and a Maybe, just maybe, this could media in the service of the be the start of something big. people. When the Musicians Perhaps we have seen the Union worries about the threat to planting of the seeds of a new media and entertainment jobs approach for the TUC – or at and performers income posed by least the general council – to illegal downloads they highlight stop just talking the talk. There the inevitable consequence of an is a chance here for the trade under-regulated jungle union movement to start fighting dominated by big business again. As we used to say: which stands between Agitation, education, performers and audiences and organisation. It’s not rocket which puts corporate profits first. science just using your brain – It is a crazy world in which a maybe not even entirely new privileged rich kid can set the but the conception is in the here agenda for the debate. The and now and it all bears thinking problem is not just Big Brother about. on the telly but the ‘Big We could call it “intelligent Brothers’ who increasingly own m i l i t a n c y”! ★ the media. ★

Soon from Manifesto Books The Imperial Controversy Stop the War Coalition chair Andrew Murray subjects the leading pro-imperial historians, including Niall Ferguson, to a withering analysis. Cuban Education Professor Theodore MacDonald covers with great authority the full range of Cuba’s innovative education system Killing no murder? South Wales and the Great Railway Strike of 1911 Robert Griffiths’ account of the 1911 railway strike in south Wales raised important issues of power and class. Publication date November 2009

OPINION Make youth a priority by Ben Steve n s o n The rule change before this year’s Congress from transport union RMT (Motion P85, Young members) is long over-d u e . It would allow the Young Members Conference to submit one motion to annual congress in a similar fashion to the equalities Conferences and, thanks to the success of last y e a r’s motion, from the Trades Union Councils Conference. As was the situation with the Trades Council conference last year this arrangement already operates successfully in Scotland with the STUC Youth Conference regularly submitting a motion to the STUC annual congress and there is no question that this arrangement has been to the mutual benefit of both. Whilst many unions, including notably the RMT, have relatively vibrant and active youth sections, trade union density amongst young workers remains paltry and is continuing to decline. Less than 7% of the working population under the age of 30 are members of a trade union. But perhaps more significant than the simple overall picture is where these are concentrated. The overwhelming majority of existing young trade unionists are in sectors of the economy where trade union density is already high, in transport, manufacturing, energy, and the public sector. Despite some notable efforts the movement has failed to penetrate those sectors of the economy where the majority of young people in employment endure low pay and lousy conditions. The realities of employment for most young people is in precarious, low-paid, temporary, part-time and largely un-unionised work is in the ‘services’ sector, where the difference between unemployment and employment is negligible. This situation will not change unless the movement can directly intervene in these sectors, to develop a culture of militancy where there is little or no precedent, to reconnect with working class communities that have been abandoned by successive New Labour and Tory governments. There is no doubt that young people have been worst hit the capitalist economic crisis, already burdened by unprecedented levels of debt, more than a million are now unemployed and those that entered the labour market this year having finished their education are finding it more difficult than ever to secure decent employment. There is now a sense of urgency required in responding to the needs of young workers. If the labour movement fails to respond adequately to the conditions that affect young workers not only will we be ignoring a vast sections of some of the most exploited people in Britain but that we will continue to place the future of our movement in jeopardy. This resolution should be seen as the first step in giving a sense of importance and some teeth to those structures which already exists. There is no greater nor more necessary challenge for the labour movement than securing its own future by mobilising, organising and educating a new generation of workers. ★ Ben Stevenson is the Communist Party youth & student organiser

TUC Communist Party daily unity

Theory and practice by Martin Lev y Why do Labour governments fail? Why is Brown’s administration, floundering in the negative equity of opinion polls? Like its predecessors it has enacted policies that attack the interests of a mass of its former, or potential, supporters. Of course, ‘New’ Labour has done more than Callaghan or Wilson to disenchant its core support – privatisation of public services, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the run-down of manufacturing industry even before last September’s crash, attacks on benefit entitlement, failure to repeal Tory anti-union laws. Britain’s trade union movement has invested much cash and hope in the Labour

vision of where the movement needs to be going, the movement is disappointed again and again. Since last September’s great crash, there has been a resurgence of interest in Karl Marx. Establishment pundits recognise that his analysis of capitalism was spot on. But Marx’s work and life was dedicated to the objective of a communist society. By analysing capitalism, he demonstrated that it was racked by a basic class contradiction between those, on the one hand, who own the factories, offices, machinery, stocks and shares etc; and those, on the other, who can only live by hiring out their ability to work. Within that contradiction, the drive for profit leads to cycles of boom and bust. The cycles, and the misery they cause, can only be abolished by abolishing capitalism itself.

Question everything

Communist University of Britain 6-8 November 2009

Party and over the years has been repeatedly disappointed. And while Labour may be preferable to the Tories in government, the difference is eroded if the Tories are eventually returned, to reverse with vengeance any small gains. The Achilles heel of Britain’s labour movement is traditionally its emphasis on the practical and its disdain for political, philosophical and economic theory. This is reflected in a weak understanding of the state and, especially marked among union leaderships, of the role of the EU and an exaggerated respect for the law. Without a scientific understanding of the way that the economy works, and a clear

If there is to be any real progress by the labour movement, then there has to be a much wider dissemination and acceptance of Marxist ideas. The Morning Star does that on a daily basis, but more is needed. The Communist Party’s political educational work, especially the highly successful national and regional Communist Universities is a key factor while the theoretical and discussion journal, Communist Re v i e w, exists to provide the scope for in-depth Marxist analysis while emphasising the link of theory with practice. The latest issue of ★CR illustrates the point. Cuban writer Ernesto Dominguez López demonstrates clearly that social

democratic parties throughout Europe have abandoned the welfare state. The Keynesian policies pursued after the Second World War failed in the 1970s because they were unable to abolish capitalist crisis. Keynes is no longer an option – but, instead of moving to the left, social democracy has gone to the right, into the camp of neoliberalism. The reality of that shift is analysed by Peter Latham, part 2 of a series on the state and local government. The response from the trade union movement must be to fight for an alternative programme, neither Keynesian nor neoliberal, but one which puts people first – something like the People’s Charter. Achieving that, or even just resisting the expected attacks on public services, requires a strong movement. This is where the practical side of the latest issue of ★CR comes in. ‘Organising the unorganised’ is much talked about in trade union circles, but its full implications have yet to sink in. Unite full-timer Rhys McCarthy argues that “Organising is about going back to basics … effectively communicating with the members about their problems and issues, building around that and following through with collective action.” He stresses the importance of making community links and of organising even in ‘recognised’ workplaces. Young Communist leader Joanne Stevenson stresses the need to reach out to the unemployed and those in precarious employment. Indian Workers’ Association (IWA) general secretary Harsev Bains points out that many unorganised workers are migrants who are likely to face racist attacks as the economic crisis deepens. The way to avoid that is to strengthen the unity of the working class; and The IWA is playing a role in strengthening the unity of the working class through establishing a British Asian People’s Forum, and a South Asian Trade Union Forum and working with the TUC. In ‘Unity in the Community’ , Anita Wright and Tom Morrison stress the importance of work in trades union councils. ★CR also contains poetry and discussion. It is published quarterly, price £2.50 per issue. An annual postal subscription is available for £12 from CPB, 23 Coombe Road, Croydon CR0 1BD. Martin Levy is editor of ★CR

unity TUC Communist Party daily

A united front of the left and labour movement Mass unemployment, cuts in pay and public services, a housing crisis, higher gas and electricity prices, rising debt and bankruptcy, escalating war in Afghanistan ... what can be done about big business power and the anti-working class policies of New Labour? One section of the labour movement doesn't want to rock the boat before a General Election. Together with the New Labour government, this is a policy of ‘steady as she sinks’. Some far-left groups don’t care about a Tory victory at the election. They think a new anti-capitalist party and socialist revolution will arise from the ashes. The Communist Party of Britain puts forward a different perspective. We call for: ★ An upsurge of mass campaigning against monopoly profits, imperialist war and British and EU neo-liberal policies of public spending cuts, privatisation, big business freedom and shackling the trade unions. ★ Unity around the policies of the Left-Wing Programme, the People's Charter and the Charter for Women. ★ Industrial action to protect jobs, pay, pensions, manufacturing and public services—the Lindsey, and Visteon disputes show how unity and solidarity can defy the anti-union laws and win victories. ★ Local alliances based on trades councils and people’s organisations to campaign against local redundancies, factory closures and cuts in public services. ★ United campaigning at every level against racism and the fascist BNP. ★ Maximum pressure on New Labour to change course and help prevent a Tory victory at the General Election. ★ Agreement to support a wide range of Labour, trade union, socialist and Communist candidates who back the People’s Charter and a programme of left-wing policies. We need a united front of the left and the labour movement to lead the way. That’s why the Communist Party proposes to build on the positive experiences and policies of the No2EU—Yes to Democracy initiative in the 2009 EU elections. Through joint discussion and united campaigning we can build a united front which, in turn, can draw large numbers of people into political action for far-reaching change in Britain. ★

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Return to CPB Ruskin House 23 Coombe Rd, Croydon CR0 1BD


Groucho Ruling Class Offensive, The Challenge for the Left and Labour Movement. £2 at stall.

Wages Price & Profit by Karl Marx – one of the most powerful statements ever made in support of the fight for higher wages. Marx showed why that fight needs to be transformed into an even more fundamental one against the wages system itself. Both £2.50 inc. p&p from CPB Ruskin House 23 Coombe Road Croydon CR02 1BD or go the website Peoples Charter flags £7

Quiz time Rumours reached me early of a heated exchange of views between my chums Brendan Barber and Derek Simpson. Both – it seems – demonstrated their rich knowledge of Anglo-Saxon terminology. But what were they were arguing about? Was it: a Linguistics; b Football; or c the People’s Charter. Missing inaction I never miss what is now the Unite bunfight but this year I noted a remarkable loss of a joint general secretary. Tony Woodley announced to ironic cheers by the assembled seekers of buffet and bar favours that he couldn’t find Derek. And after Brendan noted that the RMT was berthed at the ‘Hard Day’s Night’ hotel he wondered what would suit Unite for a Liverpudlianesqe name. One wag was heard to shout: “We can work it out”! Band of bothers Later, rumours surfaced that Derek had left the pleasant social event before it had begun. Odd since he was also supposed to have supper with the Cuban ambassador. His reason? “The band wasn’t good enough”. Have we missed something? That’s all folks.★

Je suis marxiste, tendance Groucho

Unity! TUC 2009 Thursday  

Unity bulletin published by the Communist Party for the Thursday of the 2009 TUC Conference

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