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June 2007 Communist Pa rt y Conference special

unity at unison

A decent health service for us all The truth about NHS funding is hard to find but John Lister of London Health Emergency, writing in Monday’s Morn i n g Star, makes it clear that the gove rnment figures cannot be trusted. The health minister Patricia Hewitt lectures health workers that the NHS is running a £500 million deficit yet it turns out that there are big surpluses in many areas. So the the issue is ministerial incompetence and a wrong-headed policy allied to top level mismanagement. Small comfort for the many thousands of NHS workers who face redundancy and insecurity and management harassment to meet unat t a i n a ble targets while facing limited resources. A billion pounds is held by unaccountable foundation t rusts and another two billion go each year into the coffers of private-sector providers. £500 and more goes to the PFI consortiums that hold ownership over much of the NHS estate. Gordon Brown congratulates himself on the extra resources that go to health. He will undoubtedly dump the patrician Ms Hewitt but he should also be self critical and reverse his policies that put much of this money into the hands of profiteers and creates a two-tier health system. In health as in education socalled ‘choice’ is the enemy of quality. A single universal scheme based on national insurance with the profit motive as unwelcome as MRSA is the only basis for a decent health system for all.

WHAT NEXT? Which way for Unison and Labour?

The departure of Blair and Prescott from the Labour Party leadership could mark a change of political direction. It is possible that Labour will break from the pro market pro privatisation pro war ruling class consensus of the past 15 years. But on any objective assessment it is unlike ly. Posing strategic electoral alternatives to Labour is a tough call for the left.The major unions such as UNISON remain affiliated. The anti working class DNA of the Tory Party provides a ready made antidote to arguments for an alternative left political project. And over the years with fe w exceptions electoral initiatives by Labour breakaways have been regressive most recently in Scotland . But emerging new factors in B ritish politics require the left to review long term perspectives. The Phillips review on party funding is unlikely to leave the status quo intact. Collective affiliation even of the current subservient variety is like ly to be outlawed by the state. If implemented, proposals for the individualisation of trade union member affiliation to the Labour

Party would end the fo rm a l o rganisational alliance established upon the foundation of the Labour Representation Committee in 1900. It is doubtful that Labour will remain a viable national party in such a scenari o. A renewal of trade union and working class confidence in Labour can only come about with a decisive policy change. (Something that is unlikely if the likes of Alan Johnson, who bizarrely Unison is supporting in the Labour Party deputy leadership election, is No 2 the d ri vers’s cab.) Hypocrisy This is the man who, as leader of the CWU opposed, successfully Post Office p rivatisation and now sits in government in support. These factors raise the question of of Unison’s role in Labour Party affairs.The overwhelming majority of political levy payers are excluded from a say in Labour Party matters while effective decision making power is squabbled over by a tiny handful in competing factions. Unless all who choose to support Unison’s

affiliation to Labour have a right to shape our union’s political stand then the link cannot be indefinitely justified. But unless Labour’s policies in government change the link itself will continue to be questioned. Put this alongside state funding and the levering in of electoral reform for parliamentary elections by a future coalition government and ve ry soon fertile conditions could emerge for left political intervention in electoral politics. Is the new Left Party in Germany, form a l ly established as a unified organisation last week, in the unique conditions of Germany, is a pointer to what is possible? Similarly, left and green coalitions in Portugal and Scandinavia when significant layers of left trade unionists, environmentalists, socialists and communists break from the dead hand of pro-EU, pro business social democra c y, and mobilise to win the support of working people for a left agenda. It may not yet be the time to make the same break in Britain but we should not shy away from reviewing our options.


MASS PARTY RO B E RT GRIFFITHS on the fight for a mass party of labour.

HE whole labour movement must take stock of the outcome of the Labour Party leadership contest. The failure of other than 29 members of the Parliamentary Labour Party to nominate John McDonnell and so ensure a d e m o c ratic contest is indictment enough of the PLP. Almost as damning is the fact that 313 MPs felt the need to nominate Gordon Brown, many of them well after the "win by" date, including about 130 who have rebelled against key new Labour policies championed by the Chancellor. They know his record better than anyone. Not only has he been complicit in new Labour's erosion of civil liberties and its scapegoating of asylum-seeke rs and Muslims. He promised "whatever it takes" to fund the disastrous interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. By handing control over interest rates to the Bank of England and cheerleaders for the City, Brown allowed the destruction of more than one million manufacturing jobs through high interest rates. He has propelled the private finance initiative and so-called "public-

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p rivate partnerships" into almost every area of the public sector, including education and health, attacked public-sector wages and pensions, made means testing the basis for subsistence-level state pensions and slashed corp o ration tax on big business profits. He has resisted all calls fo r taking the railways and public utilities back into public ownership.The private equity firms now buying up Bri t i s h transport, utility and services enterp rises were delibera t e ly lured here by whopping tax incentives introduced by the Chancellor seven years ago. Brown was the candidate of monopoly capital for the leadership of the Labour Party and he won by a walkover. Most of his support within Parliament came from those 180 or so nominally "Labour" MPs who have loyally trooped into the lobby in favour of every antiworking class, anti-democra t i c, pro-big business and warmongering measure proposed by the new Labour regime. Their political obituary could be the memora ble words of the otherwise forgotten US vicepresident John Garner - they were not worth "a bu c ket of w a rm spit." But it is clear that the malaise in the Labour Party reaches deeper than the parliamentary level. The reality is that 313 Labour MPs could back Brown safe in the

knowledge that few of them would come under any real pressure to do otherwise. Labour Party individual membership has fallen by 200,000 - or about half - since 1997. Many constituency parties are mere husks, only raised from the dead at election time. Fewer than twothirds of them are represented at the annual Labour Party conference. Of these, only about one-quarter voted reasonably consistently for left-wing positions last year, with no more than 40 per cent opposing privatisation of the NHS or supporting the right of unions to take solidarity action. Many other CLPs have been taken over by new Labour zombies who have no roots in the working class. With an annual conference whose resolutions are routinely ignored by the party leadership and a national executive committee which utterly fails to promote official Labour Party policy, it is questionable whether the Labour Party as such actually exists as an independent, national, political entity. The historic question facing working people and their families, trade unionists and socialists, therefore, is this. Are we to have a party of labour in Britain which stands for working class and progressive interests, however partially and imperfectly? We need a mass party rooted in the working class which enjoys

the allegiance of millions of people at the ballot box. Certainly, the Labour Party does not fulfil that role at present and only the most sectarian leftist will answer that the enormous vacuum that this leaves in the political struggle is - or could be filled by a socialist, Communist or "new worke rs" party of a few thousand activists. There is also a vital role for a revolutionary Marxist party, one with a capacity to analyse, mobilise and even to participate in elections in the broad interests of the working class and its allies. But having both a mass party of labour and a powerful Marxist party rooted in the labour movement are mutually r e i n forcing perspectives, not contradictory ones. The Communist Party has n e ver accepted the notion that there is a only a small, stagnant pool from which the left draws its forces and that an advance fo r one section of the left can only be at the expense of another. But what is needed now more than ever is for the trade union movement to take on its historic responsibility to ensure the existence of a mass party of labour. For all that socialists and c o m munists can do, the unions alone have the human, financial and organisational resources, as well as the class interest, to take the necessary steps. Together with the nonsectarian left, they need to work out a political strategy which takes account of current realities. For example, most major unions remain affiliated to the Labour Party and are unlikely to leave it in the near future. With the continu i n g involvement of thousands of socialists, the fight to reclaim the Labour Party for the labour movement will continu e, however faint the prospect of success. At the same time, at least one big and seve ral smaller militant unions are not affiliated to Labour but see the need for political representation. Differences over tactics and long-term stra t e g y should not impede the growth of mutual respect - even solidarity and a plan of united action around a minimum left-wing


p r o g ramme of policies. This would also provide the best context in which to conduct an ongoing discussion about how to ensure the existence of a mass labour party. It may even be possible to hammer out an electoral strategy for the left which respects different affiliations and perspectives while minimising sectarian disunity. The first steps in this direction might be for all the major unions to affiliate and participate fully in the Labour Representation Committee. Deals between union leaders in smoke-free rooms to win resolutions at Labour Party conference are not enough.The active involvement of unions and their members in the LRC would be the clearest declaration of political intent. The LRC could itself go the extra mile and allow full membership status to socialist organisations including the Communist Party, respecting their right to participate independently in elections in return for an agreement not to campaign fo r the dismantling of the Labour Party through further union disaffiliations. In their relations with the Labour Party, unions should stop all financial, logistical and political support for MPs who consistently vote against key union policies. Of the 100-plus Labour MPs in the GMB parliamentary group, 53 have not even signed the early day motion in favour of a Tra d e Union Freedom Bill.Thirteen of the backbenchers among them have also voted strongly in favour of foundation hospitals, student top-up fees, the erosion of civil liberties and all the rest.

In the Unite (Amicus section) group of 112 MPs, 58 have not supported the Bill while, in most cases, backing privatisation of the NHS, war on Iraq and all the other most reactionary new Labour measures. Of the 61-strong UNISON group, 23 have not backed the Bill to return rights which unions enjoyed back in 1907, 11 of them without even the excuse of being government ministers, whips or, less acceptably, parliamentary p rivate secretari e s . Again, most of these same 23 MPs have voted without fail against UNISON policies on health, education, civil liberties, Iraq and Trident. Readers of UNISON Labour Link News could be confused by the headline of an article by sponsored MP David Blunkett on page three, "The NHS - safe in our hands," and the report of NHS job losses, ward closures and private contracting-out on page four. Many members must wonder why their unions are giving credibility to such MPs and money to their constituencies. Millions of workers and progressive-minded people can be won to the ideas of public ownership, economic planning, social equality and peace. At the moment, they do not find those values or policies in the Labour Party. Many are bewildered by the spectacle of such a disunited left in Britain. Until we regain a mass party of labour, the main benefi c i a ries will be the Tories, Welsh and Scottish separatists and the BNP fascists. Robert Griffiths is general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain.

An independent foreign policy for Britain

Why you should join the communists

T

hrough much of its history, the British labour movement has sustained two parties – a federal Labour Party uniting tra d e s unions, cooperatives and socialist groups; and a Communist Party. The Labour Party was fo rmed at the beginning of the 20th century to secure parliamentary representation for organised worke rs. 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 fi n a l ly 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 worke rs union, for the reaffiliation 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 B ritain 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. No wonder the bosses and their mass media have kept up their antiCommunist 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 g e n e rations of working class activists and leaders. As the Marxist party of the Britain's labour movement, the communists uphold the principles of working class solidarity, militant struggle and the need to integrate battles for immediate gains into a s t rategy for socialist revolution. 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 defeating the New Labour cuckoos in the Labour Party nest is essential. 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 peace and 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 strengthen the working class movement in the most effective way, by joining the communists. If not you, who? If not now, when?

I want to join Britain’s communists name

Hear CND chair Kate Hudson & Jane Carolan NEC (in pc) Old Ship Hotel 6pm Wednesday 20 June Chair Anita Halpin M o rning Star Management Committee

address post code phone e mail return to Communist Party Ruskin House 23 Coombe Road Croydon CRO 1BD office@communist-party. o rg.uk


No justice after forty years FORTY YEARS after Israel's seizure of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, the Palestinian people are as far away as ever from justice. And the terrible strife that is tearing Palestinian society apart is rooted in the desperate pove rty and hopeless future faced by the millions locked up in Israel’s prison house, denied work and decent housing, unable to leave their homes or land and deprived of even water. Today, US plans for the socalled Greater Middle East region do not include an independent, sovereign Palestinian state which acts in the interests of the Palestinian people. The key objectives of US foreign policy are to: ■ Ensure cheap and reliable supplies of oil as US domestic production falls further behind its own consumption ■ Maintain pro-US regimes in

the region, especially in Israel and the oil-producing states ■ Remove regimes in Iran and Syria which do not comply with US diktats ■ Redraw national boundaries in the region to produce a patchwork of weak client states ■ Eventually create a 'free trade' area from Pakistan to N o rth Africa, in which US corporations are free to buy up energy resources and infrastructure ■ Spread US military bases and facilities up to the borders of China, Russia and India Britain’s New Labour gove rnment is signed up to the US agenda, expecting a share in economic and financial plunder. This has meant abandoning past pledges to seek justice for the Palestinian people, refusing to condemn the crimes and atrocities perpetrated by successive Israeli regimes.

Public ownership liftoff Unison’s exposure of the PFI scandal, our unions’ opposition to health and education privatisation and the debacle that is rail privatisation have given shape to a new public perception that public ownership is the best possible model for public services. And at last weekend’s Morning Star conference on ‘Politics after Blair’ Communist Party general secretary Rob Griffiths said “We must put the question of public ownership back into the heart of politics. It is more popular now than at any time since the second world war.” He added that the old fo rms of nationalisation were built to save capitalism and a new model of worker’s ownership is needed. The proposal for a new foundation to develop and project the case for public ownership is gaining wide support in the labour movement. Of course, the case for public ownership icannot limited to public services and utilities. It is clear that capitalism can neither provide stable conditions for industrial production nor manage resources to protect our planet. Taking control and ownership of our country’s productive base, its services and financial institutions is in the interests of the vast majority of our people. A foundation for public ownership would begin the work to develop a comprehensive policy that would inspire confidence in the ability of working people to shape the future of the country.

● Hence the Blair/Brown refusal to condemn Israel's b rutal attack on Lebanon in summer 2006 ● Hence the failure to demand the release of 11,000 Palestinians held without trial in Israeli prison camps, while expressing outrage at the detention of a handful of Israeli soldiers ● Hence Britain’s role in promoting the European Union embargo on aid to the elected Palestinian government The BBC and other powerful sections of the mass media have dutifully followed suit. Eve ry Israeli assassination and massacre of Palestinian leaders and civilians is re p o rted as a ‘response’ to a previous act of legitimate resistance or individual terrorism by a Palestinian organisation. The fact that Israel is the aggressive, occupying force in breach of numerous UN

resolutions is overlooked. British gove rnment support for US and Israeli policy must end. A boycott of Israeli goods and those Israeli institutions which collaborate with Israel's war machine is necessary Communists demand economic and financial sanctions against Israel until it complies with intern at i o n a l law and call for a UN-backed comprehensive peace settlement leading to a Palestinian state in line with UN resolutions, which also means demolishing the 'apartheid wall' and removing Israeli settlements from the occupied territories Our union should support the call of the Palestinian and Arab trade union movements to boycott the Israeli Histadrut federation which collaborates in the racist oppression of Palestinian workers.

Communist University of Britain 2007 'a weekend of discussions, debates, rallies, food, and drink and music with leading national and international speakers from the labour and anti-imperialist movements Friday October 26 7pm 90 years of the October revolution Rally organised by the Co-ordinating Committee of Communist Parties in Britain Saturday October 27 ‘Insatiable, inequitable, inhumane: the crimes of capitalism’ ★ From slavery to neo-colonialism ★ Anti-communism ★ Imperialism and the drive to war ★ Exploitation, boom and slump ★ Fascism yesterday and today ★ C apitalism vs women Global future or globalised disaster? ★ Public ownership or private profit? ★ Environmental security ★ Free capital and flexible labour Saturday evening Celebrating Che Cuban speaker. Film. Music Sunday October 28 Marxism and revolution in the 21st century ★ Women, race and class ★ A Scottish Road to Socialism? ★ Trade unions vs. transnational capital Reforms and revolutions: which way forward? contact the Communist Party Ruskin House 23 Coombe Road Croydon CR0 1BD office@communist-party.org.uk www.communist-party.org.uk 0208 686 1659


Unity! Unison Conference 2007  

Unity bulletin published by the Communist Party for 2007 Unison conference

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