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A new party or a transformed Labour Party?   

Any strategy that risks splitting the trade-union movement, or separating the unions from Labour, could be disastrous for the progress towards socialism, says DAVID GROVE

WITH the demise of the Corbyn project, and the determination of the new Labour leadership to destroy the left, it’s not surprising that some Morning Star readers are advocating the establishment of a new party of socialism. 

Before they take this any further, I urge them to ponder the following points.

The only social force that can bring socialism to Britain is the organised and united working class. 

Despite the decline over the last 40 years, we still have a strong trade-union movement. Together, the unions are the largest and most democratic voluntary organisations in the country. And they have two assets that are, I think, unique among the larger capitalist states. 

First, there is a single trade-union centre, the TUC, to which almost all unions are affiliated. It can speak and act on behalf of the whole movement. The TUC sponsors local trades councils, which have the potential to bring together workplaces and communities in a powerful combination.

Second, more than a century ago the trade-union movement set up the Labour Party to represent the interests of working people in Parliament. The party soon became, and has remained (except perhaps in Scotland) the mass party of the British working class. 

The party is funded by the trade unions that have the constitutional power to decide its structure and policies. This is the essential feature that distinguishes Labour from other existing or imagined parties of the left. 

Any strategy that risks splitting the trade-union movement, or separating the unions from the party, could be disastrous for the progress towards socialism.

Of course Labour is not a socialist party — indeed, it has always been dominated by rightwingers intent on preserving capitalism, on winning concessions through class collaboration rather than class struggle. 

But at the same time it has never been without socialist members — there has been a continuous struggle between left and right tendencies. So far the right has always come out on top. But the experience of those first two exciting years of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership showed that another outcome is possible. 

With the most left-wing leader ever, and the most radical policies, Labour enjoyed a vast growth in party membership and a greatly increased vote in the 2017 general election. Surely this should convince us that, despite the subsequent defeat by the capitalist state, a left Labour Party is a realistic aspiration.

The surest way forward must be for socialists to win their trade unions and constituency parties for radical policies, and for the restoration of fully democratic procedures and practices in the Labour Party.  

Not an easy task — but it won’t be carried out in a vacuum; it will be part of the growing class struggle around pressing issues such as jobs, investment in public services, equality, peace, the fight against climate change. 

Efforts to change the Labour Party will be immensely helped by the mass campaigning of the People’s Assembly, Stop the War, CND, Black Lives Matter, the National Assembly of Women, and many other progressive organisations.

Bringing these together with the trade unions in a popular, democratic anti-monopoly alliance, as envisaged in the Communist Party programme Britain’s Road to Socialism, will be the necessary context for the much desired transformation of the Labour Party.


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