Communist election manifesto launched

As Blair turns on the unions the CPGB launches its election fight for what workers need

“Even after every change we are proposing, Britain would remain with a more restricted trade union legislative framework than any country in the western world”.

A proud boast indeed. The words of a Tory minister in the 1980s, unveiling the latest round of anti-union bashing? Or perhaps Michael Heseltine outlining the future to come under a fifth term of office for the Tories?

No. The author of this statement was Tony Blair last week, as he emerged from Walworth Road after a meeting between the shadow cabinet and the National Executive Committee. As The Guardian said with admiration, if not awe: “These were extraordinary words” (March 27). In many respects, they were.

There can be no mistaking the direction Tony Blair and New Labour is heading in - ie, towards an explicitly anti-union, anti-working class agenda, which shamelessly seeks to build upon the ‘achievements’ of the previous Tory governments. Blunkett reiterated this message at the National Union of Teachers’ conference this week. Though the applause was muted, half the audience rose to its feet. While large sections of the left are incapable of organising against New Labour and still urge a Labour vote, militant trade unionism is left without political expression - and ultimately back into the hands of the union bashers in New Labour. All those left publications which believe that a Labour government will automatically usher in a new age of trade union power or influence are kidding themselves - and the working class. To do so, given the assault which Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have in line for us, is nothing short of criminal.

To convince the bosses, and the establishment in general, that they can trust Labour, Tony Blair has been using viciously reactionary newspapers as a launch pad for his ambitions. The Tory-loyal Daly Mail conveyed the gospel according to Blair last week. As he told them, “There will be no return to the trade union laws of the 1970s ... It won’t happen. There will be no closed shop” (March 26). All the essential elements of the Tories’ 1980s legislation - laws banning secondary and flying pickets, on secondary action, on the need to have ballots before strikes, and for union elections - will remain under Labour. You certainly cannot accuse Blair of fudging or dishonesty.

Labour’s latest proposals, to form a Central Arbitration Committee, fall into this pattern of anti-union activity. Under this scheme, workers will have the legal right to union recognition where more than 50% of the workforce want it. This may sound jolly sensible and fair to some. But in reality Labour’s scheme represents a further emasculation of the unions - which, to use Gordon Brown’s newspeak, would be transformed into “bargaining units”. In the last resort, a judge would decide what is an appropriate “unit” and what actually constituted 50% of the workforce. In the United States, where such a scheme has been in operation since the 1930s, American workers have routinely been subject to intimidation by employers during the long and drawn-out recognition ballot process. Some US bosses, predictably, have simply derecognised unions instead of going through this legal ‘hassle’. You can guarantee that Blair and his team are well aware of this fact.

The future of British imperialism is also safe in Labour’s hands - if not safer. Mo Mowlam, Labour’s Northern Ireland secretary, said on BBC Radio Ulster on Saturday that there was a “high possibility” that Sinn Fein would be allowed back into the multi-party ‘peace’ talks in June - if the IRA declares a ceasefire. Paul Doherty, Sinn Fein vice-president, responded positively: “Let us meet now and figure out collectively how both Sinn Fein and Labour ... can live up to their responsibilities”.

The imperialist ‘peace’ process has run out of steam under the tired, Tory administration - New Labour is needed to inject a sense of urgency into it. As the Labour-loyal, imperialist-loyal, Moring Star put it: “The process outlined by shadow Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlam offers the best chance since the ending of the IRA ceasefire for securing real negotiations” (April 1) - and ending the heroic national liberation struggle of the nationalist/republican community in the Six Counties.

We need to organise and fightback now, not wait like headless chickens for Blair to do the dirty, and then moan about it.

This week we launch our CPGB election manifesto (see inside), which declares itself to be an “action programme based on what the working needs not what this rotting system can afford”. While most of the left will be putting their energies into voting Tony Blair into power, thus voting “for the constitutional monarchy and capitalism”, our Communist Manifesto stands for a “federal republic and the right of Scotland, Wales and Ireland to self-determination”.

These democratic demands are linked to and bound up with the struggle for real socialism, not the perversions built by JV Stalin or Clement Atlee. Self-activity is the key, not passivity.

Paul Greenaway