Take the anti-war fight to New Labour

The anti-war movement has had a profound impact on the trade unions. Most union activists oppose the war against Iraq. Leading leftwing trade union leaders "“ the awkward squad "“ have helped sway the Trades Union Congress and made stirring anti-war speeches on countless platforms. Many national unions oppose the neo-colonialist onslaught. As we have noted, youth will act the most dynamically and responsively. The big battalions of the working class, the trade unions, will be slower to move, but when they do, will act more decisively. Therefore merging the anti-war movement and the unions is an essential task for revolutionary socialists and communists. The Rail, Maritime and Transport union has not held back from industrial action during the war. Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, and Mick Rix, general secretary of the train drivers' union Aslef, have called for political strike action against the war where possible. The TUC opposed the war before it started under pressure from the left-led unions. Yet the unions have been patchy and inconsistent. The TUC failed to convene a recall conference - as it is required to do under its rules during war, let alone do anything substantive. There is another front. The Labour Party, Most trade unions in the TUC are affiliated to Labour. While the pro-ruling pole is dominant the party remains a strange beast "“ tied organisationally to the working class through its trade unions. Members of trade unions therefore have every reason to exert influence through internal Labour Party channels. They have not all been concreted over. Crucially, where affiliated to the Labour Party, they must demand that their representatives in the Labour Party fight the pro-boss, pro-war positions of Tony Blair's government. There is no contradiction in doing that and campaigning for the democratisation of the political funds. Trade unions should be free to give money to any working class organisation or candidate that supports the policy of the trade union. Worryingly, Bob Crow has been making positive noises about the RMT backing the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru. This is not the path socialists should take. The trade union representatives on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party have not crowned themselves with glory during this war. Explicitly anti-war unions such as the RMT, represented by Mick Cash, have failed to make the running. At January's meeting, Grassroots Alliance NEC members and Denis Skinner were not backed up by brother Cash in a vote on the war in Iraq. Instead a resolution backing the government in its pursuit of a second United Nations resolution was passed 22 votes to four. John Keggie of the Communication Workers Union was not even present at the March meeting where a motion on the war from Mark Seddon, editor of the Labour left Tribune was ruled out of order. There has been no coordinated intervention from the unions to hit Blair from within the Labour Party. The link between the Labour Party and the unions should not be sacrificed needlessly. However tenuous the Labour Party still represents a historic working class gain. Illusions in an openly imperialist leadership and a reformist vision of society have nothing to do with the goal of communists. But in the absence of a viable alternative disaffiliation is a blind alley. A path to the depoliticisation of the trade union movement. Trade union activists must simultaneously use the link to combat Blair and educate the rank and file though their direct involvement in deciding what policies to adhere to and how to achieve them. Through that mass process new, higher forms of organisation will in all probability emerge. Meanwhile communists and revolutionary socialists must learn to fight inside and outside the Labour Party. * Demand that union representatives in the Labour Party fight for union policies at all levels from the ward and constituency to the NEC. * Campaign to democratise the political funds. * No support for non-working class or nationalist candidates. * Build the closest links between socialists inside the Labour Party and those outside the Labour Party. Martin Blum