Political poverty

The left looks to Labour to deliver a minimum wage

DEMANDS being made in the campaign for a minimum wage are indicative of the lack of both confidence and any wider vision of society on the left. The Socialist Workers Party and Militant Labour are prime examples of this, advocating what they think the bosses’ system might be able to afford, rather than what workers need.

Thus, a recent editorial in Militant argues: “The minimum wage should be the European Union decency threshold of£6 an hour. That would mean a minimum of £210 for a 35-hour week with pro-rata pay for part-timers” (June 9). While we would argue that the EU figure is far too low, ML’s position appears to be semi-principled.

Yet the editorial immediately adds a qualification:

“But there’s no question that £4.15, as a first step in that direction, would be an important achievement. A clear commitment from Labour to honour this policy would mobilise millions of workers suffering in low-paid jobs to vote for them.”

This caveat makes clear that the “minimum wage” in the hands of ML is purely a bargaining chip, an object to be haggled over with the Labour Party when it comes to power. Indeed, ML’s campaign for a minimum wage seems more concerned with meeting the needs of the bourgeois Labour Party than the working class.

This fear is amply confirmed by their recent pamphlet, The Low Pay Scandal: The Fight for a National Minimum Wage, which neutrally informs us, “It’s likely a Labour government will face economic problems”.

Naturally, the loyalist ML wants to lend a helping hand to any future Labour government and warns that even “modest measures”, such as a “wealth tax” for instance, could “provoke a storm of protest and a strike of capital by the bosses”. The Labour government of the future must not ‘back down’ (from its openly anti-working class agenda) when confronted by ‘rebellious’ capital.

Such is the inspiring communist vision of ML, which is already kow-towing before the Blair government in waiting.

The SWP is worse. Socialist Worker (June 3)makes the somewhat pathetic claim that “a minimum wage of £4 an hour would immediately improve the lives of five million workers”, and then wimps even more pathetically: “We must keep up pressure on the Labour and trade union leaders to back the call for at least £4 an hour.”

The SWP thinks workers should rely on the bureaucrats and be grateful for whatever a Labour government deems possible.

Both ML and the SWP are permanently hamstrung by their loyalty to Labourism and the lesser-of-two-evils philosophy. This guarantees that they will never base their demands upon what workers need now to live a civilised existence.

The Communist Party is different. We have no loyalty whatsoever to the Labour Party and will never tailor our demands to meet the Labour cloth. All workers require, and deserve, work or full benefit at the rate of £275 a week. Nothing else is acceptable.

Frank Vincent