The Trade Union Congress in Brighton from September 13th– 16th September 2015

By Laurence Humphries, RCIT Britain, 27 September 2015, https://rcitbritain.wordpress.com/ and www.thecommunists.net

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) met in Brighton on 13 to 16 September to face its greatest challenge. The Cameron government wants to introduce their Trade Union Reform Bill which is intended to shackle the Unions and seriously curb their rights and privileges.

The trade union bureaucracy recognises this fact. In the TUC campaign plan of 2015 presented to the congress it states: “The government’s proposals set out to undermine the right to strike by letting employers use agency workers as cover for striking workers”. (1)

Further on they state that the government plans to “introduce unreasonable hurdles such as fines if workers set up a Facebook account without giving two weeks’ notice in advance of a strike, or letting an employer claim damages against a union if a picket supervisor forgets to wear their armband. The government also intends to “introduce undemocratic strike ballot thresholds”.

The trade union bureaucracy is in a crisis. It continually fosters illusions that British capitalism is in recovery and through a bit of tinkering the bureaucrats are hoping that a few reforms might come their way. In their Campaign Plan document the TUC bureaucracy continues to amplify these illusions: “Britain is back in recovery” and “We will make the case for a strong balanced recovery that is fairly shared and where improved growth and tax revenues allow the public finances to improve while services are protected”.

In fact the Marxists prognosis of the rate of profit to fall has been confirmed and the UK, as well as the world economy, is heading towards a new recession which will be even worse than that of 2008/09.

The Trade Union Reform Bill will have its second reading in the House of Commons on November 2nd. The TUC General council’s response is:

1) “To Demonstrate at the Tory party Conference on the 4th October in Manchester”

2) “Mass lobby of parliament on November 2nd when the Bill is being discussed in the House of Commons”

3) “Lobby your MP to oppose the Trade Union Reform Bill”

While such actions should be supported by socialists, it is necessary to point out that they will certainly not be sufficient to stop the government. This is why the RCIT Britain argues that the trade unions must organize an indefinite general strike until the Cameron government withdraws its bill.

Trade Union Bureaucracy

The total membership in trade unions in Britain has dropped to a total of 5,766,187 million people in Britain. This fall in membership reflects the cowardice and betrayal of TUC leaders since the miners’ strike of 1984-5.

Leon Trotsky observed in 1938 that “the historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership. (2) That still remains the case in the 21st century. The trade union bureaucracy is incapable of understanding the crisis of British capitalism. The Tory government wants to atomise and destroy the working class in Britain by ensuring that workers and youth are reduced to slavery. They intend to transfer wealth to the rich in Britain. To achieve this they must eliminate state support through their welfare reform proposals and their Trade Union Reform Bill.

Unfortunately, the potential of the working class to fight back is seriously hindered by the chronic deficits of the labour movement. For example, the majority of migrants and the most oppressed in Britain are not organised into trade unions. There is a two tier workforce in Britain. The structure of trade unions with its undemocratic and bureaucratic structure favours the bureaucracy and the labour aristocratic workers who benefitted out of British capitalism during the boom years.

Centrists

The two main centrist groups in Britain – the Socialist Party of England and Wales (SPEW) and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) – have developed a very close relationship with the trade union bureaucracy in Britain. The National Shop Steward’s Movement (NSSN), the industrial arm of the SPEW, has built an alliance with a number of left trade union leaders including Mark Serwokta of PCS, Matt Wrack from the FBU and Ronnie Draper from the Bakers union. They always speak on their platforms usually calling for a 24 hour General Strike.

The SWP also has an industrial arm called Unite The Resistance which, like the NSSN, has a close relationship to the left trade union leaders and they similarly always invite trade union leaders onto their platforms. The SWP usually adopts a more militant attitude but generally they have the same outlook in their relationship to their trade union work.

The most recent development has been the formation of a broad left organisation comprising ‘Left Unity’ in PCS (SPEW supporters) and ‘United Left’ (left bureaucrats and Stalinist fellow travellers in Unite around Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite).

However the election of Corbyn as Labour leader has shown that with imagination and a popular campaign youth and workers will respond in a fight against austerity.

Perspectives

As a first step, the RCIT in Britain calls for an end to a two tier workforce. It is crucial to organize workers of the lower strata – the precarious, poor, migrant and ethnical minority workers – in the unions and to give them a decisive influence in the unions. Likewise socialists must struggle to kick the bureaucracy out of the unions. An important step in this direction is the construction of a serious rank and file movement in the trade unions. Revolutionaries should try to establish communist fractions in every workplace and factory. The task for revolutionaries is the building of a pre-party organisation to overthrow imperialism and capitalism. We urge all workers and youth, migrants and the oppressed to study the platform of the RCIT and help us to build a revolutionary party.

The RCIT in Britain advocates the following demands.

* Stop the Tory’s racist immigration policies! Open borders for refugees! For equality of black, Asian and migrant peoples! For all migrants’ full citizenship rights, for the right to use their native tongue, and the right to all their cultural rights including the right of dress!

* For the nationalization of major industries and corporations under workers control! Nationalise all banks and corporations under workers’ control without paying compensation! Reinstate all public utilities that have been privatised by both Labour and Tory led Governments!

* Cancel all household debts! Occupy empty housing and oppose evictions if carried out by local authorities and Housing associations!

* Repeal the Anti-Trade Union Laws! Legalise the right to strike and withdraw your labour!

* Oppose all imperialist wars! British army and air force – out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Northern Ireland! Support the resistance!

* For a general strike to bring down this hated Tory government! For the defeat of the Trade Union Reform Bill and the Welfare Reform proposals!

* For a workers’ government based upon councils of action and for an armed workers militia!

* For a workers republic in Britain! For a United States of Europe!

References

(1) TUC Campaign Plan 2015 New Challenges Changing Priorities TUC Publications. All quotes from the TUC Congress are from this publication

(2) Leon Trotsky: The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International. The

Transitional Program (1938); in: Documents of the Fourth International, New York 1973, p. 181

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About RCIT Britain

What the RCIT stands for Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT)is a revolutionary combat organisation fighting for the liberation of the working class and all oppressed. It has national sections in a number of countries. The working class is composed of all those (and their families) who are forced to sell their labor power as wage earners to the capitalists. The RCIT stands on the theory and practice of the revolutionary workers’ movement associated with the names of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky. Capitalism endangers our lives and the future of humanity. Unemployment, war, environmental disasters, hunger, and exploitation are all part of everyday life under capitalism as are the imperialistic oppression of nations, the national oppression of migrants, and the oppression of women, young people, and homosexuals. Therefore, we want to eliminate capitalism. The liberation of the working class and all oppressed is possible only in a classless society without exploitation and oppression. Such a society can only be established internationally. Therefore, the RCIT is fighting for a socialist revolution at home and around the world. This revolution must be carried out and lead by the working class, for only this class has the collective power to bring down the ruling class and build a socialist society. The revolution cannot proceed peacefully because a ruling class never has nor ever will voluntarily surrender its power. By necessity, therefore, the road to liberation includes armed rebellion and civil war against the capitalists. The RCIT is fighting for the establishment of workers’ and peasants’ republics, where the oppressed organize themselves in councils democratically elected in rank-and-file meetings in factories, neighbourhoods, and schools. These councils, in turn, elect and control the government and all other statue authorities, and always retain the right to recall them. Authentic socialism and communism have nothing to do with the so-called “socialism” that ruled in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and which continues to do so in China and Cuba, for example. In these countries, the proletariat was and is dominated and oppressed by a privileged party bureaucracy. Under capitalism, the RCIT supports all efforts to improve the living conditions of the workers and oppressed, while simultaneously striving to overthrow this system based on economic exploitation of the masses. Towards these ends, we work from within the trade unions where we advocate class struggle, socialism, and workers’ democracy. But trade unions and social democracy are controlled by a bureaucracy perniciously connected with the state and capital via status, high-paying jobs, and other privileges. Thus, the trade union bureaucracy is far from the interests and living conditions of its members, based as it is on the top, privileged layers of the working class – a labor aristocracy which has no real interest in replacing capitalism. Therefore, the true struggle for the liberation of the working class, the toppling of capitalism and the establishment of socialism, must be based on the broad mass of the proletariat rather than their “representative” from the upper trade union strata. We also fight for the expropriation of the big land owners as well as for the nationalisation of the land and its distribution to the poor and landless peasants. Towards this goal we struggle for the independent organisation of the rural workers. We support national liberation movements against oppression. We also support the anti-imperialist struggles of oppressed peoples against the great powers. Within these movements we advocate a revolutionary leadership as an alternative to nationalist or reformist forces. While the RCIT strives for unity of action with other organizations, we are acutely aware that the policies of social democrats and pseudo-revolutionary groups are dangerous, and ultimately represent an obstacle to the emancipation of the working class, peasants, and the otherwise oppressed. In wars between imperialist states we take a revolutionary defeatist position: we do not support either side, but rather advocate the transformation of the war into a civil war against the ruling class in each of the warring states. In wars between imperialist powers (or their stooges) and a semi-colonial countries we stand for the defeat of the former and the victory of the oppressed countries. As communists, we maintain that the struggle against national oppression and all types of social oppression (women, youth, sexual minorities etc.) must be lead by the working class, because only the latter is capable of fomenting a revolutionarily change in society . Therefore, we consistently support working class-based revolutionary movements of the socially oppressed, while opposing the leadership of petty-bourgeois forces (feminism, nationalism, Islamism, etc.), who ultimately dance to the tune of the capitalists, and strive to replace them with revolutionary communist leadership. Only with a revolutionary party fighting as its leadership can the working class be victorious in its struggle for liberation. The establishment of such a party and the execution of a successful revolution, as it was demonstrated by the Bolsheviks in Russia under Lenin and Trotsky remain the models for revolutionary parties and revolutions in the 21st century. For new, revolutionary workers' parties in all countries! For a 5th Workers International to be founded on a revolutionary program! Join the RCIT! No future without socialism! No socialism without revolution! No revolution without a revolutionary party!
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