The problems we face as a Union are affected by the political background as are the problems our members and their families face outside of our place of work.
The political situation affects our children’s future. For example, will they be able to access good jobs and will they be able to secure decent housing at a reasonable rent.
The Labour Party is still the only party that has got any real intention or possibility of securing a better future for ourselves and our children.
We are facing the worst housing crisis for a century, we have a health service in meltdown, cuts to services, and reducing pensions along with an ever-rising retirement age all affecting everyone except the very privileged.
New Leadership Hope
Our Union has twice successfully given its support to Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, not just because he was always there for us, giving his support over the years in the various battles we went through, but because we found that when we supported a Labour government between 1997 and 2010, that Government did not support us very much in return. In fact, we needed to fight against an initial privatisation attempt in 2009 and also faced many industrial disputes in which the Tory anti-union laws were either threatened or used against us.
Prior to our Union pushing back the privatisation attempts of the last Labour Government our Union came close to disaffiliating from the Labour Party. While I fully understood the reasons for the Union considering disaffiliation, that was something I was opposed to because it would only have ever given us a bit of short-term satisfaction.
It was because of the failure of past Labour Governments to properly stand up for working people that meant when the Labour Party leadership election came, members of the Labour Party elected a leader who politically stands against the cuts to public services, really is in favour of truly affordable council housing, supports a well-funded NHS, and wants to stand up for workers’ rights. As we know, this decision was not made just once, but twice and with an even bigger majority the second time.
But for this, the Labour Party may as well not bother to exist. If it is to be another version of the Tory and Liberal Parties, what point does it have?
Workers Battle in Labour Party Not Yet Won
However, despite having a Labour leader who is a great friend of the CWU and working people generally on every front, there is a lack of willingness from the majority of current Labour MPs to support this turn to support working people. The leopards are not changing their spots, as the old saying goes.
As well as the MPs, a powerful right wing and anti-working class group still controls the Labour Party machine, its structures in other words. In many respects this group is stronger today than ever before, and seem dedicated to making it almost impossible for good working class socialists to get onto Labour’s approved panel as prospective councillors and MPs.
In the past local parties could decide such things without outside interference and it means that many skilled, talented people with both work place and life experience are excluded while the ‘professionals’ from the right wing Liberal elite get through. Our Union now needs to be part of changing that.
Financial support from Unions, and a general, but largely passive support for the Labour Party, is great, but membership and activity is absolutely crucial if we are to bother with the Labour Party at all.
Affiliated Unions can have their own delegates to Constituency Labour Parties as well as give extra support through the political fund if that party selects CWU members as prospective Councillors and MPs.
At present the party has a mountain to climb if it is to become anywhere near to forming a Labour Government. To do this it must have good quality representatives – the days of so called safe seats, where you could stand anybody, are gone.
The Labour Party’s position on the EU debate exposed how completely out of touch the right wing of the party are in not recognising the reality of how the EU has been used as a vehicle to drive down workers terms and conditions with big business using a flood of cheap labour and allowing companies to outsource work to low paid workers on temporary contracts or on pretend self-employed tickets.
It was also bizarre that our own union leadership supported Labour’s right wing in supporting the EU when it was in EU law that a country, no matter what government they had, are not able to keep services in public ownership or retake them back into public ownership. The EU forced countries such as Romania to privatise their whole public sector, leaving them along with many other European countries, economically devastated. They were sold a lie!
No trade unionist or socialist could ever support such an outfit in my view.
The only trade union pro-leave argument given in the media was on Radio 4 by an RMT representative. With the Blairite section of the Labour Party supporting the EU still firmly in control of the party organisation and not wanting to move on or make the party a genuine broad Church as it was to some extent in the past, we have many battles and problems to confront in the future. But more importantly we do have many good members who could become active and the Labour Party is now already the biggest political party in Western Europe.
There is no short cut on this, so I would urge everyone to get active and join the Labour Party as a union representative.
Councillor Lee Waker – Political Officer East London Postal Branch CWU