A letter to the Fire Brigades’ Union
Dear General Secretary,
At its meeting of 3rd July 2004 our Executive Committee asked me to write to you to express our welcome of your union’s recent decision to reverse your historic mistake of affiliating to the Labour Party.
For nearly 100 years the Socialist Party has held a clear and consistent position that trade unions and political parties need to remain separate. We have considered it bizarre that trade unionists in public sector unions should hand over their dues money to their, effective, political employers. Feeding the hand that beat them.
We have observed that trade unions need freedom to manoeuvre and represent the interests of the membership – distinct groups within the working class. This freedom of manoeuvre means getting the best deal for their members within capitalism, often as against the general policy of a political party, which has to at least attempt to represent the general interest of its constituency. Political parties and trade unions only harm each other by shackling themselves to one another.
In the case of the Labour Party in Britain, it is clear that there have been numerous clashes between themselves and the Unions. The Attlee government used troops to smash a dock-workers strike. Wilson’s government floundered over the refusal of the unions to accept the ‘In Place of Strife’ income controls policy. Your own union members were branded traitors and threatened with legislation to deprive them of their freedom to strike in your recent dispute.
This is not caused by individual wickedness of Labour ministers, but by the hard logic of administering capitalism. The same hard logic that saw Labour governments tear up railways and close down more pits than the Tories ever did. Capitalism is founded on the principle of no profit no production, and if a government is to keep capitalism running, it must obey this hard and fast law.
We thus wish to express our hope that your union will not seek to affiliate with any other political party, and most specifically, not try to recreate the Old Labour disaster that has blighted the workers movement for more than a hundred years. We hope you will use all your union’s resources and funds to defend your members’ interests, rather than those of your political employers.
We further hope that your members will come to understand that any resolution of a pay-deal within capitalism means their continued exploitation by the tiny capitalist class, and that their best interest lies in joining their fellow workers in a movement with the express and single aim of “the abolition of the wages system” and its replacement with common ownership and the free association of producers.
Yours for the World Socialism,
Bill Martin (Acting General Secretary).