The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 21st September 2007

WFTU conference in Brussels

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by Daphne Liddle

Gordon Brown last week succeeded in sweet-talking union leaders into agreeing to surrender the influence of their members at Labour Party conference in exchange for a promise to review the new arrangements in two years – presumably after a general election.

 The Parliamentary Labour Party has never felt itself bound by policy decisions made at the party’s annual conference, even though the MPs depend on the grass-roots foot soldiers to get them elected.

 But conference decisions against war and against privatisation have succeeded in embarrassing the party leaders in the mass media. And the party conference has always had the final say on Labour election manifestos.

 Under the new system put forward by Brown the conference will not vote on “contemporary” motions any more. These motions will be referred to the party’s national policy forum where they will be discussed in private.

 The manifesto will also be drawn up in private and then the party membership of around 200,000 will have a chance to vote on the whole thing, yes or no, without any in depth public discussion.

 Labour’s National Executive Committee agreed these rule changes by 26 votes to four last Tuesday and they will be applied at next week’s Labour Party conference in Bournemouth.

 Brown is looking to win a general election in the not too distant future – he is riding high in the polls now in spite of the banking and credit turmoil, more because of division and disarray among his Tory and Liberal Democrat rivals than popular confidence in Labour.
union’s money

Brown will need the union’s money to run Labour’s election campaign – so you would think this would not be the time to attack union power and influence within the conference.

 But Brown has gone ahead anyway and persuaded union leaders to accept the changes on a promise that the new rules will be reviewed in two years.

Sickeningly, the union leaders have accepted this.

 There have been the usual press attacks on the principle of the union bloc votes, claiming that “one-member-one-vote is more democratic. It is anything but. Those union bloc votes represent thousands of affiliate members who pay their dues through their union membership, who discuss the issues at length and hammer out policy in their branches and at their union conferences.And they are the people wo suffer when their jobs are cut or privatised and when their hospitals suffer cash crises. They are the workers who create the wealth of this country and they are the people whose small contributions mount up and fund the Labour Party.

The union bloc votes are perhaps the only opportunity for ordinary workers to have any impact at all on the policies of our bourgeois capitalist government.

 Now their leaders have surrendered that power on the strength of the word of a politician – at a time when banks are crashing and stock markets juddering because savers and investors now refuse to believe politicians when they say “don’t panic”.

 The Brown regime is now starting to show its hand with further attacks on the left of the Labour Party. Left-wing Liverpool MP Bob Wareing has been de-selected after 24 years representing Liverpool West Derby and is to be replaced by former Blairite Labour MP and ex-education minister Stephen Twigg.

 Bob Wareing criticised the “New Labour Mafia” and blamed a concerted campaign to get rid of him. He said he would now end his 60-year membership of the party and consider standing as an independent.

 Alex McFadden, president of Merseyside TUC, said that Bob Wareing had been a stalwart of the trade union movement and “everything that was progressive”.

  Local Liberal Democrat council leader Warren Bradley said that Wareing had been treated “deplorably” by Labour.

 This is part of a long process of the Labour leadership consolidating more and more control over the party that has been going once since the 1980s.

 Gordon Brown is more subtle that Tony Blair but he is still the servant of the ruling classes. But the working class is still the majority and it is the class that does the work that creates wealth and power.

 The working class has the potential to take back control of the party it created – it is just a matter of education, agitation, organisation and confidence.

 The ruling class is facing enormous turbulence as capitalism is tearing itself apart globally. Things could change very quickly, including the balance of power within the Labour Party. The Left must remember the advice of Robespierre: “Audacity, Audacity, Audacity”.


Northern Rock

IT’S NOT OFTEN that we communists get to feel like Old Testament prophets but last week’s scenes of long, long queues outside high street branches of Northern Rock did provoke feelings of “we told you so”.

 This was the first run on a bank in Britain for around a century and the City pundits thought it could never happen here; they thought they had the capitalist system all sorted out and running smoothly on never-ending consumer debt. They thought they could buy and sell virtual commodities, hedge funds, futures and all the other ephemera that creative enterprise imaginations could dream up.

 They forgot that all their wealth is made by other people’s work and that there are real limits to it.

 They thought they could go on paying themselves millions and billions in bonuses and profits while the workers of the world endured longer and longer hours for lower and lower return in real terms. They thought communism was gone with the Soviet Union and the teachings of Marx could be laid to rest under a mountain of misrepresentation and confusion.

 Then the reality of their own system came and bit them on the bottom. The capitalist system is inherently unstable and goes through inevitable cycles of boom and bust and there is nothing the City pundits can do to change this. Marx’s analysis of capitalism is as true today as it was when he wrote it. Capitalists cannot escape crisis, no matter how they shuffle lending rates, dabble with deficit spending or unleash the full impact of market forces.

 Having said that, the failure of one bank is not the end of capitalism – yet – but it is a symptom of deep, deep trouble within the whole global capitalist system. As Marx pointed out, capitalism is impelled to seek ever greater and greater profits. Eventually it must run out of planet to plunder; then it must try to conjure something out of nothing by trading in futures and suchlike. Then it tries to sustain itself on personal debt – workers spending their future earnings and becoming debt slaves. But there is always a limit.

 Ultimately it is all a gamble – when the crisis comes, and it must come, which companies will survive and which will go to the wall?

 The trigger for the recent turmoil in the world’s banks is the sub-prime lending crash in the United States. Finance companies saw rich profits in granting mortgages for low quality housing to people on low incomes.

 But they were too greedy, they overdid it. Too many borrowers defaulted; too many repossessed homes were put on the market and the price of the properties crashed. All the banks and financiers who had been tempted to this honey-pot found themselves losing their money. So they clammed up and stopped lending to each other.

 It was this measure that destabilised smaller banks like Northern Rock, the Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley. They need access to short-term loans from other banks and when this dried up Northern Rock asked the Bank of England to stand by to bail it out. Just asking started the panic withdrawals and queues of terrified savers in the high streets.

 And the crisis was made worse because the savers simply did not believe the reassurances they were given by either the bank or the Government. The system is losing not just credit but credibility – and that presages more crises to come.

 Eventually the Government had to step in and Chancellor Alistair Darling promised the Government would underwrite the savings of all Northern Rock customers – to the tune of £28 billion. A guarantee of this size would have saved hundreds of Britain’s NHS hospitals from the financial crisis that hit them last year and resulted in thousands of jobs cuts among nurses and other health workers. But under capitalism the health of banks is more important than the health of people.

 This gives a lie to those who claim the free market is king – if it were, the banks would be left to crash as they leave hospitals to crash, with no Government intervention.

 Either way, the workers pay – losing savings, jobs or both. Marx was also right that when capitalism does collapse humanity will have only two options – socialism leading to peace and prosperity or barbarism.

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