I am so pleased to read such an honest and open discussion on the question of building a working class party in Sylvestre McLaren’s article entitled Wanted: A Working Class Party. There are a couple areas where I may have a different view about what we must consider as actions that will help our situation and not weaken it!
Who exactly constitutes MSJ Membership? In my estimation, OWTU members in the main and trade union activists, but I am not certain. I, too, became a member only after the PP election dust had settled. I was invited to join by my long standing OWTU contacts.
What and who do the MSJ members support? It should be persons who will always and forever answer to the commitment of holding the line for workers’ interests and only workers’ interests; their real working class leaders whose primary and only responsibility is exercised through the vehicle of the trade unions and any trade union/labour Party we should form.
Do we accept the way leadership positions were recently filled/reorganised in MSJ? It certainly was not a democratic process! What is the true philosophy and vision of the organisation MSJ? What principles should govern its organisational behaviour?
Workers should have been informed and participated in the design of the foundation elements of the organisation. These MSJ items must reflect the trade union philosophy and working class ideology in every way:
If this organisation really belongs to workers, we can place it where we would like it to be and make it into what we want it to be, but there must be informed and enlightened democracy and serious re- education efforts to teach all workers about the true and far reaching role of the trade union.
We should not weaken MSJ because we may not agree with the leadership positions. Their positions should be MSJ positions/our positions. MSJ positions have to be working class interest positions that the leaders must follow on the risk of removal from their office.
We should enforce the position of the MSJ organisation as the position of the working class through the leadership and using the democratic process and elect leaders we trust and believe in.
We have some tough choices to make but the labour movement needs strategic and strengthening initiatives. Not separations and pull outs!! Let us discuss how this can be done! Specific actions not more and more talk!
MSJ may not be functional without OWTU logistical and HR support. How do we feel about that?? How do we build MSJ capacity to function independently of any one union? Should not the unions, all of them, support the capacity and functionality of the MSJ?
Simple examples of what all unions should be doing and for a few continue doing:
Build and continue strong action in individual unions.
Build member participation and a state of constant mobilisation in both big and small units and unions.
Show support for each others’ actions as far as possible.
Very critical is continued organising efforts to reach more and more of the unorganised workers of the country. (This cannot be stressed enough). This will bring improved resources to unions to build capacity to mobilise and educate and grow the support base of the unions and in turn our Labour Party.
We must promote a consistent union voice and position on all key issues of public interest: a unified voice as far as possible
We must build unity in the movement: we do not have to kiss and love each other personally but we have a united mission in common. We are in this together. There is no one bigger, better or more worthy than another. All workers are important and should be represented and educated.
We must strengthen and support the weaker unions (large and small) tangibly and by example.
Strong and solid professional grievance handling/representation by the union and branch officers builds a commitment in members so thorough and so deep that it cannot be easily shaken. So when we union say move, we move.
We take this further to be when the union say vote we vote and we vote for our own people and Party! We must take into account public opinion of trade unions/union leaders and our issues. We have some serious work to do in this area. A simple opinion poll of lay people can clarify/define this perception to the movement and we simply must take concrete action to correct this negative and detracting impression of Labour by the public. We also need their support in our struggles. Public opinion can sway the State (a clear thinking and progressive State that is!)
We need to plot the course forward carefully/strategically. Union members are not stupid but they need information/analysis and guidance about what may be best for them, their children and their country. They must know they have a choice about their destiny. Unions must promote a positive work ethic and productivity where this is necessary.
We can use the success stories and working examples of the world in a myriad of areas to guide and empower our actions. We are not alone in this fight!
We must identify people of integrity, (we already know who they are), groom and prepare them for leadership. Let the opportunists fall by the wayside as they will inevitably do or get bought by someone somewhere along the line!
Let our leaders come from a working class background or at least have a deeply seated commitment to improving the working class situation through the trade union movement. They must be not just educated but truly conscious; not just professional but able to relate at grassroots level.
We do not want continued blind sacrifice of people’s lives and efforts to the movement. We want results in our lifetime but we must work hard and together for it! Egos at the door!