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Affiliate to Labour? Not us…

The following response was given to a suggestion that our Party affiliate to the Labour party. That in failing to do so we had not learnt from our history and that it was right and proper for all Trade Unions to affiliate and support the Labour party. The proposal was put to the Chair of the Workers Party Trade Union Group for comment, and the response now follows:

The Labour Party was formed in 1900 by a coalition of trade unions and other socialist societies*, including the Fabian Society, an organisation which has a long history of acting against the interests of workers and socialism. The trade union movement as it was in 1900 was not one of the entire working class: It was in fact an organisation formed from and working on behalf of a privileged layer of workers who created modern trade unions through the merger of ‘craft unions’ – unions of skilled and well-remunerated workers who opposed creating a wider and more encompassing movement for all working class people in favour of maintaining the privileges that craft unions had gained, both through their own leverage but also through their allegiance to British imperialism.

You state that we should read our history and appreciate what the Labour Party and the unions have done for British workers. Whilst you do not cite any examples, we believe that Labour was founded to prevent workers from winning socialism in Britain and has repeatedly throughout its history, from the General Strike in 1926 to the Miners’ Strike in 1984/5, fought against workers and has worked solely in the interests of the ruling class. We further believe that the trade union movement has made some gains for the betterment of workers, but its servile relationship with the Labour Party has acted as a handbrake on the aspirations of its members and has contributed to the creation of a bureaucratic layer within affiliated trade unions which puts their own self-serving interests in nurturing their relationship with the Labour Party ahead of the interests of their own union members.

To reply to your final point, I can say with some authority that the Workers Party of Britain will never affiliate to the Labour Party. WPB is an anti-imperialist, pro-worker and pro-trade union political party, which holds the view that Labour as a political entity needs to be destroyed. Even if, as a party, we were to take leave of our collective senses and seek to affiliate with Labour, our anti-imperialist, pro-worker and pro-trade union policies would be wholly incompatible with the Labour Party and make affiliation impossible.

Best regards, 

Jason Turvey

Trade Union Group – Workers Party of Britain

* Editors note: in 1900 the Conference to create the Labour Representation Committee was attended by 129 delegates, representing 500,000 trade unionists, three socialist bodies (ILP, SDP and Fabians). By 53 votes to 39 (with a quarter delegates abstaining) the Conference rejected the “socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange” and passed an ILP amendment that gutted the original SDF motion of its class content and socialist aspirations. This led to the separation of the SDF from the LRC the following year.