Many working class people do not believe that their class has the potential to change the world. Indeed many of us do not even recognise the idea of class, let alone see themselves as part of the class of “women and men of no property”. This is not surprising. The ruling capitalist class have powerful tools to confuse and distract the working class.
A whole web of deceit is woven to disguise and justify the power of a tiny minority. This is what Marxists call ideology. The political set-up, built on the myth of ‘democracy’ and supposedly offering choices, is key. In reality the bogus options are all about maintaining power, ownership and control for the class of parasitic bosses.
A particular role has developed for organisations that pretend to be friends and allies of the working class but really help to keep us trapped in the bosses’ system. Prominent in this villainy is the umbrella that takes in the Labour Party and trades unions, including the spectrum of front organisations including Momentum, People’s Assemblies and sham anti-cuts Campaigns which are all about drumming up support to elect Labour Party politicians.
Labour Movement: Part of the Bosses’ System
A big confusion exists over the true nature of Labourist organisations. Particularly regarding trades unions, militants are often told that they cannot be “against the unions” because they include millions of working people. There used to be a similar argument about the Labour Party, although this is peddled less after decades of prominent Labour politicians having less and less connection with the working class.
The grain of truth in the argument is that the unions survive on the basis of subscriptions paid by their members, largely through bureaucratic arrangements with employers to take payment through the payroll system. But having working class people making payments does not mean that organisations are on the side of our class. Otherwise, religious organisations, loan sharks and even fascist grouplets would be our allies!
Once the trade unions have leeched the money from workers where does it go? A significant chunk goes to the “full-timers” at various levels. These are people whose chosen career is to be paid a wage by a union. Their way of life depends on maintaining or improving their position in the bureaucracy, irrespective of the real conditions of the bulk of the members.
Over the years unions have increasingly turned to deals with other capitalist institutions. As workers have been hit by wave after wave of austerity, the unions have stepped up their offers of cut price health care, insurance and legal advice.
More fundamentally, the core role of mediating between workers and bosses around wages and conditions is aimed at keeping workers locked in to their role as “wage slaves”. Many years ago revolutionaries recognised that the core union motto of “A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” is a slogan that ties workers into an endless cycle of exploitation.
Alongside their negotiating role, the unions carry out another important job for the bosses by restricting our ability to organise for ourselves in our own interest. They willingly accept legal restrictions, for example replacing the open and transparent decision making of mass meetings with prolonged and demoralising individual balloting.
The unions also do their best to prevent solidarity by refusing any decision-making involving workers from other unions, let alone workers who are not union members.
Of course, there is also the “living link” between the trades unions and the Labour Party. Having lined the pockets of the union careerists and windbags, a portion of the money paid by members is transferred to the Labour Party and its MPs. Here Labour shares the task of blinding workers to the fact that “A better world is possible” without bosses and their wages system. There should be no surprise that Corbyn’s pre-election “Build It in Britain Again” speech is taken right out of the Donald Trump handbook. The only difference is that Jeremy doesn’t want trade wars: but he does want to save capitalism and that agenda is not the way to a better world. As the old saying goes, “If elections changed anything they would have abolished them years ago”.
Against these false friends, workers need to strengthen their own solidarity and self-organisation. We also need to start building a political organisation of the most clear-sighted who see the need to sweep away the rotten capitalist system that the “Labour Movement” depends on.
The above article like the one that precedes it on our site is taken from the current edition (No. 44) of Aurora, broadsheet of the Communist Workers’ Organisation.