Jim Murphy’s election as Labour’s new Scottish leader has underlined the need for the affiliated trade unions to break from Labour and help build a new party to represent working class people.
Murphy, who has a long history on the right wing Blairite faction of the party and who was heavily promoted in the capitalist press, polled just over 55% of the vote.
He won two thirds support among Labour parliamentarians and 60% backing from party members.
In the late1970’s and early 1980’s, when Labour was a workers party at its base, many constituency Labour parties were strongholds for the left. Today, 30 constituency Labour Party’s had nominated Murphy as leader. As did the youth and the student wing of the party.
This is a crushing indication of how far to the right the Labour party has moved. The witchhunt of the left, principally Militant, (the forerunner of the Socialist Party) was carried out in the 1980’s to make the Labour Party safe for capitalist interests. As a result the party is now largely empty of workers. So much so that Labour has refused to make public the figures of those who actually voted for fear it will expose the paltry numbers who took part.
A majority of trade unionists did back the left candidate, Neil Findlay. However, reflecting the lack of involvement by trade unionists in the party, it’s estimated that fewer than 10% of eligible trade union members actually voted.
Murphy’s election will cement Labour’s position as a pro big business, pro austerity party. As such it will remain incapable of rebuilding its largely shattered base of support among the working class in Scotland.
The crisis facing Labour was shown in last week’s opinion poll, which had the SNP on 47%, fully 20% ahead of Labour. This would leave Labour with just seven seats in Scotland, a loss of 34 MPs.
New party needed
Socialist Party Scotland, like our sister party in England and Wales, campaigns for the affiliated trade unions to break from Labour and help launch a new mass workers party.
We would appeal to Unite and the other affiliated unions to urgently consider calling emergency conferences to discuss breaking from Labour and helping to launch a new working class party that would stand on the basic principles of the trade union movement; an end to austerity, public ownership, the abolition of anti-trade union laws and a living wage for all workers.
As Unite has experienced in Falkirk any attempts by the trade unions to try to reclaim Labour for trade union interests will be bitterly resisted by the leadership. Indeed it was the Labour leadership who called in the police to investigate Unite in Falkirk. Murphy himself claimied Unite had ‘overstepped the mark’ and exerted ‘external influence’.” This directly led to the witch-hunt against Unite member Stevie Deans and the trade union. It also emboldened the brutal and anti-union owner of Ineos, Jim Ratcliffe, to launch a purge of the union at the Grangemouth plant where Stevie and Mark Lyons were Unite conveners.
Murphy has announced he intends to re-write a new clause four for the Scottish party. Not to turn it in a socialist or a left direction, but to emphasise its Scottish “patriotism” and its autonomous relationship with the UK Labour Party. It will, he claims, no longer a “branch office” controlled by London. However, Labour in Scotland will still pursue the same failed capitalist ideology under Murphy’s leadership, albeit by occasional attacks on the SNP’s pro-business policies.
The original clause was adopted by the Labour Party in 1918 following the Russian Revolution. Clause IV called for “common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”. Tony Blair abolished it in 1995 to signify to big business and the billionaire owned media that Labour was “modernising”. New Labour was and remains an out-and-out party of capitalism.
Murphy has a long history on the right wing of the Labour Party. A former President of the National Union of Students, Murphy was instrumental in forcing through a change in NUS policy dropping opposition to the abolition of the student grant. In 1997 the newly elected Blair Government scrapped the grant alongside the introduction of tuition fees.
Under Murphy’s leadership Scottish Labour continue with its pro-cuts policies. Hie election comes on the back of Ed Miliband’s speech last Thursday that committed a futire Labour government to continue spending cuts throughout the whole of their five year term of office, if they win the election in May 2015.
Socialist Party Scotland plays an active role in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition set-up by Bob Crow and the Socialist Party, alongside other leading trade unionists, in 2010.
Scottish TUSC commented following Murphy’s election; “TUSC believes that Murphy’s election will lead to an exodus of members from an already beleaguered party facing collapsing support after the independence referendum.
It will also further weaken public support for the Labour Party in Scotland. Murphy is well known as an arch Blairite, a supporter of the Iraq war, an advocate of a new generation of Trident and who backs further austerity cuts.
As such, under his leadership, there is now clearly no possibility of Labour moving to the left and advocating fighting socialist and anti-austerity policies. We appeal to trade unionists and Labour party members who see the need for a fighting anti-cuts and socialist alternative to join with TUSC and help us build that alternative.”
TUSC is standing in 100 seats in the general election in May in England, Scotland and Wales in the biggest left of Labour challenge in over 60 years