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Back to Front - Paying for the privilege


LABOUR is nothing if not predictable. Under fire for accepting cash from anonymous or expatriate donors, its response is to suggest that political parties should be funded by the state; which is to say, by the taxpayers.

Even Labour – cut off as it seems to be from most of the realities of the Britain it is dismantling, wrecking and handing over to the European Union – realises that the taxpayers will need a fair bit of convincing about this. That won't stop Labour, of course, not when it spots a good way of permanently topping up the trough in which its snouts are so deeply embedded.

But if there is to be a debate about the funding of political parties, so much the better. The unions above all need to think about what they are doing shovelling millions to a party that despises them and acts accordingly.

It's not as if the trade unions are flush with money. Most of them face huge financial problems brought on by falling membership and a seemingly inexorable rise in the number of salaried officials.

So perhaps now would be a good time for all unions donating money to political parties – and all workers paying in to those funds – to think about why they are doing it at all.

The problem goes back to the birth of Labour, created by the unions at the start of the 20th century as a conscious act of surrender: no longer would unions see their role as including politics. Politics, on the contrary, was to be hived off to the Labour Party and to parliament. Unions would concentrate on the so-called economic.

It was the greatest mistake our unions have ever made. Politics and economics are not separate: take out the politics and the economics can't survive on its own. The politicians know that, which is why they have never given up economics.

Workers, through their unions, sought an easier life, and brought the Labour Party into existence. But they created a monster that has betrayed them cynically and repeatedly ever since.

That after a century of being bitten by the mouth they are feeding, unions still want to give millions to Labour indicates either gross stupidity or, more likely, corruption. Either way, where's the benefit to the working class?

There is a simple solution: let every union declare that it will do its own political work, not hand money over to politicos of whatever description to do it for them. All it would take would be a motion at its policy-making conference saying the union will spend its political fund itself and not give money to any political party.

Not that such a motion would have an easy passage. Another group is also after the members' money: the ultra-left. They want the unions to ditch Labour and enrich them instead.

And while they're waiting for the big payout from political funds (some way off, thankfully) they content themselves with smaller pickings: endless motions designed to bleed local funds dry – support for this conference, sponsorship for x number of delegates to that one, a donation to some bookshop. Sometimes, they don't even bother with motions (after all, too many meetings are inquorate) and get by with "executive action".

The challenge for the working class is to become independent, in thought and deed. Only charlatans will offer to "do something for" workers. If progress is to be won, it can only be won by workers themselves.