Socialist Worker

Trade unions still provide the finance for Labour

We should defend the right of unions to fund political parties. But if Labour wants to get workers’ money it should do something to deserve it, writes Simon Basketter

Issue No. 2361

Photo of unite general secretary Len McClusky

Len McCluskey


Labour is in desperate need of money, but equally desperate to keep the unions quiet.

The bosses who used to donate cash when Labour was in government have run away.

With debts approaching £10 million, Labour would be bankrupt without union funding. 

The trade union movement currently supplies 82 percent of Labour’s donations. Unite alone has given £8.4 million since Miliband became leader in 2010. 

Workers’ organisations were central to the founding of the Labour Party. This provided political representation and a voice in parliament for ordinary people.

Trade unions have provided a financial and political bedrock for the Labour Party for over a century. 

Part of the New Labour project was to make it a “classless” party, appealing to rich and poor, bosses and workers at the same time.

Business

In practice this meant that business came first. The rich dominate all aspects of our society. To counteract that working people need to organise collectively.

That means organising against the bosses, not just economically—but politically.

We should defend the right of unions to fund political parties. But if Labour wants to get workers’ money it should do something to deserve it.

The Unite Political Strategy passed in 2011 says, “Unite has, along with others, talked of ‘reclaiming Labour’… we will initiate a new campaign, embracing all parts of Unite, to extend our influence in the party. 

“This is emphatically not just a recruitment offensive to benefit the Labour Party with passive financial contributors—it is vital if we are to impact on constituency parties.”

So it wasn’t exactly a secret. 

Getting union-friendly people selected as candidates isn’t a bad thing but it isn’t an alternative to an actual fight against the Tories. 

Union political funds should be used to support political campaigns and parties that stand up for ordinary people.


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