UPDATE ON CWU POLITICAL WORK: BUILDING COLLECTIVISM
The purpose of this LTB is to update branches on a very important policy discussion held recently at the NEC on the topic of building collectivism in society. It is also to inform branches of our intention to engage the entire union on a major consultation regarding the union’s political work and the direction we will take going forward.
As branches know, the current political, economic, and social environment is one of the most difficult in the history of the Labour movement and the CWU is committed to facing these challenges with an equal level of ambition to deliver for our members.
As we grapple with the major challenge of building a post Covid and Brexit future, we do so knowing that there is already a deep structural imbalance of power and wealth in the world of work, how the economy operates and in the inequalities that permeate wider society. Furthermore, the fundamental issues of how society addresses climate change and the fourth industrial revolution will also increasingly impact on the growing sense of insecurity and anxiety that people are feeling over the future.
Regrettably, at a time when the country needs transformative change, the Labour Party are arguably further away than ever from delivering this. Although polling consistently shows that people are rightly dissatisfied with the Government’s handling of the pandemic, the Tories remain significantly ahead of Labour in the opinion polls – whilst Labour remain trapped in its “forever” factional war. Whilst we welcome Labour holding the Batley & Spen constituency, and congratulate Kim Leadbetter on her election, we must remember that this was already a Labour-held seat and that Labour lost 7.5% of its vote. If such a result were to be replicated across the country, the Labour Party could lose a further 50 seats on top of the 2019 General Election result.
We have yet to see anybody step forward with the leadership or vision to unite the Labour movement and to chart a different course. This is the reality of Labour’s disconnect with working people that has been decades in the making, exactly as we pointed out in the intervention we made in advance of the Hartlepool by-election.
Another crucial Labour failing has been to allow Boris Johnson and the Tories to get in front of them on their so-called levelling up agenda, confirming to the electorate not only that Labour cannot articulate what it stands for – but also that it had lost its emotional connection with its traditional supporters.
There is of course a lot of interesting analysis as to why this has happened and debates about Metropolitan elites, red wall seats, identity politics, values and culture wars are taking place across the political spectrum.
In considering the political context set out above and the divisive and polarised nature of political debate today, it’s clear that the key question facing the trade union and Labour movement is how do we unite working people and build a coalition of support across class, gender and race to deliver the changes we aspire to.
In answering this question, we believe that it’s time for trade unions to come together and set out our own distinct agenda that can lead the way forward for the whole labour movement. This must focus on how we build collectivism to influence and shape the future that we want for our members, our families and society. It’s about reinforcing and going further on the direction we have already taken in connecting our industrial and political work and calling for the movement to seriously get behind the New Deal for Workers campaign. It’s also about linking up with groups and communities that have emerged from the pandemic with a strong sense of what can be achieved through collective power.
The positive news is that this direction is gaining traction both within other trade unions and more recently within the Labour Party. In leading on this, the CWU IS forging a route that others can follow and we have made it clear to the Labour leadership that they must focus on changing the world of work and how the economy operates.
In terms of our relationship with the Labour Party, this must now be about strengthening our support for local and regional Labour leaders who are delivering change on the ground in a way that supports our members, working people and the communities they live in. The NEC endorsed this approach in a previous document, and it is now time to build on this in a more structured way with a deeper understanding across the union of how these developments are beginning to change things on the ground and what our role is in supporting them.
It is our intention to now engage the whole union in the debate about the way forward for our movement. The NEC will meet for an away day in July to develop this thinking, to set out the next steps for our New Deal for Workers Campaign and to look at how we build collectivism in our society. This engagement will also be taken out into the union and we are developing a major consultation programme with members, Branches and Regions on the important issues that have been covered in this letter.
Any enquiries of the above LTB should be sent to the General Secretary’s office – firstname.lastname@example.org.