The Guardian 25 May, 2005

Labour unity is our future

The following statement was released by the National Labour Commission of the Communist Party USA on May 16.

Not since the dismal Cold War days of the 1950s has labour been under such attack from capital in our country. Capitalist globalisation is pressing hard on labour from all sides. The far right, with control of both the Congress and the White House, sees its best opportunity in decades to greatly weaken labour. The Department of Labour and the National Labour Relations Board have been turned into total tools of big business, abandoning even the appearance of neutrality and impartiality.

At the same time, labour and the AFL-CIO have shown significant staying power. Labour’s hard work to defeat Bush and the far right in the 2004 elections was remarkable. The unity, the mobilisation and the coalition-building of those efforts electrified and anchored the whole progressive movement.

And even though the right wing won the elections, labour and the people’s coalitions have begun to turn the tide against the Bush administration and the far right. It’s increasingly being challenged on Social Security, health care, jobs, trade issues, far right judicial nominees, labour rights and the war in Iraq. As these struggles intensify, more and more the American people see labour and unions as their champions and defenders. Recent surveys show that an astounding 57 million unorganised workers say they would join a union if given the opportunity.

So, in these times, it is especially dangerous and troubling that labour unity is being threatened by potential splits and divisions from inside the house of labour. It emboldens the corporate attack on labour and it is certainly not an incentive for workers to join a union.

Unity is the backbone of labour. Unity is the power of labour. Labour and people’s unity is the only force working people have that is stronger than the power and wealth of the corporations, the banks and the super rich. Greater unity is the only possible answer to capitalist globalisation and the attacks of the far right.

Everyone in labour’s debate acknowledges that we live in a rapidly changing world and that labour needs to renovate, change and strengthen itself to survive and defend workers and their families today. But the changes needed have to result in greater and higher levels of unity, not fracturing and splits.

Rigid demands, name calling, and ultimatums will not change anything, but only harden positions and undermine real and constructive debate. No idea, no matter how important, no short-term interest, no matter how pressing, no single issue, no matter how imperative, can be placed above the absolute need for the greatest possible labour unity today.

It is well to remember the words of Mother Jones nearly a century ago, "My friends, it is solidarity of labour we want. We do not want to find fault with each other, but to solidify our forces and say to each other: ‘We must be together; our masters are joined together and we must do the same thing.’"

While the debates in labour are in the house of labour, they affect all who fight for peace, justice and equality. Labour unity is at the heart of any coalition that can defeat Bush and the far right. Thus the outcome of this debate is critical for us all. Now is the time for all workers and progressives to rally around labour. Labour unity is our future.

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