The recent Unite policy conference saw a unanimous vote in support of a new Clause 4, calling on Labour to fight for common ownership and democratic workers’ control. This is the bold socialist programme that the labour movement needs.

The recent Unite policy conference saw a unanimous vote in support of a new Clause 4, calling on Labour to fight for common ownership and democratic workers’ control. This is the bold socialist programme that the labour movement needs.

Last month, on 22 October, at the 6th Unite policy conference in Liverpool, composite motion 15 calling for the union to commit to the nationalisation of industry under workers’ control was passed unanimously.

The motion resolves for Unite to call on the Labour Party to adopt a new Clause 4, in the words of the late Tony Benn. Motions passed at Unite education and construction sector groups were combined into a single composite motion for conference delegates to vote on.

Clause 4

Clause4 CWU conference

The original Clause 4, adopted in 1918, was Labour’s commitment to end capitalism and bring about the socialist transformation of society.

In later years, during Tony Blair’s New Labour ‘reforms’, this socialist Clause 4 was replaced by a diluted version, which praises the ‘dynamism’ of the market. This paved the way for the disaster of privatisation.

As Blair stated at the time: “My vision for New Labour is to become as the Liberal Party was in the nineteenth century.”

Marxists, trade unionists, and left Labour leaders set up the Labour4Clause4 campaign in January 2018, in order to push for the old Clause 4 to be restored.

The campaign was successful in gathering the support of many trade union leaders and left MPs, alongside that of rank-and-file activists, with popular fringe events at Labour Party conferences.

At the 2019 Labour conference, around 62% of CLP delegates voted in favour of bringing back the original Clause 4.

Socialist transformation

At the time of this vote, the Labour NEC committed itself to a review of the wording of Clause 4.

In response, Labour4Clause4 campaigners drew up a new Clause 4, based on Tony Benn’s own words, which reads: 

“We stand for the inherent rights of all people to useful work, good homes, education, health care and dignity in retirement, free from all forms of discrimination. We believe that these rights cannot be fully realised under capitalism where human values are subordinated to the demand for profit. Our aim is to abolish the obstacles to the realisation of those aspirations.

“As a socialist party, we do not exist to manage capitalism. We aim to bring about a fundamental transformation of society, which will give to everyone a chance to live a full and satisfying life. We will adopt the means necessary for that purpose by, amongst other things, the common ownership, under democratic control and management by working people, of the commanding heights of the economy, including the banks and finance houses, the land and all the companies which dominate our economy. We stand for a democratic socialist society based upon the principle from each according to their ability to each according to their need.”

Privatisation disaster

Blair vs real labour

Under Margaret Thatcher, a massive programme of privatisation took place. This was continued under John Major, and then under Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ with the establishment of PFIs.

Evidence shows that privatisation yielded adverse results, with a decline in the quality of public services and an increase in costs – in the railways, energy sector, and healthcare, amongst others.

Furthermore, the bankruptcy of private companies – such as outsourcing giant Carillion – has resulted in massive job losses.

These private companies are strongly anti-union, with the bosses employing all kinds of union-busting and blacklisting tactics.

Examples of companies in construction show that union representatives and activists are frequently targeted and victimised, with employers colluding and sharing their information across the sector in order to keep out known militants.

Privatisation has also led to a massive wealth gap. While the billionaires accumulate all the money at one end, living in luxury, workers face constant attacks on their wages and conditions, never seeing any improvements under this exploitative capitalist system.

For planning, not profit

As Marxists, we oppose all forms of private control over the means of production. We cannot trust the Tories to do away with privatisation and outsourcing.

We therefore welcome this move by Unite the Union to call upon the Labour Party – to which it is affiliated – to fight against privatisation and outsourcing, and for a socialist planned economy, by adopting this new Clause 4.