The Morning Star reproduces extracts from last night's Ralph Miliband lecture by Len McCluskey
On his politics ...
"Working-class politics, the labour movement and protest are subjects that have been clear defining features of my life - from my upbringing in Liverpool and throughout my adult social and working life. Indeed for people of my generation working-class politics was instilled as a birthright.
Politics, protest and the labour movement were the only vehicles by which you could effect change.
Concepts of politics are about conflict. That is how I understand politics based on my own experiences, and on my own reading of our history.
I say that not to celebrate conflict but politics is about struggle, about the clash of interests and, for me, ultimately about how to create a society and a world where there really are common interests."
On One Nation ...
"I applaud Ed Miliband for the way he has raised this idea - or perhaps re-raised it - and for the content he is trying to give it. But let's not pretend that we are "one nation" or that we will become one without the conflict that Ralph Miliband placed at the heart of politics.
We cannot create common interests across a society that is now more unequal than for generations simply by wishing for it."
On working-class history ...
"The 20th century, in terms of social history, was the age of the working class. For me, the labour movement has been the backbone to political change and progress for generations.
If the 20th century was the century of the working class, it was so because of organised labour and the trade union movement.
The conflict between wage workers and employers over pay, hours, employment conditions, safety in the workplace - in short, over who should benefit in what proportion from the wealth generated by industrial capitalism. And that is why the ruling class was so keen to keep trade unions in legal shackles for so long.
Britain was the first country of trade unionism - a point I was pleased to see reflected in Danny Boyle's inspirational opening ceremony at the Olympics.
The labour movement needed a political voice to fight for the interests of organised labour on the national political stage. It had to obtain influence on the machinery of government. This was a step towards politics in its thinking, but still a long way short of socialism, as Ralph Miliband would certainly point out if he were with us today."
On welfare ...
"Prior to the creation of welfare it was the labour movement that established the first elements of social provision. No-one thought to call it the "big society" in those days.
Whole communities, often only established around the sinking of a mine or the building of a mill - or a dock - became microcosms of what would become our nation's welfare state.
Before any national government had the foresight to create a National Health Service or social insurance systems, there was a proud tradition of self-reliance and widespread community provision.
And before universal education was secured, trade unions were the bodies that wanted to educate working-class communities - the Workers Education Association was established in 1903 and provided working men and women with the opportunity to get an education.
The slogan "Educate, agitate, organise" encapsulated how workers could improve their lives.
If we measure the success of the labour movement as the extent to which it reshaped the behaviour and responsibilities of government, the 20th century saw victories on an unimaginable scale, albeit victories achieved at the price of great suffering and almost exclusively through conflict.
It is a remarkable feat that - at the height of industrial power, at a time when wealth was accumulated at the top and poverty imposed for working people who lived "hand to mouth" - the labour movement (the arm of the working classes) was able to secure such radical change and take control of high office, influencing government through the Labour Party.
The working classes, against all odds, transformed society."
On neoliberalism ...
"For everything that was achieved in the 20th century, there was to be a radical backlash from the mid-1970s onwards.
The situation in the 1970s saw trade union membership was at an all-time high, public ownership of major industries and services and there was full employment. It certainly wasn't perfect, but it did offer working-class people something we had never had before - security and growing horizons.
That is what the elite couldn't abide - working-class people who did not know their place, who interfered with management's sacred "right to manage."
The neoliberal offensive which began in the mid-1970s was not mainly about economics. In fact, growth rates in Britain got worse as a result of its imposition.
It was about restoring what our rulers regarded as the proper social hierarchy, including getting the working class out of politics. Its main front was, and has always been, attacking trade union power, destroying the main organisations through which the working class has found social expression.
If Thatcher held that private companies should operate without any interference from government, she demonstrated dramatically the extent to which government could obstruct the freedom of workers to organise. The rhetoric of deregulation was reversed when it came to trade unions."
On privatisation ...
"Any serious public support for privatisation quickly diminished, and individual shareholding, once trumpeted as the great alternative to trade unionism, is now scarcely greater than it was before the whole exercise started.
Instead of creating an army of wealth-creators across communities, it established enormous private corporations that amassed power and money in rapid time.
Instead of creating mass individual share ownership, it handed power to pension funds and insurance companies, all effectively controlled by the City.
Instead of creating competition to improve services, it created monopolies which have abused their power - most notably in the energy and rail sectors."
On the future of working-class politics ...
"When we look to the future what type of politics can we imagine? First of all, as I have outlined, we need working-class politics.
Democracy itself dies when it becomes the preserve of a small elite, as we are seeing today.
I grew up in vibrant and politicised communities - life was centred on the Liverpool docks. Around work were formed the circles of working-class life - trade unionism, community, the Labour Party.
Today, we cannot simply start from there. Perhaps the more significant change is the decline in secure and stable employment. This more than anything else makes today's working class different from that I grew up among.
Too many communities today are left economically barren - smashed by the neoliberal experiment that sent "old" industries elsewhere in the world and offered only a bloated financial sector and a housing bubble as replacements.
But working-class politics must go further. My union Unite is leading the way with an ambitious new programme to recruit, organise and educate across the whole of our communities.
The unemployed, the disabled, carers, the elderly, the voluntary and charity sector - it is time for these people to be organised and to be given a voice. Who better to do this than the trade union movement?
Unions cannot continue to watch on idly as successive governments leave so many on the scrapheap - a scrapheap which will grow ever larger as the so-called "welfare reforms" kick in."
On the Labour Party ...
"People need a political voice now. As the working class reasserts itself, Labour is the natural, historic, vehicle for their voice. Not to the exclusion of others in society wanting a better future. Every Labour victory has been based on an alliance. And that is the alliance I see delivering a victory for Labour in 2015.
But let me be clear - if in the future there is any return to the discredited politics of Blairism the Labour Party will be over for me and I believe millions more besides.
Put simply, workers need a voice, and they should not be taken for granted."
If you appreciated this article then please consider donating to the Morning Star's Fighting Fund to ensure we can keep developing your paper.