On the eve of the TUC Congress, John McDonnell rightly observes that the neo-liberal consensus has made it easy for Brown to bring Tories and Liberals into government (most recently the capitalist Johan Eliasch, and MPs Patrick “I’m not a racist” Mercer, John “I’m not nasty” Bercow, and Mattew Taylor) and offers the lessons the unions need to learn.
First, trade unions need to ensure that what limited opportunities for influencing policy debate within the Labour party still exist are maintained by rejecting at this year’s Labour Party conference the imposition of the Brown proposals to undermine Labour Party conference policy making powers.
Second we mobilise immediately a new alliance across the unions, constituency Labour Parties, affiliates and linking with supporters within the Parliamentary Labour Party to reassert democracy within the Labour Party at every level.
Third, we recognise that on issue after issue large sections of our community are increasingly losing confidence in the Parliamentary system of government where they see no difference between the political parties which are party to a neo liberal political consensus. Instead they are forming extra parliamentary social movements to campaign on issues like climate change, asylum, developing world poverty and liberation, inequality, and privatisation. These movements are increasingly becoming effective at changing societal attitudes to forcing governments and political parties to address issues. Linking to these emerging social movements by supporting and becoming active participants in their campaigns would enable trade union movement to be much more effective in creating a climate of influence no government can ignore than continuing to delude ourselves about the effectiveness of Prime Ministerial speeches to Congress or tea with ministers.
Needless to say, I hope that the result of Brown’s proposals result in the link between the labour movement and the Labour Party being weakened. McDonnell’s suggestion of a mobilisation is unlikely to be taken up – what’s the point in trying to “Reclaim Labour” when it is far easier to split and set up a new workers’ party?
Just as the unions are finding it is necessary to unite and take co-ordinated action against below-inflation pay “increases” and the EU constitution – perhaps the left groups will find it in their interests to unite? If the threats from Unison, the PCS and the RMT are more than rhetoric, the tops at the SWP, SPEW, CPB, etc. might consider the necessity of trying again…
Socialist Labour Party, Socialist Alliance… Third time lucky?
In other news, Liam Macuaid reports that “Socialist Resistance has […] opened discussions with the Venezuelan embassy to get the financing” for a cable TV station. I’ve long thought that a TV station might help unite the socialist groups, labour and social movements – as well as providing an outlet for documentaries and discussion. Why bother with cable, though? The current generation of young workers are the net generation – wouldn’t an internet TV station be more appropriate?
And as this week Peter “Can’t sack me” Mandelson waded into the referendum debate by warning against a public vote on the European constitreaty, I can’t leave without posting this excellent editorial from the Morning Star:
Empty EU promises
(Sunday 09 September 2007)
WE were always taught to beware of politicians emerging from planes waving around a piece of paper declaring peace in our time.
So, when Foreign Secretary David Miliband returns from Portugal claiming that opt-outs from the Charter of Fundamental Rights affecting trade union rights have been dropped, it’s worth taking a closer look.
On closer inspection, despite dropping the term “opt-out,” the government is still stressing that the charter will create no new rights anywhere in the EU and cannot be used to overturn current anti-trade union legislation in Britain.
While article II-28 of the charter states that workers may “take collective action to defend their interests, including strike action,” it also clearly states that such “rights” would only exist “in accordance with national laws and practices.”
This means, as John Hendy QC has pointed out, that draconian labour legislation can be preserved. This is the case regardless of any “opt-outs” that Gordon Brown or Miliband may claim to have jettisoned.
So, if we don’t get trade union rights, what do we get? The answer is not a lot.
In fact, in any conflict between workers’ rights and EU rules on free movement of services, the final ruling will be made by the European Court of Justice and its EU-appointed judges.
The court is itself an EU institution which is required to promote ever closer union and the free movement of capital and goods, so we may guess where its loyalties lay.
The EU constitution would also hand powers to the EU to implement the single European market, as envisaged under the notorious Bolkestein services directive.
The aim of the directive is to introduce free-market competition and privatise all economic services operating within the EU, setting in train a further race to the bottom in terms of pay and conditions.
In an example of what this would mean, the EU commission has been attacking Scandinavian collective wage agreements, claiming that they contravene article 49 of the EU treaties on “free movement” of services.
And, if this is not bad enough, the same European commission has been promoting something called “flexicurity.”
This concept has been described by Unite joint general secretary Derek Simpson as “hiding behind the language of equality to propose measures to force exploitation and insecurity on to every worker in Europe.” Quite.
Finally, in a gloriously politically incorrect and enlightening editorial last Friday, The Guardian called for trade unionists and Labour MPs to get behind the EU constitution in the interests of good old British imperialism.
It attacked those opposed to the constitution, saying that “their mindset is still mired in the sovereignty debates of the last century.” And there we were thinking that sovereignty was enshrined in international law.
Nevertheless, the Grauniad shamelessly banged on about the need for Euro-gunboat diplomacy to deal with “resurgent Russian nationalism, energy security and immigration.”
So we are being offered a recipe for social dumping and privatisation and even the chance to put on a tin hat for Brussels and empire.
The real question must be what the EU constitution or its revamped reform treaty guise offer for working people who want peace, jobs and decent public services. The answer is nothing.