Tag Archives: Unison

The General Strike debate

There has been lots of talk recently (on the left at least) of a general strike in the UK – the NUJ has voted in favour of a 24 hour general strike, and most left groups have been pushing the slogan strongly on March 26th and since.

However, there seems to be little understanding of how we can move from sloganeering towards helping to create a situation that could be called a ‘general strike.’

The writers here at the Great Unrest have tried to put down some of their thoughts and ideas.

This kind of reflection is crucial, otherwise we’re just ‘calling’ for something without understanding what ‘calling for it’ means, and without understanding what the thing we’re calling for actually is. And that’s not a good situation for a revolutionary to be in.

We encourage all readers to share their own thoughts on the general strike debate in the comments.

The TUC does not call strikes – trade unions organise ballots and workers vote to call strikes. Even if the TUC did have the power to call a general strike, it almost certainly would not call one.

A general strike can only develop in an asymmetrical way – with more organised sectors striking, and moving into more militant tactics – real picket lines, indefinite strikes, and perhaps most importantly, use of social movement unionism – service users materially supporting strikes against cuts, communal provision of services (food etc) on picket lines, even (at the most militant end) work-ins at public service buildings. The latter could take the form of schools continuing to run but teachers refuse to fill out forms, adhere to tests or the curriculum, for example.

The less organised may begin with work-to-rule, and build support within the membership from there. Temporal coordination of strike action will surely come at a relatively late stage in this process.

Would a general strike be effective? Not if it was a one-day affair, like Greece, Spain, and Portugal have all seen recently. A one-day general strike may be an important confidence boost (like March26th could have been), but an effective general strike would have to be longer (or at least very regular), with strikers using their days to raise support, organise mutual aid services, and hold public events to pull convince the undecided that disruption is a necessary price to save public services.

Liam McNulty:
One thing which worries me about the ‘General strike now‘ slogan is that it conceivably represents for the organised far left what the March 26th demonstration represented for the TUC: a one-off event involving months of planning with little consideration given to what happens afterwards. As with the ‘March for the Alternative’, in which the ‘alternative’ was left purposefully vague, the content behind the slogan is by no means clear. There is a danger that, if it were to happen, it would at best be a spectacular gesture; at worst could lead to demoralisation if it failed to have any palpable impact on the government’s political agenda. Indeed, by what measure should we, and the workers’ who take part, judge the ‘success’ of a general strike?

I have some sympathy with the view that if socialists do not raise the slogan of a general strike then no one will. However, I fear this is a mistaken attitude to take towards the labour movement. Unless accompanied with rank-and-file work within trade unions in various sectors to prepare the way for such an action, there is a sense in which the slogan of a general strike is being ‘handed down’ by exogeneous organisations from on high. It seems to me that this is indicative of a bureaucratic and formalist conception of politics, as opposed to one which is rooted more organically in the class.

It would surely be better if the slogan was raised in a manner more in keeping with the flow of struggle. Rather than being a corollary of the tactical vacuum post-March 26th (well, we have to propose ‘something’!), the call for a general strike might make more sense if proposed, say, as the extention and escalation of a current ongoing wave of industrial action. In this sense, its emergence would be tactically more concrete and less akin to a generic formula. The role of the organised left is not just to shout slogans from the sidelines in the hope that they fall on fertile ground but to judge the best opportunities for intervention, guiding the flow of struggle and providing leadership when it is most needed.

Anne Archist: Workers’ Power have formulated one of the more reasonable takes on the ‘general strike’ formula, telling us to “raise the call now for a general strike, call for the TUC to do it but don’t rely on them, and crucially build the anticuts committees … to coordinate action from below.” They’ve also made the case for indefinite action and private sector inclusion, contrary to the Socialist Party for instance.
Even when formulated like this is strikes me as a tactic that involves playing with fire. The only serious general strike Britain has ever seen was in 1926, and it teaches us some harsh historical lessons. Socialist Worker and other Trotskyist papers are willing to learn from the positive lessons like Churchill’s comment that the strike was “a conflict which … can only end in the overthrow of parliamentary government or its decisive victory”.

As usual, the same groups are largely unwilling to learn from the negative lessons o the experience: the general strike came out of coordinated action in a few industries that threatened to spread; the TUC sent a negotiator (both in order to avert the strike and during ongoing negotiations once workers had come out) who was notorious for refusing to take solidarity action and who was clearly on the government’s side, saying “God help us unless the government won”; the army, special constables and scab volunteers were called upon to run services and police pickets, leading to violent confrontations; the councils of action were unable to sustain industrial action for a significant length of time in the face of the TUC’s aggressive withdrawal; the failure of the strike led to a significant fall in TUC-affiliated union membership and to legislation that first made general strikes illegal (which was on the books for nearly 20 years before Labour removed it – it’s now illegal again, incidentally).

The questions we should be asking are: how we can build the kind of confidence that would lead workers to take non-tokenistic action in defiance of the law and the TUC leadership; how can we build the kind of organisation that would make such action successful (ideally through forms of action that are disruptive to employers and build class strength and consciousness while being sustainable and conducive to solidarity, as Patrick touches on in this article); how do we circumvent the official leadership of the unions and provide political leadership to the anti-cuts movement through this action; how do we minimise the possibility of a backlash that could do serious harm to the organised workers’ movement in the face of an unsuccessful general strike? Another vital question that is neglected by every discussion I’ve come across is quite what we expect to come out of a general strike at a time when social revolution doesn’t seem to be a short-term option like it might have been in 1926 – do we stop short at bringing down the government, do we expect to beat the cuts entirely if we bring a Labour majority to office, do we push further and go on the offensive (e.g. for full employment), do we struggle for political revolution to replace even Labour with a workers’ government within broadly capitalist relations…?

Edd Mustill: The Tower Hamlets strike rally a couple of weeks ago was interesting because it showed both some of the contradictions in the public sector unions, and some of the left’s current approach. Made up of teachers and local government workers, the majority of the room were women of various ages and backgrounds. All the main speakers, except one, were middle-aged men. A crude observation perhaps, but one which maybe underlines the disconnection between leaderships and membership, especially in the public sector. The chair, a young NUT member, did a good job of telling people that members make the unions, and that leaders need to be held to account. She urged people to get involved in their branches.

There was no floor discussion, no discussion of tactics and strategy, at the rally, so perhaps chanting was the only way to get an idea across. The danger is that, like some chanting on demonstrations, it comes across as pleading for someone else to act rather than self-organising. This is perhaps reflected in the behaviour of the left within union leaderships. This report from a Unison NEC (take it or leave it) says:

“…one after another on the ultra left accepted that we are neither administratively industrially ready to launch successful industrial action with the NUT and PCS in June and recognised the importance of planning for this properly. Only the Socialist Party representative from Yorkshire believed in the need for immediate action, if not a general strike…”

In fact the Socialist Party’s leaflet for the Unison NEC election mentions co-ordinated strike action, but not the ‘general strike’ at all. So how seriously are the left really taking it?

The groups pushing most strongly for a general strike, the SWP and Workers’ Power, wrote in their reports of Tower Hamlets that their general strike chant was taken up by most or all workers in the room. Apart from not being true, this doesn’t bring the general strike any closer. The idea that a group of workers “throwing their weight behind the call for a general strike” will push union leaders into calling one is tenuous. That’s not how union leaderships are forced into taking decisions like that. There needs to be an alternative pole built up in the unions, a rank-and-file pole. To be fair to Workers’ Power, they seem to be involved in a new “Grassroots Left” movement in Unite.

Rather than a question of what calls we make or what headlines we put on reports, bringing about a general strike is really a question of what forms of organisation we need.


Filed under Current Affairs, Industrial Relations, Political Strategy

Some thoughts on effective unionism (I)

Why going on strike is as effective as it ever was

by Edd Mustill

This article takes up some of the post-March 26th discussions on this blog. It is the first of a series of posts about trade unionism, what it is and what it should be. This post is written by way of an introduction.

The idea that “these days” people are less powerful as workers than they are as consumers, service users, students, citizens, or actors in “civil society” (whatever that is) is, I think, common among people who are generally left-wing.

This is reflected in the idea that unions are just a constituent part of a broad anti-cuts or anti-government alliance, and that industrial activism is just another form of protest or “resistance.”

I think there are a number of assumptions underlying this attitude:

The unions are intrinsically weak because they haven’t done anything for a long time

I’m not going to go into economics here. Workers’ Liberty have recently attempted to briefly deal with this attitude here.

I’ll just add that, historically speaking, there have been long stretches when the unions have been relatively dormant in Britain. The 1860s-1880s, 1940s-1950s, 1990s-now, and so on.

The TUC is the same thing as “the unions”

Because the March 26th demo was called by the TUC, articles that appeared since then (my own included) have sometimes used “TUC” as shorthand for the trade union movement. This isn’t the case. In fact, far from the TUC being more than the sum of its parts, at the moment, arguably, the opposite is true.

The nature and historical role of the TUC is a topic for another post, but what I will say here is that it is an umbrella (or shell!) organisation. Local trades councils are not like branches of the TUC. Member unions conduct their own affairs and have their own policies.

Incidentally, the slogan “TUC call a general strike” is not helpful in this regard because it assumes the TUC is something more than it is. Whether the General Council could even “call” a general strike is debatable. Certainly it’d be breaking some laws. Should we be making a central plank of our strategy the idea that the most moderate sections of the movement should break the law en masse, when even the most militant have so far not shown much appetite to do so? But as we know, the general strike debate is a whole kettle of fish by itself.

So, when people say things like the TUC is too slow, too moderate, and so on, they are right. But just saying that risks glossing over the fact that there are ongoing battles within the TUC’s member unions over tactics and strategy. Even at leadership level, there is a notable gap between those pushing openly for united industrial action, like Mark Serwotka of the PCS, and those who can’t even pronounce the words “industrial action,” like Dave Prentis of Unison.

People don’t work in large workplaces that make class consciousness come naturally

There’s a bit of a myth that, when Britain had a big industrial workforce, everyone worked in huge factories employing thousands of people, where a strike could easily paralyse production to a colossal degree.

Most industrial workers worked in small workshops rather than huge complexes. Today, we have our own huge workplaces everywhere. Town halls each employ hundreds of people. How many thousands of staff are on the books at every big hospital and university? What about airports? And big call centres on “industrial estates”?

The problem is that workers in all these places are divided by profession and grade, which means that, more often than not, they are divided into different unions. Lecturers will be in the UCU, other staff could be in Unison, Unite, or the GMB.

But even where workers are in the same union, the law enforces division. Perhaps the current British Airways dispute could have been won at a much earlier stage through extending the strike to other sections of the workforce, like Heathrow baggage handlers who have something of a tradition of sympathy action. This would probably have been illegal, but it could have been successful.

So there are big workplaces where class solidarity could be fostered, but organisation within them is often uneven and fragmented. More on these problems in the next post in this series.

Service workers are more easily replaceable than industrial workers, so it’s much harder for them to strike effectively

There is another myth here, albeit one that has more truth to it. There were and are, of course, many skilled workers in heavy industry. But such industries have always relied on semi-skilled workers and labourers just as much in order to function. Organising people like this has usually been the source of the most radical forms of unionism.

The most famous of the general unions which changed the face of unionism a century ago was the Dockers’ Union. Their success was based on organising workers who actually faced some of the same conditions that most young workers face now. Irregular hours, not knowing what shifts you’re going to work until the day you have to work them, little or nothing in the way of pensions or sick pay, sacking at a moments’ notice… all these are familiar to people working in the service industry today.

Any workers we think of as having had stable work patterns, strong organisations, good pay and benefits, began as precarious, super-exploited workers. The miners are the most obvious example.

So it’s not impossible to organise service workers, it’s just difficult. But the fact that they are untouched by the rather sterilising experience of bureaucratic unionism can open up opportunities for radical unionists. Again, more on these problems will come in a future post.

Strikes are just another form of protest

For many years, the vast majority of strikes have been 24-hour, perhaps 48-hour affairs. Strikes of this nature are essentially protests. They will have a minimal economic impact even if they are solid, because bosses can plan around them, get people to work overtime in the weeks before and after, and so on.

One of the first strikes I ever raised money for was a strike of bus drivers in South Yorkshire. The strike was all-out, and won after about three weeks. Public support by no means fell away during that time.

It was effective because the company in question, First, ran the vast majority of the bus routes in the area, so they stood to lose a lot of profit and alternative transport was more or less non-existent.

Too often strikes are just seen as a way of keeping a dispute rumbling until the inevitable defeat, or compromise in favour of the bosses. What needs to be rediscovered and rebuilt is a culture of actually striking to win.

Everything gets made in other countries, all we do is buy it

Well, we do still “make things,” goods and services, commodities, in Britain. But it helps anyway to think of production lines as international.

Say, for example, there is a textile workers’ strike in Bangladesh. The clothes being made are bound for high street stores in dozens of countries, including here. Perhaps, for whatever reasons, the strike does not succeed in totally shutting down production. While the employers can get some goods out to sell anywhere in the world, the strike is undermined.

Workers in the retail industry in Britain find themselves at the end of chains of production that could have passed through several countries. Any broken link in this chain can potentially stop it completely, including at the point of sale.

A strike in the shops selling the clothes would be a thousand times more effective than an appeal for a consumer boycott, if only because a relatively small number of people need to be up for it. A picket line can keep a shop closed day after day in a way that a UK Uncut-style bail-in can do for an afternoon.

So that’s just a sketch of some of the reasons why I think we should be seriously engaging in discussions about how to mount effective industrial action.

The main problem is not that striking doesn’t work. The main problem is that strikes rarely seem to be conducted as a fight to win. Everything I’ve touched on here will be elaborated in future articles, so if you’re interested, keep checking the site in between all the hilarious comedy gold we’ve been churning out recently.


Filed under Industrial Relations, Political Strategy

Matthew Parris and the unions

by Edd Mustill

In yesterday’s Times, Matthew Parris issued a new year’s rallying cry to the supporters of the coalition government.

The article is significant because it cuts through the PR of the government. Criticising the TV character Jim Royle (played, of course, by socialist actor Ricky Tomlinson), Parris acknowledges:

“When we must hack away at benefits that people have come to expect as their right, there must be losers. They will organise. It is futile to think you will not be seen through the prism of which side you are on.”

He quoted an article by Giles Coren from earlier in the year: “Of course the poor will be hit hardest by the spending cuts. The poor are hit hardest by everything. That’s why they’re called ‘poor’.”

To this, Parris added: “We are not, in short, all in this together: or not all as deep as each other. Some of us are in fear of our livelihoods, others only of our luncheon.”

With his reputation as a liberal conservative, popular with the party’s grassroots, and his independent position as a commentator, Parris can spell out with complete honesty the true nature of the Cameron project.

But the article also betrays a deeper Tory attitude. Basically, his message is that being unpopular with the working class means that a politician is doing something right. He acknowledges that Thatcher, a politician he greatly admires, “was never really popular except briefly after the Falklands conflict.”

He is reassuring the Tory grassroots that their pro-ruling class offensive must be carried out with the old mantra beloved of Tories and Millwall fans through the ages: “No-one likes us, we don’t care.”

Tories have never cared about public opinion. This is a party that has resisted every advance of democracy in the history of this country. Even within the last century elements of the Conservative Party have conspired to overthrow the parliamentary democracy that they claim to be defending, for example, when students smash windows at the Treasury and the cops are sent in.

Because what Parris is describing, quite nakedly, is class rule, the lesson we draw from it is this: the government cannot be persuaded, they cannot be won over if only we have cleverer arguments, they cannot simply bow to the weight of public opinion. They must be forced to back down, and ultimately brought down.

So asking gets us nowhere, but the joint new year’s message from the Big Three unions, Unite, Unison and the GMB, does just that. They want to “inspire and support resistance to cuts,” largely by making “the Spring elections the first referendum on the government’s austerity programme.”

The unions want to promote an alternative Keynesian programme of investment, it seems, first to their own members, then to the wider electorate (and presumably the Labour Party, which currently seems to have no policies).

Absent is any mention of the co-ordinated strike action that the TUC has rumbled about previously. Or any strike action at all. This is not to say the position of the unions is hopelessly static. Unite and the GMB have backed the demo called by student groups on January 29th, when the UCU and PCS will also be demonstrating. Bringing the members of the big unions out two months before the TUC planned to do so is significant, but nowhere near enough in itself. Waiting until a March demonstration and the May elections to do anything would be fatal.

We need to keep pushing the unions into fighting. Unfortunately, articles like this by Gregor Gall warning against the use of unofficial strike action don’t help. Left-wingers should be attempting to popularise tactics like that (not, obviously, advocating them indiscriminately), rather than warning against them.

Parris and those like him show us how determined the class offensive against us is. We need to be able to return fire.


Filed under Current Affairs, Industrial Relations

Cambridge protests higher fees

by Edd Mustill

Hundreds of students and workers marched through Cambridge yesterday to protest against the government’s decision to raise the cap on tuition fees.

Protesters marched from Queens’ Backs to Great St. Mary’s church, where a rally was addressed by several speakers.

Julian Huppert, Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge, reaffirmed his commitment to vote against a rise in fees. Nevertheless he was heckled by some sections of the march angry at his party’s position in the coalition government.

Another speaker, Steve Sweeney from Unison, said: “When is he going to take this fight into his party? The LibDems traded principles for power and became bag carriers for David Cameron.”

The speakers from trade unions emphasised their desire to see unity between students and workers, and placed the government’s proposals for higher education in the context of the cuts to public spending announced in the comprehensive spending review.

Cambridge UCU president David Goode said: “I believe that these cuts are part of a wider agenda to turn students into consumers.”

Students were urged to attend the national “Fund Our Future” demonstration called by the NUS and UCU which will take place in London on Wednesday.

Matthew East, president of Anglia Ruskin Students’ Union, said: “This is not the end, this is just the beginning. If we stand united, the government must hear our voice.”

A petition calling for Cambridge University to publicly oppose the fee rise, with almost 1,000 signatures, was presented to university authorities by CUSU and UCU representatives.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Affairs

Ed Miliband and Lenin

“The differences are so slight between the two brothers, indeed between all of us.”
– Andy Burnham

“Let me say, I believe strongly that we need to reduce the deficit. There will be cuts and there would have been if we had been in government. Some of them will be painful and would have been if we were in government. I won’t oppose every cut the coalition proposes. There will be some things the coalition does that we won’t like as a party but we will have to support. And come the next election there will be some things they have done that I will not be able to reverse.”
– Ed Miliband

by Edd Mustill

Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour Party conference on Tuesday was no funeral service for New Labour. He defended the alteration of Clause 4 and the “spirit of 1997,” talked of making Labour “the party of enterprise and the party of small business,” and gave nods to supporting further welfare “reform” and public service “reform.” Anything more positive, such as a foreign policy “based on values,” was so vague as to render it meaningless (which values exactly?).

There were a lot of Cameronish “I met a man who told me…” sort of anecdotes. There were a couple of references to the Good Society. I suppose they will see how that one plays out in focus groups before they decide whether to keep using it, but it smacks of the Blairite logic of beating the Tories by using Tory political language.

Tellingly, Miliband stated out-and-out that he wouldn’t be supporting “irresponsible strikes.” We are not given any indication as to which strikes are “responsible.” It was “the unions what won it” for Ed. But this is no sense means that he stands, or could stand, in the interests of militant trades unionism.

Some on the far left see Ed’s victory as a significant defeat for Blairism and the Right of the party. Workers’ Power and the Socialist Workers’ Party take this line. Workers’ Power go as far as to claim that it will be hard for Labour to ignore the wishes of the union rank-and-file, because it was the rank-and-file that delivered Ed as leader. But was it?

The breakdown of votes from affiliates shows that “Spoilt ballot” came third in the Big Three unions, GMB, Unison, and Unite. This has been blamed on the inability or unwillingness of union members to tick a box on the ballot paper confirming that they were eligible to vote.

Spoilt ballots in some unions
Aslef: 12.61%
CWU: 17.07%
GMB: 14.74%
TSSA: 18.82%
Unison: 15.75%
Unite: 14.32%
Usdaw: 15.32%

I’m not sure what could account for 6% more TSSA members than Aslef members spoiling their ballots unless there was at least an element, albeit an unknown quantity, of deliberate spoiling going on.

Nevertheless, the biggest sign of union members’ disengagement with the Labour Party is the turnout among the unions. Aslef, among whose members Diane Abbott came first, posted by far the highest turnout at 25.2%. Turnout in the Big Three was 7.8% (GMB), 6.7% (Unison), and 10.5% (Unite). Usdaw brought up the rear with a whopping 4.3%, within which David Miliband won a landslide victory.

The Unison figure is even lower than it seems when you take into account that only 419,142 ballots were sent out to a union claiming a million members. This suggests that the majority of workers in local government and the NHS disenfranchised themselves by opting out of paying the Labour levy, for whatever reasons.

The vast majority of unionised workers are totally disengaged from the Labour Party, even at a time when it is electing a leader for the first time in sixteen years. Within the party, we shouldn’t forget that more individual members preferred David than Ed. We may expect the Parliamentary party to back the most right-wing candidate, but for the membership to do so after fifteen years of experiencing Blairism is, to say the least, thoroughly depressing. Given all this, are we to see Labour as still, on some level, a working class party?

When is a workers’ party not a workers’ party?

For those in the Bolshevik tradition, the idea of Labour as a workers’ party that Marxists should affiliate to and work within dates back to 1920. The formative Second Congress of the Comintern held a session to discuss this question, the only session which dealt exclusively with the politics of just one country. This shows how important the Labour Party question was deemed to be. But due to time constraints Zinoviev, chairing the session, only allowed two speakers from each side.

Sylvia Pankhurst opposed working in the Labour Party, saying:

“… all members of the parties which belong to the Labour Party are subjected to the strictest discipline and when it is a question of making a showing in parliament on this or that question then they are officially subordinated to Party discipline.
In the elections, too, a local organisation can choose its candidates, but when it is a question of being put up as a candidate one must be confirmed by the Labour Party headquarters. It is the same with the individual speeches and votes.”

William McLaine, and engineering shop steward who had been heavily involved in the workers’ committee movement during the war, supporting affiliation to the Labour Party because, he said, the unions were being pushed leftwards by the course of events. McLaine went on:

“I insist on two points: first of all that the Labour Party is the political expression of the workers organised in the trades unions and must be conceived of as a political organisation, and secondly that within the Labour Party the supporters of another party retain their complete freedom of movement and of criticism.”

We can see that both his and Pankhurst’s arguments are still put forward today in very similar terms. Sylvia’s arguments about the power of the party machine are arguably even more relevant now. No one could argue that the modern Labour Party would allow revolutionaries complete freedom of action inside it, but McLaine’s view of the party as somehow organically linked to the working class due to the influence of trade union leaderships is at the bottom of the analysis of many who hold that Labour is a “bourgeois workers’ party.”

Lenin, while pushing for Communist affiliation to Labour, strongly opposed the idea that there could ever be anything as simple as the “political expression of the trade union movement” that McLaine had spoken of. He said, famously:

“whether or not a party is really a political party of the workers does not depend solely upon a membership of workers but also upon the men that lead it, and the content of its actions and its political tactics. Only that determines whether we really have before us a political party of the proletariat. Regarded from this, the only correct point of view, the Labour Party is a thoroughly bourgeois party, because, although made up of workers, it is led by reactionaries, and the worst kind of reactionaries at that, who act quite in the spirit of the bourgeoisie. It is an organisation of the bourgeoisie

At the time, the Communist International was attempting to mark itself as a clearly revolutionary alternative to the Second International, famously putting stringent conditions on parties that wished to affiliate. Lenin’s attitude to the Labour Party was therefore contradictory, and was based on the following belief:

“the British Labour Party is in a very special position: it is a highly original type of party, or rather, it is not at all a party in the ordinary sense of the word. It is made up of members of all trades unions, and has a membership of about four million, and allows sufficient freedom to all affiliated political parties.”

This is where I think Lenin went wrong, and where we can come back to the present day. No-one, especially given the level of trade unionists’ participation in the leadership election described above, not to mention the policies of the Labour Party towards the trade union movement, would today argue that the party’s membership included the millions enrolled under the banners of the affiliated unions. The Labour Party is not the political expression of the will of these workers.

Comintern tactics in the revolutionary period following the First World War were geared towards the ruthless splitting of the working class away from the reformist movement. For Lenin the point of Labour affiliation was never to build up a “Labour Left”, and the building of an independent revolutionary Communist Party was certainly not to be subordinated to any manoeuvrings inside the Labour Party. His idea was simply that the revolutionaries eventually leave the party in a stronger position than when they entered it. Lenin argued that if the Labour leadership moved to expel the Left, this would be a victory for revolutionaries and would win them support among the class. History has since shown this not necessarily to be true, as the experience of Militant and others shows.

In Left Wing Communism, published just before the Second Congress, Lenin argued for the revolutionaries to support a Labour victory over the Tories and Liberals on the grounds that the working class had not experienced a Labour government before. Such an experience would shatter illusions in Labour and lead workers to revolutionary conclusions. Again, history tells us differently. Our class has experienced numerous Labour governments and their betrayals, and it has not increased consciousness towards revolutionary levels. On the contrary, it has served to demoralise.

The idea that workers will look to Labour in a crisis is not borne out by historical experience, or anything much more than wishful thinking. A party of liberal Fabian types and trade union leaders who have accepted social partnership instead of class struggle, cannot itself be a vehicle for class struggle. Ed Miliband represents no more than a toned down version of the right-wing liberal strand within the Labour Party which realises that it can no longer get away with openly calling for its most dogmatic excesses, like further privatisation of the public sector. He is not, and cannot be, a workers’ candidate, just as Labour is not, and cannot be, a workers’ party.

Thanks, as ever, to the Marxists Internet Archive for making the relevant sources readily available.


Filed under Current Affairs, Labour History, Political Strategy