Friday, February 01, 2008

Progress? Not with this Labour leadership...

It would be easy to ignore vacuous nonsense from Charles Clarke – who says that his priorities are “environmental sustainability, modern and effective public services and our relationship with the EU and the wider world” (thereby skilfully differentiating himself from those in favour of environmental catastrophe, old fashioned and ineffective public services and isolationism).

However it would be a mistake for rank and file trade unionists to take no notice of the latest outpouring of “modernising” twaddle from the Blair babes at Progress. We seem to have spent large parts of the last few years on the sidelines of shadow boxing between the former Prime Minister and the former Chancellor, during which we were encouraged to put our faith in the allegedly Labour instincts of the latter.

With Gordon Brown’s accession, backed by the nominations of the trade unions, we were supposed to expect a new dawn. Instead we have seen an acceleration of anti-trade union policies and a public sector pay freeze. We should be advancing positive trade union policies for a real Labour programme in opposition to the Government.

Instead some trade union leaders make an absolute priority of the re-election of a notionally “Labour” Government at any price. Others will welcome the re-appearance of a sub-Blairite “opposition” to the Prime Minister in order to justify continued support for the man responsible more than any other for attacking our members’ standard of living. This would be a terrible mistake.

Of course when the Blairites “warn Labour cannot afford to be seen as an "out-of-touch statist leviathan" what they actually mean is that there should be more privatisation and job cuts in the public sector (plus a smattering of talk about “partnership”, “the third sector” and so on). These people are not our friends.

But neither is the architect of the pay freeze. The real political dividing line in this country is not at all between different flavours of New Labour (nor between New Labour and Cameron’s Tories) it is between the political establishment on the one side and the trade unions (and the majority of Labour Party members) on the other.

The sort of modernisation we should want to see is a modern approach to fighting poverty, achieving equality and promoting the rights of workers and trade unions. Will those whose job it is to get political influence for the unions rise to this challenge?

Fighting for the rights of agency workers is a promising sign, but we need much more. We don’t need to take sides in debates at the top of the Labour Party between politicians all of whom are committed to privatisation – we need to mobilise our members to campaign for our policies – and drag along as many of the MPs who claim to be on our side as we can.

1 comment:

a very public sociologist said...

Well said. I find the language of modernisation and all the rest of the Blair/Brownspeak incredibly frustrating and annoying. There used to be a time when modernisation connoted progressive social change. So, many thanks to the New Labour leadership for altering its meaning.