Monday, December 03, 2012

Can we win by force of argument?

With Osborne set to admit that collapsing the UK economy has not brought down the deficit, UNISON's announcement of ways in which billions could easily be found to restore jobs and services is timely (http://union-news.co.uk/2012/12/stop-corporate-theft-unisons-45bn-plan-to-save-economy/).

In truth, even if we couldn't identify the billions readily available, it would make sense for the Government to increase spending in order to boost the economy (and to reduce the proportion of Gross Domestic Product accounted for by debt by increasing the size of the denominator).

However, because of the stranglehold of sub-Thatcherite economic quackery on popular consciousness it is certainly valuable to have a quick answer to the question "where will the money come from?" (even if it would be a better answer to explain that that isn't the right question).

It's similar to the importance of showing local authorities where they can make real efficiencies, or legitimately draw on reserves, in order to protect jobs and services. UNISON are doing the same job nationally that many branches seek to do locally.

As opinion polls increasingly show majority opposition to further cuts it's clear that our movement is winning the argument, and the battle for public opinion, with the advocates of austerity.

However, it would be a mistake to think that there is much prospect of winning anything on this score by force of argument.

This Government are not savaging welfare, attacking the most vulnerable and undermining workers' rights because they believe these things to be economically necessary but because they believe them to be socially desirable.

The deficit (caused by bailing out the banks) is not the reason for any of this, simply a convenient excuse.

The strategic objective of our trade union movement ought to be resistance (which may help us to survive), not survival (in order to achieve which we may need to be seen to resist).

As part of this approach we need to promote the coherent and radical alternative to austerity which is reflected in the policies of UNISON and the TUC but not in the policy or practice of the Labour Opposition - and we need to fight for it in the hear and now, as well as vote for it when we can.

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