Friday, May 17, 2013

Rudderless in a storm?

As the Government of millionaires attacks on one front after another, the political left is bereft of direction.

The catalogue of brutality unleashed by the side currently winning the class war would have been unimaginable even three years ago.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs have gone over the same period as real wages have continued to fall in an unprecedented way.

The tide of privatisation rising across the public sector has begun irreversibly to engulf the health service and now laps at the feet of postal workers.

The demonisation of claimants is gradually capturing the popular imagination as benefit cuts force us back to the nineteenth century.

Legal aid cuts and employment tribunal fees (coupled with changes to rules on remission), together with other changes to employment law further hobble workers individually and collectively.

Even the seemingly solid social gains of a generation of progress towards equality are fragile in this most reactionary century. The defence of the public sector equality duty will be of totemic importance.

So where is the opposition?

The (capital "O") Opposition are sporadically present - unfortunately their official backing is as much an unavoidable necessity as it is generally unavailable for effective national resistance.

Labour can still mobilise some meaningful opposition to "Tory cuts" (as in the London Fire Service) but is hamstrung by the Party's collusion in many cuts in its quest for "credibility" on the economy.

In large part the absence of our Labour Party where we so badly need it is a function of a generation of timidity and inadequacy on the part of the trade union leadership.

The strategic error of supporting New Labour in the 1990s has had cumulative, calamitous political consequences for the trade union movement which are still playing themselves out.

Since the General Election the unions have been pushed into mobilising us as a stage army on three occasions, as if we could still play by rules written decades ago. We can't and it hasn't worked.

Even the largest strike since the General Strike secured next to nothing in the way of meaningful concessions on public service pensions. Laughable attempts to pretend otherwise did nothing other than undermine the morale and motivation of our activists.

The General Secretaries are staring into the abyss and have no more idea what to do than I have.

Out on the further reaches of the left (where I have always found my friends, comrades and spiritual home) there is no more direction or purpose.

Those who hoped the Green Party was a new road to a new Jerusalem can pick their way through the litter strewn streets of Brighton as they contemplate their error.

The largest far left political party has imploded, and those clinging to its wreckage simply haven't noticed yet that it is over (though it may not be dead for years - some people still sell the "Newsline").

The latest electoral project of the far left has broken all records for tragic irrelevance. Socialists might as well practice "entryism" in the Monster Raving Loony Party as continue to place hope in TUSC.

Such is the lack of hope that an excellent film maker has managed to lever his deserved reputation to promote the "Left Unity" project (which falls somewhere between Sir Richard Acland's Common Wealth Party and the political equivalent of vanity publishing).

I too wish their were an alternative to the Labour Party - but no matter how many lamps I rub no such alternative appears.

The political problem confronting the working class in this country, as throughout Europe, over the last generation is the political inadequacy of our trade unions, not the political label of the politicians we can vote for.

This time of weakness and disorientation provokes and encourages infighting. Unable to make a difference in the wider world, comrades retreat into squabbles they believe they can win.

Internicine strife between and within groups on the left will continue to get worse as long as we fail to change the script of this tale of retreats and defeats.

So what do we do?

We fight back.

Wherever you are, working or unemployed, you can organise collectively to resist the ruling class offensive as best you can.

We have suffered many defeats and will suffer more. Lives are being ruined - and ended - and we, who should lead the resistance, are continuing to fail.

So we must rethink, regroup and redouble our efforts.

We may be rudderless in a storm but that is no excuse for failing to keep the boat afloat.

Our trade union movement, the oldest in the world, remains the largest voluntary organisation in UK civil society by a country mile.

We are not weak.

We are not powerless.

We need not be ineffective.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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