Thursday, December 05, 2013

With friends like these...

I am indebted to a friend in UNISON for forwarding me the response to the Collins Review from the lobby group for insipid political careerist funded by Lord Sainsbury ("Progress").


I see that the Church of the Latter-Day Blairites are lauding UNISON's two section political fund model (without, it would appear, understanding it).

However, their real agenda (and hostility to collectivism) keeps showing. First, they propose that Labour should require that all unions establish two section political funds.

This is the arrogance which is familiar to those of us required to deal with Progress people, but is plainly calculated to antagonise and drive away trade union affiliates. The UNISON model was created to cater for very particular circumstances and may not appeal to all affiliates. Anyone who has read this blog over the years will have read many criticisms of the structure and use of UNISON's political fund.

Secondly, Progress want to prohibit members of other political parties from being members of "affiliated" funds. UNISON Labour Link retains (regrettably in my view) the "UNISON Berufsverbot" to prevent those who are not individual Party members from holding office within our APF - but we cannot ask our members what Parties they are members of!

Given that the author of anything published by Progress can be assumed to be a PPE graduate from Oxford whose parents can afford to support them as they work (unpaid) as a political intern I would hope that they know that trade unions cannot interrogate our members about their party affiliation except in tightly circumscribed circumstances. If they do, then they know that they are setting up conditions which cannot be met, which would only make sense if their long term aim were to dissolve the collective relationship between trade unions and the Labour Party.

The third - and most revealing - of the attacks upon trade unionism advanced by Progress is their demand for an end to the "block vote." They want trade union delegates to vote individually (in a secret ballot) - which would certainly prolong Conference debates (or, which may be the intention, ensure Conference has almost no time for debate).

The so-called "block vote" is simply the concrete expression of collective affiliation, which is the manifestation in the political sphere of the core trade union principle of collectivism.

It is true that the call for "collective responsibility" can be abused (and is sometimes within UNISON as I have often commented on this blog). The application of "collective responsibility" to the elected leadership of a trade union in relation to internal union affairs is, for example, an undemocratic perversion of collectivism.

However, the application of collective responsibility for the pursuit of the policies of a trade union by delegates representing the union (to, for example, the TUC, the Labour Party or a joint trade union side) is simply the proper and democratic application of collectivism.

Because Progress is an organisation created to promote the individual political careers of politicians who are fundamentally individualist rather than collectivist in outlook, they believe that the application of democratic collectivism is undemocratic. 

They believe that the unaccountable action of an individual delegate casting a secret ballot according to a personal whim is a more democratic way of representing the interests of working people than for elected delegates to abide by the policies agreed, through democratic structures, by those whom they represent.

But then, as their fervent support for "primaries" reveals, Progress are in the camp of those who want to make twenty first century politics in the image of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries free from the burden of parties in general, and of a working class party in particular.

As a UNISON member I already have enough enemies not to need friends like these.

1 comment:

James O. Gibson said...

There are dozens of these think tanks releasing reports and influencing politics. They're the equivalent to lobby groups, but better publicized.

It's interesting to hear you talk about working collectivity, as it's often these groups like Progress as you mention that love to compete against other think tanks in trying to influence policy.

What have these groups got to do with ordinary trade unionists and workers? Perhaps asking them would be a start?