In one of the best articles I have read for a while, Len McCluskey outlined the need for a broader anti-cut movement, the problems with Labour’s ‘strategy’ and the need to look beyond legal constraints.
There are the usual union scare stories, such as today’s Spectator article:
I have a severe opposition to the comments regarding the unions supposedly starting this war (something other right-wing articles have argued ineffectively). This government made the first move, they were the ones who initiated the £81bn cuts, they were the ones who are about to embark on a programme of extremely regressive social, political and environmental policies. So if you want to get technical, the coalition started the ‘war’; what I have previously termed the multi-dynamic war, as nearly everyone (except mainly those at the top) are to be negativity affected by the coalitions plans.
Unite is reacting as all unions should do; in the interest of those they represent, as well as in the interest of the society that many within the union movement want to work towards – where there is more equality and redistribution. As I have stated before, however, the union movement needs to move from a pure class based analysis towards a broader movement that reflects the multi-dynamic war initiated by the government. For this, unions should work to form a broad link with the women’s movement, the disabled people’s movement, the ethnic minority movements and so on. I for one, was mightily disappointed when the national demonstration against welfare cuts (last week) failed to produce local demonstrations similar to the student induced ones (this failure was notable in Leeds). We can’t fight battles in isolation from the context of their occurrence, thus, we need to see this war as something that we will only fight together.
Another point regarding this war is what side are we to take? By this I mean, should unions and the like endlessly hope that Ed Miliband will stop being so scared and actually start sticking up for the things he said he would; like union rights? Or do we fight outside the mainstream battle, do we produce a counter-culture to the mainstream power structures? The Spectator article mentioned above had this to say:
Putting aside the prospect of industrial unrest, this will be as nectar for the Tories. Not only is McCluskey’s bellicose shtick utterly divorced from responsible, grown-up politics, but it gives them an opportunity to reheat the “Red Ed” tag for the New Year.
When the cuts start to bite, and mainstream channels such as Labour are shriveled up, as they argue for what McCluskey put so eloquently, “What do we want? Fewer cuts later on”; then you will see people kicking out more and more. We therefore need a productive outlet, a counter power movement. It is obvious that McCluskey is not oblivious to Ed Miliband’s reluctance to stand up for union rights, but it is cautious recognition. In response to McCluskey’s comments, Ed’s spokesman stated:
Ed warned about using overblown rhetoric about strikes in his conference speech and this is a case in point.The language and tone of Len McCluskey’s comments are wrong and unhelpful and Ed Miliband will be making that clear when he meets him in the near future.
And in response to this ridiculous, but expected, response, McCluskey stated:
The reality is Ed is entitled to his point of view, all I was trying to point out is that there is growing anger amongst our members and the general public that the very people who caused this crisis: the bankers, the spivs and the speculators have got off scot-free. Nothing seems to be happening to them but it is working people who are paying the price.
McCluskey’s answer was reasoned and well-directed. Ed Miliband is frankly turning out to be a joke. There is nothing ‘overblown’ about what McCluskey is saying. In the context of £81bn cuts that are destroying people’s lives there is nothing ‘wrong’ or ‘unhelpful’ about declaring your commitment to fighting against it. What is ‘wrong’ and ‘unhelpful’ is to joke about joining in protests and slapping down the oppositional forces to this government like a love struck puppy. This comes back to my point that what we need is to work outside political parties as well. The mainstream parties are basically all the same, Ed just wants the war to be a bit more dragged out. Instead, we need to talk about constructing oppositional movements and forces that can undermine what is happening.
For this, unions will be central. But as I have stated above, they won’t be the only fibre holding people together; there should be a joining of movements, strengthened through their collective belief to fight against the government. After all, what most people fighting against these actions want is a different style of governance, and it is clear that we wont be able to get that through batting for Ed.