My recent talk of an ethic of complementary politics can be well expressed by the notable success of Len McCluskey, recently appointed General Secretary of Unite. I was willing Jerry Hicks for General Secretary, especially because of his promise for green jobs; but the sheer brilliance of McCluskey has cancelled any disappointment. His article at the end of last year, addressing Unite’s readiness to take action against the callous nature of the government, whilst proclaiming his support for the Coalition of Resistance and the student movement, makes him better qualified than Aaron Porter for being the NUS president (but let’s face it, that’s not hard).
McCluskey, whilst muddling up his figures, is right to argue for an alternative to the government’s current recipe for disaster aka. an economic ‘strategy’ of cuts, cuts and cuts. Whilst the right-wing press, charged with its ‘baron’ rhetoric, try to slander the unions; Len McCluskey’s respectful and calm answers are excellently maintained.
Back to the ethic of complementary, McCluskey is an example of an political activist working within and outside ‘traditional’ political praxis. Whilst fighting within a union affiliated to Labour, unions are arguably a form of ‘traditional’ political action; however, McCluskey is rightly not afraid to stand up to Ed Miliband as he did when Ed Miliband quickly distanced himself from the unions at his leadership acceptance speech and in response to Ed Miliband’s Daily Mail rhetoric of McCluskey’s article (mentioned above) being irresponsible.
However, for me, unions also reconstructing themselves as part of the up and coming force of political protest, which is framed by a larger civic political concern. The unions are aware of the external forces of political action, as shown by McCluskey’s recognition of the Coalition of Resistance and the student movement. McCluskey isn’t only fighting through the Labour Party. Here is a perfect example of how an organisation/group/movement can complementary fight within existing traditional forces of protest as well as outside.
Times have changed, as Bookchin noted the 1930s Spanish revolution arguably marked the end of the working class proletariat movements (typically connected to the anarcho-syndicalist branches of anarchism). Whilst anarcho-syndicalism is still important, as is workers’ power and involvement within political praxis; political protest needs to respect the radical changes that have occurred since the 1930s. Middle and working classes shouldn’t be seen as antithetical. Classes themselves have reached a point where it is hard to classify. Work such as eco-socialist Gorz’s on the non-working class is a testament to these changes.
Len McCluskey needs to maintain his strong and admirable stance. He does the unions proud, illustrating they aren’t some parasite upon Labour nor the workers as they are often cast as being, even by some within Labour. They are a vital force of change, but not the only. This is something McCluskey realises, and does his complementary ethic credit.