Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Trade union leaders continue to fight fire with spittle

The PCS union has called for a "day of action" on the 20th October to coincide with George Osborne's Comprehensive Spending Review. It is also one of several unions pressing the TUC to take the lead on a "robust campaign in defence of public services."

The problem is that, although the plans by the new government need to be fought, the response from trade union leaders continues to be lacklustre.

As BBC News reports, the latest "plans" amount to little more than begging the TUC to initiate action from the top down. PCS "wants the TUC to organise a huge demonstration on 23 October." The GMB "wants the TUC to lead a co-ordinated campaign across the labour movement and local communities." RMT General Secretary Bob Crow has said that "the TUC has to be the launch pad for the fight back."

It seems that none of these unions know the history of the organisation that they're appealing to. The TUC has a long record of inaction on - and even outright opposition to - workers' struggles in Britain.

For example, in May 1926, the organisation's leaders visited Downing Street to announce an end to the then-ongoing General Strike. This, despite the government's insistence that it had "no power to compel employers to take back every man who had been on strike."

It left the miners, who held out until October, high-and-dry, and countless workers unemployed or facing worse conditions than before. And this after, at the beginning of the strike, it had only called out workers in "key industries," to ensure that "revolutionary elements" could not dominate the action.

In the present, the TUC refuses to call a national demonstration. Its response to the attacks on our class over the past two years is lacklustre at best.

It is a bureaucratic organ, led by people whose lifestyles and pay packets put them far from the workers they claim to represent. The same can be said of all full time trade union leaders, who see more of the bosses than they do of their members. They are predisposed towards compromise and sell-out.

That is why they view the TUC as capable of leading a fight against Cameron's class war, and it is why they think a "robust campaign" of "co-ordinated protests" will suffice.
We need a massive, grassroots campaign of industrial and community action without regard to either laws designed in favour of the bosses or the pragmatism of overpaid bureaucrats.

If trade unionists genuinely want to fight back, this is what they should be pushing for. Not by begging for orders from the top, but by rallying for action at the bottom.

Where officials deny action, mass meetings should force it. When bureaucrats cut off strike funds, local whip-rounds and benefit events should replenish them. And if full-timers concede to management or government to bring an action to an end, the rank-and-file should ignore them.

Most importantly, actions that are legal, such as one-day strikes, should be overridden by those that are effective - occupations, wildcat and indefinite strikes, even sabotage and more creative things such as good work strikes.
Rank-and-file workers are the trade union movement, not those at the top who offer fine words and gesture politics.

If the fight against the cuts is to have any success, we need to take it back from the bureaucrats. Otherwise, what the mainstream media is calling an "autumn of discontent" will amount to nothing more than pissing in the wind.