The Third Grand Old Duke of York Demo:
TU leaders must fight for “needs budgets”!
Enough of the bogus “protecting frontline services”, “caring cuts”, “dented shields” and “cuts too far too fast”!
WE have seen only a fraction of the cuts to come first planned by Chancellor George Osborne in 2010—the total is almost £600 billion, and that is without the readjustments necessitated by the shrinkage of the economy and tax take due to these deflationary policies. So far less than 15% has been implemented.
What are the prospects of the official Labour movement leading a fightback against these vicious cuts? Even if Labour wins in 2015 it will continue these cuts without let-up. Shadow chancellor Ed Balls told the Guardian, “The public want to know that we are going to be ruthless and disciplined in how we go about public spending”. And at the Labour Conference, “we cannot make any commitments now that the next Labour government will be able to reverse particular tax rises or spending cuts.”
And what are the intentions of the trade unions and Labour council leaders, surely they will lead a fightback? They have no intention of doing so.
At a meeting with about fifty of its Councillors, including Council leaders and Labour group leaders, on 12 November 2010 in Leeds Unite newly elected Gen Sec Len McCluskey got Gail Cartmell to instruct them to carry out all the cuts by setting legal budgets whilst hypocritically protesting. Not one balked at this disgraceful instruction. Not a single Labour councillor voted against the cuts imposed in April 2010, despite panic and soul-searching in Lambeth and Hackney. There was no question of setting ‘needs budgets’ to protect the vulnerable against the cuts. Len McCluskey made his usual anti-cuts speech at this year’s TUC but meekly acquiesced to the cuts agenda at the Labour party conference.
Back at the first 500, 000-strong ‘Grand Old Duke of York’ demo on 26 March 2011, just to make sure that he did not whip the troops into a revolutionary frenzy, McCluskey had Unite’s stewards sporting the Ed Miliband slogan “cuts too far too fast” on their hi viz vests. What are the mobilising marching chants appropriate to this inspiring idea; “An injury to one is an injury to one and that’s all, and that’s all”, “cut some not all, cut some not all” and, "cut their jobs, not our jobs, cut their jobs, not our jobs, do dah, dah do dah”? Bureaucrats save their fiery speeches for the big occasion to hide their sell-outs when no one is on the streets.
On 30 November 2011 we had the ‘Grand Old Duke of York’ one day Public Sector Pensions Strike. This saw a series of strikes over the whole of the UK. 60% of schools in England were closed and 6,000 hospital operations cancelled as up to two million public sector workers went on strike. Again a tokenistic series of protests, with no follow up to build the movement just as the Socialist party’s “one day general strike” would become if not developed into an indefinite one.
The strangle-hold the TU bureaucracy has on the rank and file of the movement is stronger now than ever. They actively foster the two tier workforce to split and divide us. We saw this in Ellesmere Port, in the London buses and in countless other workplaces; new starters are second class TU members, with lower pay rates and far worse conditions. Almost all left groups do not fight this in any serious way, thus they do not prepare for this impending catastrophe. The National Shop Stewards Network, Unite the Resistance and the Coalition of Resistance cosy up to bureaucrats, left and right, with Len McCluskey’s treachery alibied and excused by all.
To begin the real fightback we must build a genuine rank and file movement in the trade unions, which fights ALL the sell-out bureaucrats by the united front method; ‘with them where possible, without and against them where necessary’. This is the task the Grass Roots Left has set itself. From the foregoing it is clear that we must also bring that fight into the Labour party to being to prepare for the 85% cuts to come and the inevitable political consequences of a Labour government viciously attacking its core supporters as Ramsey McDonald did in 1931.
Labour makes no promise to tax the rich, Balls has not even promised to reinstate the tokenistic 50p rate of tax. He was booed at the TUC promising to continuing the attack on the public sector. Given the dire consequences of the 15% cuts we have already seen the effect of the remaining 85% amount to the total destruction of the welfare state built up since 1945—the NHS privatised and local council no more than paymasters for privatised and decimated services. This will inevitably split the Labour party, despite the apparent weakness of the left there and in TUs right now.
Stop marching us up to the top of the hill, only to be marched back down [Or left up there]!
We must prepare for this by renewing the Labour movement, linking up with those within and outside the Labour party who want to fight. We begin with the core organised working class movement, the trade unions, and from there we must take the struggle into the Labour party. To do this we promote the principles and practices of the R+F in all our areas of work. These principles should include,
a) Democratise the unions!
b) elections of all union officials!
c) Officials to be paid no more than the average skilled worker’s wage!
d) Defiance of the anti-union laws!
e) A steeply progressive wealth tax!
f) Public works at TU rates of pay to give work to the unemployed!