We are witnessing the longest General Election campaign in history. Last year’s Labour, Tory and Lib Dem conferences saw their spokesmen trying to outdo one another over who could cut public services the most – in other words, who could attack the working class the most. Later, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg sang the praises of Thatcher, and the Tories are now heavily into union bashing. The EU Commission chips in by saying that no party’s cuts are sufficient, yet all of them seem quite happy that the Commission is now intervening in our financial affairs, even in our election!
Meanwhile, Brown leans on Unite, which has donated £11 million to Labour since he became PM, to avoid strikes in the run-up to the election. Unite meekly complies by cancelling a strike in the engineering and construction contracting industry (arguably today’s best-organised group of workers) over cheap foreign labour, after the GMB had successfully defeated the employers’ attempts to outlaw the strike. The GMB intends to continue to organise for the action.
While discredited politicians poke one another in the eye and shout Yah Boo! at each other, it’s clear that workers do not want Labour, but neither do they want the Tories or the Lib Dems. This capitalist “democracy” is a sham. Whoever you vote for, capitalism wins and workers lose. Brown even wants to introduce a new voting system in which we vote for parties in order of preference, as if we might prefer one over another. The only way to exercise a preference is to say “None of the above!”
But what of Unite – the union? Apart from worrying about embarrassing the Labour Party, it has set up a polling network in key marginal seats which will see its Labour activists phone other Unite activists to ask them what key issues concern their members in the run-up to the election. The idea was to introduce those issues into the campaign to win over the members. Workers can reveal that of those activists contacted, 80 per cent either refused to engage or put the phone down, and of the 20 per cent who did respond, 75 per cent said that the biggest concern of the members was immigration – even more than those who thought it was the economy. This inconvenient truth is set never to see the light of day in the election campaign.
At the same time, the Equal and Human Rights Commission issued a report claiming that 20 per cent of workers in the lucrative food industry have been subject to widespread violence and abuse at work. It went on to comment on the fact that 75 per cent of some sectors of the workforce were immigrants, mainly from Eastern Europe, working for the minimum wage.
What used to be decent jobs paying the rate for the job are now 24/7 jobs on the minimum wage and even less for agency workers, who are charged for accommodation and so on. Jack Dromey, the Deputy General Secretary of Unite, argues that the supermarkets should hang their heads in shame, but it’s the union that is in denial as it slavishly tries to turn its organisation into an electoral machine for Labour.
If we want to send a message at the general election to capitalism’s politicians, it can only be done by boycotting their charade. Either spoil your ballot paper by writing “None of the above” on it or don’t vote at all. A low poll or high number of spoilt ballot papers would remove legitimacy from their game. Far better to follow the example of the engineering and construction contracting industry workers and organise to fight for ourselves.