Go to Main Website

Back to Front - Forwards or backwards?


The 138th Trades Union Congress has concluded, and workers should ask themselves in which direction – backwards or forwards – 19th century or 21st century – are we moving? Fewer unions, fewer members, fewer delegates and yet supposedly the unions have the ear, the deaf ear, of government. Government displays itself as the school yard tantrums of Blair, Brown and other self-promoting, largely ex-union, officials wanting to aspire to Downing Street.

The greatest political mistake of the trade unions and labour movement was the establishment of the Labour Party, and for the TUC to continue to describe itself as the "Parliament" of the working class reinforces that stupidity. When Clare Short, soon to be an ex-MP, coincidentally called for a "hung parliament", she unintentionally saved the day and at least raised a wry smile on many delegates' faces.

The sterility of debate, the dead hand of control, the stage-managed events, despite the orchestrated walkout by the RMT and their silly Trotskyite hangers-on, will only be surpassed by the forthcoming Labour Party Conference in Manchester.

If the trade unions invite Blair and Brown to address them, more fool them, but once there they should be heard out in total silence – the same as the Health Secretary received at the recent Unison Health Conference. And though policies passed, as in the previous 138 years, were pious, correct and needy, it remains to be seen whether words match up to deeds – not just further Congress reports.

The most significant decision, and one which will be critical for the next general election, was the establishment of the 'NHS Together' campaign. For the first time all health unions, be they TUC or non-TUC, have come together. This provides the organising core for uniting all the strands of union, community, professional, and public – bringing together our fears, concerns, aspirations and expectations for the health of every individual worker.

It will be health, pensions, work, wages, employment which destroys this government – not its bloody adventurism in far-off lands.

Brown promises more of Blairism. Blair recognises that Brown has been the economic architect of his government. All posturing of MPs or trade union sound-bites about the fourth term miss the point that the working class voice and working class aspirations are not on the agenda. Since 1979 an estimated £300 millions of trade unionists' funds has gone to the Labour Party, and millions of workers must be scratching their heads in confusion over the returns.

As in 1868 the TUC faces the same dilemma: is it possible to reform capitalism? The answer was NO in 1868 and it is NO in 2006.

Workers should ask themselves: is the so-called marketisation of health, housing, education, pensions or public services what they want? Is the mercenary role of Britain in the world – war on nearly every continent – what they want? Do we want the further massive undermining of wages and employment by enforced EU migration? Answer 'NO' and the terminal decline of the unions' relationship with the Labour Party accelerates.

We need to re-assert control of our unions and our interests as a class; in doing so we have a world to win for ourselves.