Goodbye Manchester and the 142nd TUC, forward to the 143rd in 2011. Where are we now after the week’s deliberations?
Speeches from the great, good, devil incarnate, friends and enemies, all motions carried. Motions of emergency defending the London Underground, defending the Royal Mail, standing up to Tory brinkmanship in Birmingham City Council, resisting cuts, international causes and greenery to lose the proverbial forest and trees.
Mix in the Labour Party leadership streetwalking competition, the Governor of the Bank of England and John Monks, General Secretary of the European TUC and European Union fanatic.
The TUC has a simple policy for dealing with the Coalition government: take every opportunity no matter how unsavoury to talk to them and at the same time savage in detail the implications of the Coalition’s politics and policies.
Campaigning and lobbying will be righteous, the moral high ground will rest with the TUC and affiliates but how will that translate into practice? Much sabre-rattling, much posturing, much playing the victim, many more fine words but then almost a sense of unreality.
The reality is that all and sundry are waiting for the Chancellor’s statement on the Comprehensive Spending Review on 20 October. All are obsessed with the likely devastation of the spending cuts, 25 to 40 per cent (take your choice) threatened and trailed since the general election. Devastating though the Chancellor’s economic strategy will be, our response cannot be one of fatalism or putting our own heads in the oven, or even pretending it’s business as usual.
Britain’s public services reflect for good or bad a level of civilised society expected by the British people. To brazenly propose such destruction is an open declaration of war on the people of Britain and we should respond accordingly.
The public sector cuts will not be resisted by a one-horse race called “let’s have a national demonstration and then another one”. It will flop. The two million strong anti-Iraq war demonstration, ignored by the government, is etched clearly into people’s minds. Demonstrations are no longer the way forward.
In fact demonstrations in Britain have never worked, not since the Chartists. If we have 15 per cent trade union density in the private sector and roughly 56 per cent in the public sector then the strategy has to be to recruit and build organisation. If 500 or 600 or 750,000 public sector jobs are under threat of redundancy or privatisation or voluntarism, then we have to have a class strategy which says wherever the work is, delivered by whoever, then we, the trade unions, are there. Our very livelihoods – our ability to survive as workers, in work, in a civilised society – are at risk.
We resist by organisation, discipline, unity. This is not Greece or France.
The TUC will call a national demonstration in the spring. Wags joke that the year hasn’t been specified.