Something rotten in No. 10
WORKERS, NOVEMBER 2008 ISSUE
There’s a nasty smell hanging about this government, the smell of dictatorship. One might almost say of fascism, but they lack the uniform and most importantly the strength to go that far, yet.
The evidence is all around.
You can see it in the academies programme, the pet project of “Lord” Adonis. Governing bodies of schools threatened with being turned into academies (where parents and the local community will have no say in how the schools are run) are told that if they kick up a fuss, they will be taken over right away.
The old Tory programme of forcing schools out of local control through grant-maintained status looks tame by comparison: it did give parents a vote in the process. Now, only one vote counts – normally that of a minister, sometimes that of a mayor (most councillors have no say in how their “cabinets” work).
You can see it in the outrage that greeted David Cameron’s attack in the middle of October on Gordon Brown’s handling of the economy. And goodness, isn’t there a lot to criticise! But from the reaction of Labour MPs, you’d think it was high treason even to express a negative opinion about the government in the middle of a crisis.
For comparison, go to your library (should it still be there) and dig out a copy of Hansard, say around 1940, and look at the debates then in Parliament then about the conduct of a real life-and-death struggle, World War Two. Not only did ministers actually account for debacles, MPs also condemned them, at one stage calling (successfully, as it turned out) for the resignation of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.
You can see it, too, in the petulant way in which the government acknowledged reality in the face of a crushing Lords vote against extending internment – sorry, the time limit for investigating suspects without bringing them before a court – to 42 days, the longest, by far, in an industrialised country.
You can see it, increasingly, in all aspects of public life. The indignant huffing when journalists ask difficult questions. The cavalier way in which Brown has shovelled hundreds of billions of pounds of our money into the welcoming maws of clueless bankers with no discussion – even succeeding in making the US Congress look like the acme of democracy, which is no mean feat. The helter-skelter privatisation of chunks of the NHS. And most importantly in its draconian anti-union laws.
Workers need to take note. Petitions, leaflets, all the old ways of mobilising without taking industrial action, will work less and less. It’s going to have to be back to basics, to struggle and organisation where the power lies: at work, where profit is produced.