We expect the thieving Tory bastards to want to destroy public services. That’s their political mission, that’s the choice they give to the voters. That the Liberal Democrats decided to betray their voters, by joining the Tories in government, hasn’t surprised many of us on the Left either. We always knew they promised whatever they fancied, even when it was wildly different in different parts of the country. We’ve also had long experience of them fighting shamelessly nasty and personal election campaigns. At last the public has found their game out. Labour, on the other hand, was supposed to be the workers’ party. It created the NHS, established the welfare state and consistently championed the rights of workers around the world. Until John Smith died.
Over the last two decades, Labour Party members have stood by whilst their leadership cuddled up with big corporations, launched an illegal war and hero worshipped the fabulously wealthy. They did that to win power. During Labour’s recent time in government, the evidence of the coming environmental catastrophes stacked up as never before. Yet Labour did nothing to prepare for the coming challenges, because the fabulously wealthy, the arms industry and the giant corporations didn’t want them to. Those creatures can only see the shortest possible distance, to their next profit.
During Labour’s administration, the Left lost its political influence but it didn’t lose the argument. It diversified for a while and later on it regrouped. It gave up on Labour. With the Tories back in power, it naturally turned to the trades union movement for leadership. Thus, on 26th March 2011, half a million of us answered the TUC’s call for a mass demonstration against the cuts. That’s the police estimate of the turnout that day, by the way. We thronged the streets of London, on the way to Hyde Park, where we were treated to Ed Miliband calling for “some cuts“. Perhaps on a warmer day he might have held most of the arriving multitude but that afternoon, his welcome left us cold. We abandoned him in the middle of an empty park and went to warm our hands by an anarchist bonfire in the middle of Oxford Circus. On the way to the park all the talk, all the thousands of home made placards, all the songs and everything else sung of No Cuts.
This confusion between Labour’s leadership and it’s massed trades union membership is hardly new, though on that day its starkness appeared novel to many. Dispersed from our leadership we pondered. Later that year a few thousand of us rocked up around the London Stock Exchange and were (almost certainly illegally) kettled in St Paul’s Churchyard. The resulting camp proved to be the most persistent manifestation of the worldwide Occupy movement precisely because of the support the Stock Exchange’s home city’s population. Londoners poured their solidarity into OccupyLSX’s camp, in masses of small donations, in daily gifts of food, in expertise, in you name it. We called for No Cuts. Whatever confusion Occupy might have present, every last Occupationist called for No Cuts.
Labour is funded by the trades unions. Here in Brighton & Hove, Labour is funded by the GMB, for example. In the most recent local elections the GMB supplied paid staff, vehicles and office facilities to Labour’s campaign. All the same, Labour came last. The Greens came first, the Tories second and then Labour. We’re pleased to report that there are no Liberal Traitors left in Brighton. Actually we got rid of them some time ago.
Last year, Labour councillors in Brighton & Hove voted for a council tax freeze, on the back of a paltry Pickle’s bribe. Whatever cuts Brighton & Hove City Council will be forced to take from the government, were inevitably worsened by that policy. This is New Labour, voting for “some cuts“. The GMB paid for this. The tragedy is that the GMB members will pay more for it. Much more.
So we get a choice. We can take the Tories’ slash and burn style cuts. We can take Labour’s cuts. Alternatively, the Greens want no cuts. Whilst its trite to point out that the Greens cannot prevent the Tories from imposing cuts in Brighton & Hove, the fact remains that we have a straight choice at a national level. Let’s look at those choices in a bit more detail.
The Tories’ offer is simple. The rich will do very nicely thank-you and the rest of us will get fucked. Labour’s offer is also simple. The rich will do very nicely thank-you and the rest of us will batter the storm as best we can. The Green’s offer is simple too. Bin Trident, tax the rich, and we will have no cuts.
Right now, the local GMB is locked into a negotiation process with the Green Council. The whole thing revolves around the fact that previous party administrations have created what can best be described as 400 or so ‘job families’ for its workforce. Obviously, someone’s gotta sort that out. So that’s what the Green’s are doing. Even more obviously, the GMB is, quite rightly, properly concerned with what must, in these times, inevitably be worrying issues. I imagine that the GMB tweeter arguing with me the other day thought me one of the council’s acolytes, what with me being a Green Party member and fairly conspicuous activist. Fair enough.
Actually, I was inquiring about membership. I gave up with the GMB tweeter in the end and rang their office, where a couple of very helpful people talked me through the options for a part-time worker to join. I’ve repeatedly praised the trades unions, here and elsewhere and now that I’m no longer practising at the bar, I want to join one. In fact, I’d like every member of the Green Party who is not already a member of a trades union, to join the GMB. Why not? We support their work. Whilst they publicly spat with our elected comrades, in private the conversations are more subtle, more nuanced. The GMB knows full well that there will be some measure of conflict between workers and their employer, regardless of the political hue of the administration. Right now, it rages against the Greens, but it knows that Labour wanted worse. Hardly surprising then, the number of resolutions to last year’s GMB conference supporting disaffiliation from the Labour Party. We need the GMB and the other big unions more than ever. We are being beasted by the thieving Tory bastards and worse is to come.
The GMB could fight its corner better if it didn’t automatically fund any political party. Simply, it would have more funds to expend on its members. Why does its leadership continue to campaign for Labour? It doesn’t make any sense. Clearly, GMB people want no cuts. Sure, take the fight to the power, Greens, Labour or Tory, but why actually fund a party which promises cuts? The only explanation is that the GMB leadership is ideologically welded to Labour to the exclusion of their members’ interests. That’s gonna have to change.