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(en) Britain, Direct Action #35 - Labour Troubles Ahead

Date Fri, 26 Aug 2005 09:00:29 +0300

In the last election campaign the media cast opposition to Labour
purely in terms of Iraq. The impression was that without the war
Blair would have been returned with another massive majority.
That is not to say that opposition to the war has not been a factor in
Labour’s growing unpopularity. Nevertheless, with only one in
five of the population actually voting for Labour, it is their economic
polices and the continuing social dislocation they cause, which is the
root cause of the loss of votes. This is especially true in Labour
‘heartlands’ where much of the core vote either stayed at
home or voted for the illusion of the Liberals as a radical alternative.


Labour strategists may comfort themselves that, barring another
imperialist war, the anti-war vote will return to the fold. But this is
unlikely to be the case with traditional voters stuck at the wrong end
of growing inequality. Short of an economic about turn, Labour is
going to be vulnerable in traditional working class areas which will
continue to suffer the full effects of their free market policies.

But they’re now so committed to the free market that they
couldn’t change even if they wanted. Besides a dwindling band
of ‘old Labour’ die hards hoping that a Brown leadership
may signal a change in direction, the party is rife with bright young
things who actually see Maggie Thatcher as a hero. Thatcherite
economic policies are not only pushed by the government but also by
Labour councils up and down the land. Take Manchester City
Council, whose slogan not so long ago boasted of ‘defending
jobs, defending services’. Right now they are privatising services
so fast even Maggie would be dizzy. In addition, MCC has just done
a deal with unions wiping out overtime pay and enhancements. For
the lowest paid manual workers, who relied on shift and overtime
payments, this means a gross weekly wage of £213 for a 35 hour

As Labour’s efforts to deregulate the workforce continue, so too
does the inequality eating away at Britain’s social fabric. This
will further alienate the core vote which may result in Labour finding
itself slowly being replaced by the Liberals. Of course, voting Liberal
Democrat will do little to help the working class – and not just
because of the free market fanaticism that lies behind the nice words
of cuddly Kennedy. The main problem for the working class,
particularly those most affected by deregulation, is that they have no
organisation to defend themselves. Historically workers have only
made real gains when they have been able to organise themselves
and take direct action. But the crushing of workplace militancy by
the Tories was the prerequisite for capitalism to attack pay and
conditions and usher in the growing poverty, brutality and
inhumanity of society today.


Our aim has to be the rebuilding of a workers’ organisation in
Britain. Nor can this be done by reforming the existing unions.
Getting this or that left wing leader elected won’t stop the decay
in what now pass for trade unions. A new workers organisation has
to be built both in the community and the workplace, an
organisation centred on working class people directly controlling
their own struggles and directly confronting the boss class. The key
to this new movement is participation and, in terms of the
workplace, the starting point is workers beginning to come together
to discuss their common problems and how best to overcome them.
From this, workplace organisation based on workplace meetings can
be developed.

This kind of self-organisation is the only way to reverse the tide of
defeats which has blighted so many lives over the last thirty years
and to ultimately overcome a capitalist system that condemns much
of the world’s population to hunger and slavery. The only
alternative to this is representative politics and giving control of our
daily lives to the likes of Blair, Brown and Kennedy – in truth, no
alternative at all.

Journal of the anarchist Solidarity Federation

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