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(en) Freedom 6324 Dec. 14, 2002 - What the public think

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 17 Jan 2003 09:28:20 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Liberal democracy doesn't work and, after a decade or more of
trade union sweetheart deals, workers don't think there's any
point in joining a union. Who says so? The government's British
Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey, published last week. The survey,
the nineteenth of its kind, is an influential annual report on the
attitude of the British public towards social and political issues.
Coverage of the survey in the mainstream media concentrated
either on the welcome news that we're becoming less racist and
homophobic, or on trivial facts. We learned, for example, that
most of us phone our mothers at least once a week.
Far less attention was given to the political messages that
emerged, one of the most important of which was that next to
nobody trusts the institution of government. Asked whether they
thought democracy was working, just 2% of Britain's population
said yes. That's right - only two people in a hundred have faith in
the state. When Labour was elected to power, the figure was 33%
- poor enough, as it seemed at the time.
The public is sceptical and cynical, not only of government but
also of elections. What's the point of trudging down to a polling
station to choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, when
both of them will go back on their promises as soon as they get
their grubby hands on power? What's the point in voting anyway,
when the real power resides in corporate boardrooms and the
White House?
With turnout in elections plummeting and more people voting in
Big Brother than in political elections, liberal electoral
democracy is in crisis. New Labour's desperate attempts to
revive it, from mayoral elections to Sunday voting, have failed.
Last week Nick Raynsford, the minister responsible for local
government, launched a 'soundings exercise' across England to
check the level of interest in regional assemblies. He shouldn't
have bothered. He's wasting his time and our money. A thumping
three quarters of the population doesn't want regional
assemblies, according to the BSA Survey.
It isn't only government the public has rumbled. They've also
sussed that there's little point in joining a trade union if all the
union wants to do is cuddle up to management with a partnership
deal. According to the Financial Times, the survey revealed that
"workers are less likely to belong to a union than they were
twenty years ago because the overall advantage in joining has
fallen". In the days when unions took industrial action, the result
was that workers in unionised workplaces won higher wage
increases than their colleagues elsewhere. That, of course, is why
the bosses hated the trade unions so much Ğ they gave workers a
bigger share of the profits. Not any more.
Particularly since the mid 1990s, the amount of extra money
you'd see in your pay packet as a result of being in a unionised
factory or office has fallen sharply. The price of belonging to a
union has risen in contrast. The result, unsurprisingly, is that
fewer people now join. In 1983, half the respondents to the BSA
Survey belonged to one. This year, less than a third did.
Partnership deals and no-strike agreements have done more to
weaken the unions than all the legislation brought in by Thatcher
ever could. No wonder the new general secretary of Amicus,
Derek Simpson, says he wants to tear up the sweetheart deals his
predecessor (and Tony Blair's favourite trade unionist), Sir Ken
Jackson, signed. If he doesn't, he soon won't have any members
left! Of course, all this is good news for anarchists. We've argued
for over a hundred years that reformist trade unions and
governments won't deliver for working people. It looks like the
message is getting through. It may stick in the throat that this is
probably more due to Sir Ken Jackson and Tony Blair than
Bakunin or Berkman, but what the hell. As we move into 2003,
we're well and truly in the majority. Better phone and tell your
Richard Griffin

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