Sunday, 20 October 2013

Time to move on.

In 1975 the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson called for a referendum to determine Britain's membership of the EEC.
The country voted by a two to one majority to remain in the European Economic Community, with only the Western Isles voting against(by an astonishing 70% as it happens)
The left were generally against membership and we dubbed it the European Employers Confederation,we won the right to a referendum and lost the result.

The reality is now that the European Union is simply a part of the Transnational Employers Confederation, that as marx correctly predicted capital would become more and more international, and less and less competitive.
There is a silly notion that the 'free market' so beloved by conservatives the world over would introduce more competition and thus stimulate growth.
Of course that world view was not merely that of American Neo-cons, and Thatcherite Tories and Blairite New Labour.For decades it has been the driving ideology of our times.
Socialism we are being continually told has failed, and free market economics will create a utopian world where 'hard working families' will thrive and prosper.
In fact what has happened is that economic power has concentrated in fewer and fewer hands and capitalist dog has eaten capitalist dog and the gap between the tiny group of extremely wealthy oligarchs and the rest of us has widened dramatically.
And don't take just my word for that,maurice Saatchi, former Chair of the Conservative Party and mastermind of Thatcher's election campaign said it in today's 'Mail on Sunday'.
You couldn't find a more impeccable source of free market orthodoxy.
While it is true also that conventional socialist has also failed,Saatchi points to China as a state capitalist system(come back Tony Cliff-you were right!) and the other control economies were just as hopeless too we need to think outside the box a little.

There have been isolated successes, despite the ferocious embargo that the US has imposed on Cuba for half a century that little island has still managed to produce a first class health and education system as well as imbuing its people with a sense of socialist identity (Think of the Olympic boxer Teofilo Stevenson who refused the outrageous bribery of American promoters to turn professional!) Yet sadly Cuba is a very small example and it too has blemishes.

It would appear that we need a new model,a new strategy that can challenge the international power of the elite and represent the interests of the working people worldwide.
It seems to me that the one feature of the international workers movement that is lacking is-well internationalism!
Capitalism has long understood that it needs to operate globally, if workers get a bit uppity i9n say Northampton, then close down the factory and move elsewhere,indeed anywhere where wages are lower,conditions are worse and nobody ever talks about health and safety

Surely we learnt our lesson during the tremendous struggle of the ship builders on the Upper Clyde.In a principled and disciplined way the workers continued a work in (remember Jimmy Reid's admonishion "nae bevvying" ) and we all heralded it as a great victory for working people.
But UCS closed quite soon afterwards and the shipowners had their new ships built in places like Gdansk in Poland.
Quite ironic that really, because the shipyards of Gdansk should remind is that workers power is possible to change the world.
It was at Gdansk that the union Solidarity was born, and that was the organisation that toppled the 'communist' government of general Jaruzelski-a basket case government long past its sell by date.

Now I was and am not a fan of that miserable little creep Lech Walesa, but the organisation he fronted was a lesson in organisation.One big union that challenged a state machine.

it's a great pity that at the time there wasn't real international solidarity that allowed shipyard workers the world over that their interests were the same, that it wasn't about nationality or nation state was about working peoples solidarity-one with another.

Over the years we have seen attempts at international solidarity action, notably amongst dock workers, but always too little too late.
There were also brave efforts by TGWU members at Fords to work together with workers in other Ford plants throughout the world.But the old adage of 'divide and rule' has always served the ruling class well when confronted with workers combining together.

However if we are ever to move forward we have to start thinking globally too, and that requires two things, first the recognition amongst working people that we, and only we,are 'in this together' and secondly we need to build once again organisations that recognise that a hurt to one is a hurt to all.
I've lost faith in conventional bourgeois political parties and more than ever believe we need to create a sense that as capitalism has the power to destroy not just individual lives ata whim but entire industries,towns,communities.Every time the board of Tesco decides to buy supplies from a cheaper source then a community is destroyed, but not just the growers and producers.The transport workers, the warehouse workers,the shop workers,it's the old butterfly in the Amazon scenario.

But not only do we need strong unions that involve everyone, that's why the idea of the Unite Community branches is such a good idea,to involve people not simply as workers,but as tenants,dependants, patients,students,pensioners-everybody! 
It also requires unions to change too, to break away from the culture of patriarchy and hierarchical methods of working.Trade unions need to embrace as many as possible and stop behaving as if they are the exclusive brethren,the guardians of the sacred flame of exclusiveness.

I began this piece about reminding myself that I voted No in 1975.I belive that was the right vote then but it is no longer important.If we are really to challenge the powerful transnational employers cartel then we need to build a new movement from the bottom up.
Instead of bleating about 'foreigners taking our jobs' perhaps we should be meeting the migrants as they arrive with membership forms for the one big union.
I've got a great name too-I've always liked the notion of the International Workers of the World- the IWW -hasn't that got a nice ring to it!          


1 comment:

  1. In my enthusiasm I referred to the IWW as 'International Workers of the World', the Wobblies were and are of course the'Industrial Workers of the World' and I'm grateful to Steve and Del for pointing that glaring error out to me,