Monday, 28 October 2013
What grangemouth can tell us about the current state of the labour movement?
Quite a lot I’d argue. A big defeat that much of the left I’d argue has not really understood how big it was. Only time will tell of course but we do need to analyse the role of unions in this and how things may develop and play out in time. Unite who seems to be full of more hot air than actual punch of late unfortunately. So what will the Grangemouth dispute show in the long run? That unites is this so called fighting member lead left union? I doubt it somehow. For me it will confirm something which I’ve been thinking for a while now that trade unions have their place within capitalism now and firmly know their place in terms of what they can and can’t do. Unite knew going into this dispute that this could be a really key battle on the UK labour movement in this current age of austerity and privatisation. More and more I have sympathy with the anarchist critique of trade unions that its not the fact that unions sell us out constantly yes they do more often than not but that their structures mean that this is necessary and that maintaining relations with the boss’s and the employer is key. Unions for some time now have had to and have in many case’s apart from some like the RMT have willingly agreed to this thing they called union partnership with the employer where the union officials will know how far they can go and as to keep their seat at the negotiating table and to keep in with the boss’s as ultimately well paid union officials have more in common with the boss’s of course they are set the task of maintaining order and limiting struggle to the boundaries the boss’s set which are made perfectly clear before hand, As for the Grangemouth dispute was it always going to be a sell out? Well possibly with unites and its leading body of bureaucrats looking to get Ed Miliband and his labour party elected in 2015 a certain limit has to be held by unite who is as we know is Britain’s biggest trade union and still to this day the Labour Party’s biggest donor funding it to the tune of millions f our members hard earned pounds a year. Unite and its leading officials will want to see a labour government elected in 2015 so any unorganised struggles must be clamped down on to ensure to present a sensible face to capitalism and the labour party that they can be trusted to keep the workers in their place. To take future labour cuts, wage freezes and no repeal of any anti trade union laws. Of course Unite will accept this I hear you say why? No they won’t surely? Well the labour link is important and its not important for workers but it is important for unite and its leading layer to keep that link with the labour party higher ranks the two share a common goal of thinking they can manage capitalism better than the Tories. Of course there can be no “better” managing of capitalism it is a system based on the exploitation of labour for the production of surplus value and profit of course and for as long as it exists this will always be the way. So no amount of Ed Milibands responsible capitalism which really is a load of old guff can deflect from capitalisms aims of developing the productive forces and the ability to create and extract more profit from our unpaid labour. So what can we do as workers to fight back on the ground? Well I’d suggest that the boss’s are likely to take the Grangemouth sell out by Unite as a signal that the labour movement in the UK is weak which they probably already knew having forced through huge cuts and privatisation already with little opposition apart from a few big march’s and a big one day public sector strike in 2011 which in all honesty do little to worry the ruling class if we are brutally honest. What we do need is a proper genuine rank-and-file movement from below. Not the broad lefts which many on the left organise in today like the United Left which in affect is a election machine for the unite bureaucracy as we have seen with the last few elections in Unite if you are a in United Left you have the force of the unite bureaucracy behind you and are more or less a shoe in. The right wing in Unite is all but gone. Not tat we can be complacent there either it may return one day and there is already many talking of the right signing up to United Left to get elected. So do be careful there. But United Left a broad left is not a rank-and-file organisation organised from the bottom up. Ok it may have shop floor workers in it but is not worker lead in many ways. The NSSN could have been a really good rank-and-file organisation but I am not sure it is fully interested in organising workers across sectors and building solidarity. It may give lip service to supporting workers but more often than not in my experience the NSSN has been a mouth piece for left union bureaucrats to get on a platform and sound militant for a few hours while on the ground little in the way of organising is done. The NSSN does a lot of good in publicising disputes with its E Bulletin which I subscribe to but under the full control of the socialist part now I am not convinced it will be anything more than a recruitment front for that party unfortunately. I see very little independent rank-and-file voices on its steering committee for example. Most are Socialist party members who may well be workers themselves but I know for a fact some are not and some are paid employees of the socialist party itself. So I do firmly believe there is still the crying need for a rank-and-file network of works inside and outside of unions to link up struggles and build solidarity. To not push the ego’s of union leaders even if they do claim to be on the left. A bureaucrat is a bureaucrat whether they are left or right. Maybe a left one is more sympathetic to our struggles but they still have a role to play in the structures of the union and the wider capitalist society to maintain the order of things. The labour movement is far from dead but it is hugely weakened and venerable due to the lack of fight from all levels not just the leadership. We can affect change by organising ourselves from below. We do not need to wait for leaders to tell us to act or to fightback we can start today in ourworkplaces’s and beyond. Grangemouth doesn’t have to be remembered as yet another defeat on the long long list we have it could be turning point if we learn the lessons. The real lessons.