Was the glory of the labour movement just a crazy dream?

16 September 2011

8:05 AM

16 September 2011

8:05 AM

Watching the footage of the debates at the TUC this week can’t have been a happy
experience for anyone on the left. I understand the leadership’s decision to hold an “austerity Congress”. I can also understand why the unions want to take the argument on
cuts and pensions to the government. It is their job to protect the interests of their members using tactics up to and including the withdrawal of labour.

The trouble is that the scaled-down version of the once-mighty Trades Union Congress just didn’t feel grand enough, heroic enough or scary  enough, despite the apocalyptic tabloid
headlines. The threat of a mass walkout in November and allusions to 1926 just drew attention to the pint-sized nature of the event. Somehow I don’t feel the pictures of Len McCluskey voting
for strike action sitting in a plastic chair in what looked like a school gym will have sent a chill though the bones of the ruling class. A snigger perhaps.


Ed Milband’s staged confrontation with the TUC and his scripted response to the TV cameras outside just added to the impression that everybody involved was just playing at being grown-ups.
This impression was compounded by the international debate and the absurd motion 71 (Peace in the Middle East/South Asia) proposed by Andrew Murray, chair of Stop the War and “chief of
staff” at Unite. It is worth reading it in full:

“Congress notes that the “war on terror” is still continuing and has failed, after ten years, to bring the promised peace and stability to either the Middle East or the
wider world. Congress believes it is time Britain disengaged from this conflict and in particular urges the rapid withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan.

The occupation there has brought devastation to the country, cost the lives of thousands of civilians and hundreds of British soldiers and destabilised nuclear-armed Pakistan. The future of
Afghanistan can only be determined through talks between the parties in the country itself.

Congress believes the attack against Libya has been misjudged and, while holding no brief for the Gadaffi (sic) regime, believes military action should be halted immediately and that
international efforts should be focused on securing a peaceful political settlement to the conflict. Since there can be no peace in the region without justice for the Palestinians, Congress
endorses the call for the recognition of the State of Palestine and urges the British government to take all actions appropriate to help achieve this objective.

Congress calls for immediate, unconditional negotiations between the Israeli government and the representatives of the Palestinian people to secure peace.

Congress reaffirms policy adopted in 2010, particularly the instruction to the General Council “to work closely with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to actively encourage affiliates,
employers and pension funds to disinvest from, and boycott the goods of, companies who profit from illegal settlements, the Occupation and the construction of the Wall.”

So the TUC now officially opposes the UK intervention in Libya and has adopted a policy which links the removal of Gaddafi to the war in Afghanistan and the Israel/Palestine conflict.  This is
an intellectual and policy black hole that creates a conspiratorial mush from the Maghreb to the Khyber Pass.

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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Nice think.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Clear Memories : 10.45am

    “So, when people say all politicians are the same, they really mean it. TUC=BNP?”

    What it really means is that groups described by the authoritarian left as being “far-right” are actually more correctly described as “slightly-different left”, and are similarly authoritarian to their detractors.

    Despite the relatively small number of ideological supporters, the authoritarian left is not short of political groupings, and so all opportunities to clear the field somewhat by painting one of these groups as being “enemies” of the left are avidly lapped up. It’s like watching ferrets in a sack.

  • Clear Memories

    Motion 71 rang a bell but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

    So I trawled the net and found virtually the same words – on the BNP website! It seems the Brothers also believe in British jobs etc etc, trade barriers, nationalising railways, water, power etc and decry the bankers – just like the BNP.

    So, when people say all politicians are the same, they really mean it. TUC=BNP?

  • Archibald

    Can you explain to me why so many Brits seem so obsessed with Palestine?

    From the outside, it really is pretty difficult to understand, as so many have no direct experience of the area whatsoever, but are so driven in their hatred for Israel to the extent they apparently can’t even begin to see another side to the story.

    Countless other conflicts and horrific examples of oppressive and violent states continue to crop up, but they have nothing like this interest in them.

    As an outsider, it’s very difficult grasp how your mind works – some chap from I think Blackpool was expelled from St Andrews University recently for abusing a Lithuanian guy who happened to have an Israeli flag in the halls of residence, rubbing his hands on his genitals then on the flag and I think calling him a terrorist (he may have denied that despite the witnesses). In any case, he was furious and refused to back down on his ‘views’ in court even though he accepted he’d done wrong. He was 19, he was wearing one of those scarves that some Arabs and the odd trendy favour, but he was just looked like a fat and very lost child from England who probably couldn’t tell you any more about Israel and Palestine than I could, and judging by his backers, a motley assortment of placard waving nut-jobs, wherever he was getting his information from it wasn’t going to be anything other than horribly biased propaganda.

    Now to me, people like that either have some sort of psychological issue that makes them so obsessed with something that one could easily argue has nothing to do with them, or else they have a wee bit of a problem with Jews.

    Which is it that you have?

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Erica Blair

    If you’re so uptignt about war criminals, let’s see the strength of your consistency by hearing from you a comprehensive denunciation of Stalinism – his methods, his ideology, his henchmen, his supporters, and all those who over the years have been very loud about the misdeeds of the non-Left, but deathlike in their silence about the misdeeds that were carried out in the name of this man.

    Go on! If you are going to use misdeeds to criticise people, show us that that the principle you hold is that misdeeds are wrong, full stop. And that a person’s political persuasion has no effect on the strength of your condemnation of the misdeeds he may have done. Let’s have a demonstration that you are really concerned about bad human behaviour per se, and that you are prepared to ignore political differences in your condemnation of it.

    If you can convince us of your sincerity, then fair play to you. Otherwise you’ll just be treated as a typical leftist fraudster whose agenda reaches no further than discrediting opponents, and who disguises ad hominem attacks behind a masquerade of fake concern for universal principles.

  • Erica Blair

    Simon, I think you’ll find that Martin Bright is the one with the hidden skeletons.

    Archie, it’s Bright who’s chosen death – defending Israeli war criminals and excusing their crimes.

  • Baron

    and to think it was once a force to be reckoned with, a force many could identify with, sad.

  • Simon Stephenson.


    Erica Blair’s comments aren’t personal expressions of feeling. They’re the standard drip-drip-drip of verbal poison that human-hating bigots use to attack those who venture too close to exposing their sociopathy. Martin Bright, more than most, knows where these bigots’ skeletons are buried, so he’s not just an enemy, he’s also a threat.

    Whoever lies behind “Erica Blair”, they’re not going away – unfortunately.

  • Archibald

    @Erica Blair
    It must be physically exhausting being you. It’s certainly pretty exhausting reading your comments. But don’t despair, I’m sure there must be help out there somewhere that could help you deal with all your hate and delusions. The first step is to stop listening to the people who make you this way. Break the cycle Erica. You don’t have to listen to them any more. Choose life.

  • I S

    Consigned to the dustbin of history. The massively remunerated leaders now mainly represent featherbedded public sector ‘workers’.

  • Erica Blair

    Firstly, Bright puts (sic) after Gadaffi, when it is one of the accepted spellings of an Arabic name. He is dishonestly implying illiteracy.

    Secondly, Bright should tell his readers what he gets up to on his freebie trips to Israel and his briefing meetings in the Israeli embassy in London. Otherwise people here might imagine he is some kind of journalist rather than a full-time propagandist for the state of Israel.

  • David Lindsay

    “This is an intellectual and policy black hole that creates a conspiratorial mush from the Maghreb to the Khyber Pass.”

    Surely not…

  • Edward McLaughlin

    As a member of a trade union, I would be very much happier if the leadership had done anything at all over the last fourteen or so years, to stem the flow of immigrant workers and the consequent undermining of the livelihood of our workforce. In fact, the word ‘undermine’ is too kind – let’s understand the results of their inaction, using a more direct lexicon: the British workforce is to them ‘redundant’, ‘defunct’, ‘obsolete’.

    In fact, is it inaction, or have they, in their half-baked ideological vanity, sold us out? They have not merely been silent on the matter, but they have, and continue openly, to welcome mass immigration. Something to do with International Brotherhood and ’68 and all that.

    The notion, even the mention of nation and British patriotism is verboten. We are not to be thought of as a cohesive entity. Yet while our nation is left to fray, they busy themselves with calls for nation status for a mob of fascists thousands of miles away, who never were anything until Arab imperialism invented the phenomenon of ‘the Palestinians’ as substantive.

    How are we – their own members – to look upon them as in any way, our leaders?

  • Archibald

    “everybody involved was just playing at being grown-ups”
    I think this pretty much nails the situation, we have a left in this country that has pinned pretty much everything on ideology regardless of the impact on the people it purports to represent and generally refuses to engage in rational debate. Your comparison of the hall to a school gym is about right, they continue to play a very dangerous game with people’s lives while living out some 6th form college fantasy of what politics is, where they all get to fight battles against the evil Tory overlords and imagine sinister plots to uncover and expose.
    The sad thing is so many gullible fools continue to be seduced by this fantasy and get caught up in fake outrage about this and lies about that. Verbose show off Will Self could describe it as part of his Madness of Crowds series if he were so inclined, pointing to the horror over News International and the way TV audiences agree and cheer when some comedian du jour slates a party they don’t like (very, very rarely Labour) and the crowd don’t want to look like they don’t get it or don’t agree with what is the one acceptable political view for anyone in that area of the media.

  • Fergus Pickering

    Yes comrade, it was. A very crazy dream.

  • Ricky

    Martin, you must be aware of the unpleasant goings on at the UCU, where Jewish members feel oppressed and marginalised and are resigning in droves. As a bystander, I am appalled.

    As the membership shrinks, so does the mental capacity of it’s leadership – as witnessed by the NUJ and the NUS. The Hard Left fills the gap and Chapter meetings are now dominated by UK Uncut, Anarchists, old Hard Lefties, SWP and WRP – filled with bitterness, brio and hatred – for just about any one who thinks or feels differently. It’s no longer about jobs and protection, it’s about agitprop and continuous upheaval & so-called “progressive” politics. It’s all so redolent of late 19th century Marxism & syndicalism and appears so out dated and out of touch in the early 21st century.

    It’s enough to one Crow.

  • Yam Yam

    Does anyone really give a toss about motions passed at the TUC Conference?

    Who’s listening anyway?

  • Nicholas

    Motion 71 may be absurd but it reveals the essentially political nature and aspirations of the TUC. It’s relevance to the welfare and employment conditions of British workers is indirect at best.