Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Speak Up for Public Services rally

I'm not usually a doom and gloom merchant but while I was sitting in a meeting this morning it kind of crept up on me. Listening to various speakers talk about the dismantling and fragmentation of advice in the Not for Profit sector due to government proposals.
Unsuprisingly, New Labour are getting their ideas from the private sector. Advice will have that supermarket feel about it instead of understanding the complex and specialist nature advice is people will be subjected to the “one size fits all” philosophy ‘cos it is all about “value for money” and “market forces” now.

And talking of cuts in public services, there was a select committee meeting today to discuss how much money will be squandered on the Olympics.

Well, at the end of that meeting I crossed the road and attended the Speak Up for Public Services rally at Methodist Central Hall. I was pleased to see lots of T&G activists (my union) leafleting around Westminster.

The meeting was absolutely packed and I had to wait around for some time before the stewards allowed anyone in (there were lots of stalls). It was refreshing to see so many activists that it raised my spirits and the atmosphere was very good.

I heard Dave Prentis (general secretary, Unison) doing his impersonation of a “left-wing” speech which included a round-up of striking Unison activists, condemning privatisation and bigging up the fight for public services (“We will be uncompromising in the action we take”!) and threatening strike action. Prentis mentioned that the PCS ballot result will be in today (they have voted to strike) which rightly merited rousing applause and that solidarity with other unions was key to the fight. I was tempted to holler, “Yeah, but what you gonna do about the Local Government Pensions Scheme, Dave”?

I wanted to hear Mark Serwotka (who was running late) but I got Dave Prentis instead. Oh well....
Unfortunately, I couldn’t hang around as I had to get back to work.

Anyway, I will big it up for the Trade Unionists 4 John meeting next Tuesday (30th Jan) 7-9 @ Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London.


badmatthew said...

Obsessive compulsive here: 'packed', etc. okay, exciting, yeah, but how about some numbers of people?

And a bit more political perspective? Where's it all going?

Martin Wisse said...

Of course, with UNISON busy persecuting its own activists, don't count on them too much to fight against these developments...

Louisefeminista said...

Badmatthew: Packed= hundreds. Ok? Don't do numbers well. This was a short report and I didn't wanna get too bogged down with the "way forward" debate. I couldn't stay for that long and it was a brief snapshot (I was there for around 1 hour)And is that a rhetoric question: Where's it all going? Bureaucracy wise?

And yeah, Unison is witch hunting its members at the moment and I am sure Prentis was doing a "left" impersonation re: his speech.

AN said...

I tink the question "where is it all going", is a fiar one.

personaly, whenever i hear of a trade union campiagn to defend public services my heart turns into a piece of cold hard stone.

It just seems so hopeless, and the battle so comprehensively lost already. Unless of course the union leaderships lift their game and vigorously campaign - and their structuralk links with new Labour are an impediment to this.

Louisefeminista said...

Well, there were hundreds of trade unionists in attendance and out there willing to fight. But I wouldn't be as willing to describe it as "hopeless" (optimism, comrade...).

Yeah the bureacracy is ready and waiting to sell us out and well, look at the LGPS and how Unison leadership has screwed over LG workers. I know there are lots of demoralised activists. And Prentis is probably still hankering after that Knighthood. And yes, the intimate "relationship" between New Labour and the unions is a severe impediment. But, but, what what do we do then? We really need to galvanise the activists (attacks from New Labour and sell outs from your union)

The bureaucracy has done sweet fa over equal pay (all words and no action!)and remember being told that the "political momentum" wasn't there to campaign and that was from a TUC fulltimer! So much for "TUC off your knees..." etc. etc.

So, I am kinda negatively optimistic. If that's possible...

I am also interested in what is going to happen with the trade unionists for John M.

Tawfiq Chahboune said...

Where's it going? Obvious really. The privatisation of everything and the unions will tug their forelocks and doff their caps. Perversely, they'll even fund their own destruction. At least the Tories don't expect to be paid by the unions to give the unions a thorough kicking. I'm pretty pessimistic about the big unions. They’ll acquiesce to nearly anything Labour wants. Once the privatisation is complete, the Lib-Lab-Con, as Ukip amusingly refer to the set-up, will force through state funding of political parties. And it will all be too late. But then Labour-voting trade unionists are not known for their intelligence. (Look at the political stars of the unions! Can there be a thicker, more gormless pair than Alan Johnson and John Prescott?)

How many socialists refuse to have anything to do with their union because of the cash that makes its way to the Labour Party? Really, why would anyone on the Left wish to have anything to do with a union that funds the Labour Party? The larger unions are a corrupt and servile lot, and that's before you add to the mix their unbelievable stupidity. Cast your minds back to two Labour Conferences. The unions blocked a motion to debate Iraq. There would be no vote, let alone condemnation. A catastrophic war and the unions block a debate on it. That tells you everything about the Labour-supporting unions.

I remember well the whole "democratising the political funds" stuff. I was probably the only one who argued that if unions were stupid enough to give their money to a political party than they should have the right to give it to whoever they bloody well wish to. Other socialist comrades argued that it could only go to Labour or a leftwing party. All of this seemed to miss the point about "democratising" the political fund.

As I've said before, it reminds me of that great Peter Cook gag (before the Derek and Clive days): "As a trade unionist I am often asked why it is I vote Conservative. It is because I am a stupid ****". We can surely ask the same question of trade unionists who vote Labour.

Louisefeminista said...

So Toff, what do you say to lefties in the LP like me? People like Walter Wolfgang who defied LP conference. What do you say to lefties in trade unions like myself? I believe in organising militancy within the trade union movement and isn't the role of the trade unions contradictory?

About the political fund, majority of Unison Left argued that there should be 1 political fund that was democratic and open to review. We supported the line that MPs who were sponsored by Unison should back Unison's core demands i.e. against privatisation etc. I was at the conference in 2003 which debated this and listened to Prentis et al attacking the left. We lost the vote but it doesn't stop us from fighting the bureaucrats and New Labour.

Yes, you have to be realistic but what of those lefties active in the LP and the trade unions. Do you tell them to give up and wait for a New trendy non-sectarian inclusive Workers Party? Well, I won't hold my breath!

Tawfiq Chahboune said...

I'm not sure if there's a disagreement here as to the facts. It's evident that the unions will back the privatisation of pretty much anything, lest the dreaded Tories get back in. The Left within the Labour Party are either outnumbered by the Right, or they do not wish to start a civil war with the Right, knowing that the Blairites and Brownites would wage a scorched earth policy and would rather lose to the Tories (who they consider ideologically closer than socialists) than the Left. Is that not the case?

You ask "What do you say to lefties in the LP like me?" I sympathise with you and I sincerely wish you all the best. Do I think you have a chance? No, I do not. If it were so, I would join the LP and fight. It is a stark truth that the Left in the Labour Party will be ignored or extinguished. You cannot win. It is an impossibility. The Blairites and Brownites will not allow it. There are some things in life that are horrible and true. People like the music of Madness. People find Jeremy Clarkson interesting, Jonathan Ross funny, and enjoy soap operas. There are leftwing people who believe that they have a chance within a rightwing party dedicated to war and privatisation.

In ten years of Blair and Brown can you name anything of which you are proud? I very much doubt it. Is that for lack of trying by the Labour Left? Let's assume the impossible: a McDonnell win (even Diane Abbott, leader of the "socialist" campaign group, is backing Brown). Do you honestly believe that the Labour Right would not wage the most vicious war against him? Why he's in the Labour Party is a mystery.

I agree with you that things are extremely bleak. Wait for a trendy workers party? Well, no. And Respect is as dead as you can get. Am I happy about all this? No, of course not. I'm horrified. It's not easy being on the Left, but I'd prefer not to fool myself and believe that the Labour Party will be anything but a party of war and privatisation, as it always has been.

In fact, the answer to the Left's problems lies with our comrades in the Labour Party. The Labour Left is the answer to our problems. If only the Labour Left were to break away and create a broad Left Party would we stand a chance. As it is, we are left to battle the counter-productive policies of the vanguardist Trotskyists of the SWP and their ilk, who believe that some sort of revolution is in the wings.

Anonymous said...

re numbers the room held 500 and as louise said it was full with people queing to get in I'd estimate at least another 150 milling around the stalls outside.
So not bad but nothing like the 2k people who attend the public services not private profit rally early in the year.

Good to hear your coming to the TU4john Tuesday night Lou - I hear they've got some great speakers on the platform ;p