The decision of the TUC to invite Labour leader Ed Miliband to speak on the platform on 26 March is a slap in the face for the working class and should be condemned by all who are serious about building a real anti-cuts resistance movement.
Even before the well-deserved collapse of Labour at the last elections the labour aristocrats were busy painting Labour in pretty colours. Labour‘s cuts, they sighed, whilst regrettable, were largely unavoidable, and in any case preferable to Tory cuts. Ditto Labour’s union bashing, Labour’s privatisation rampage and Labour’s genocidal wars.
With Labour out of office, the leadership election was the next burning question of the day for the TUC, eclipsing the ‘minor’ question of mobilising against the austerity juggernaut rumbling over the horizon. Despite pressure from several unions calling for the TUC to coordinate resistance efforts, the accession of ‘Red Ed’ on a phony ‘left’ platform was greeted with a sigh of relief from the opportunists.
At last they could revert to the old formula: a few ritual protests against the ConDems to let off steam until such time as Labour crawls back. Meanwhile, keep pouring members’ subs into Labour party coffers and keep the seat warm for social democracy.
How the TUC ‘leads’ workers – by the nose
Five months after Osborne’s spending review, the TUC stirs in its sleep. Once again, it is time to march to the top of the hill, hear some faked-up ‘fire in the belly’ from the Labour ‘lefts’, sieve through Miliband’s utterances in search for some ‘progressive’ fool’s gold, then march down again.
The TUC pamphlet invites us to march for the ‘alternative’, but by this is meant not socialism, but a better regulated and managed capitalism. It invites us to march against “unfair“, “unnecessary” cuts – giving a free hand to today’s Labour councillors and any future Labour government to implement cuts that can be dressed up as ‘fair’ and ‘necessary’.
It tells us that the “ConDem” cuts are ideologically driven and not warranted by the actual depth of the crisis. Yet when Keynesian solutions all fail, as sooner or later they must, then it is indeed the crisis itself that dictates the cuts. The Tories may lean slightly harder on the accelerator than Labour would in their place, but they are all heading off the same cliff.
What the TUC can never admit is that behind the debt crisis lies a deep-seated overproduction crisis. More commodities are being produced than can be sold at a profit on the market. The problem is aggravated when capitalists, desperate to beat the competition, intensify the exploitation of workers, thereby further reducing their spending power.
There are two possible capitalist responses to this dilemma. Efforts can be made to revive demand by various methods, all of which are founded on increasing debt, storing up worse problems down the line.
The other capitalist response, in the end a necessary evil if the capitalist system is to survive, is to free the market of glut by closing down enterprises, laying off workers and slashing wages and welfare, initially through cut-throat competition between rival blocs of monopoly capital and ultimately through war.
The TUC wants us to believe that the only real problem is the over-privileged public schoolboys who are currently in charge. Get Labour back in minus the Blairites, it says, and we can all unite, swallow whatever cuts Labour deems ‘fair’ and ‘necessary’, and get on with ‘growing our way out of the recession’.
“Cuts are not the cure,” declaims the TUC’s flier, reassuring us besides that the illness is not life-threatening anyway. Don’t worry about Britain’s national debt, it twitters. “All countries have a debt – there is nothing dangerous about that.”
Just look how much we borrowed from America after the second world war, and we took ages to pay that back! Why, the current debt blip is really nothing to panic about. And in so far as there’s a problem, we can extricate ourselves from it with some moderate belt-tightening, the creation of some ‘green’ jobs and some mild restraints on bankers’ bonuses.
This whistling in the dark ignores the real character of the crisis and the real historical context. After World War Two capitalism was recovering from overproduction crisis. Right now, having already used every possible stratagem to evade the consequences of market glut, imperialism is entering the most acute phase of the crisis. The parallel is 1929, not 1945.
Massive surplus capacity stifles all markets, the US is too busy trying to rescue itself to throw anyone else a credit line, and on past performance only war, revolution or both will shift the logjam. Capitalism is in a hole and cannot stop digging.
Break the link with Labour
The only cure for the crisis ripping through Britain is socialism. Those who pretend it is possible to duck the consequences of a crisis more than 30 years in the making by tinkering with the existing capitalist system are practising a cruel deceit upon workers, blowing smoke in their eyes as capitalism prepares an all-out class war assault in defence of its profits.
Union militants have increasingly sought alternative ways of mobilising, notably within the National Shop Stewards Network. When the cuts announcement in October drew nothing more from the TUC than talk of a demo the following March, the NSSN mobilised its own protests, where Bob Crow and others denounced Labour’s record of treachery.
In January the NSSN announced its intention to put organised labour at the heart of the anti-cuts movement, on the basis of opposition to all cuts. This line, if consistently followed, will set the anti-cuts movement on a healthy and instructive collision course with Labour, hundreds of whose local councillors are currently implementing the so-called “ConDem cuts“.
There is no more divisive force in our movement than the Labour party. Every step towards breaking the link with Labour is a step closer to uniting workers in resistance to capitalism.