A ‘blitzkrieg strategy’ was how the bourgeois press dubbed last Monday’s announcement by business minister, Michael Fallon, that he was starting the process of choosing which bank would earn a fortune advising the government on privatising Royal Mail.
This refers to the speed in which the coalition is moving to sell off the postal service, an act of privatisation that Thatcher baulked at in the 1980s and that the last Labour government tried and failed to push through in 2009.
It is clear that Fallon and the government are rushing privatisation through at breakneck speed in order to give no time for public campaigns in defence of the universal postal service to organise any opposition, and to present the entire deal to flog Royal Mail off at a knock-down price as inevitable.
But the real target of this headlong rush is the postal union, the CWU.
The aim of Fallon is to get privatisation through before Christmas when the postal service is placed under huge strain, and where the threat of disruption at the hands of CWU members taking industrial action is most potent.
By steamrollering the whole process through in a matter of months, the government hopes to catch members of the CWU on the hop and unprepared to fight.
It is the membership that Fallon and the Royal Mail management fear, not the leadership of the CWU, whose measure they have clearly taken.
According to reports, one ‘senior industry figure’ confidently predicted that from the CWU leaders they expected ‘plenty of noise’, before adding: ‘But watch their feet, not their mouths.’
This cynical but accurate depiction of the leadership of the CWU was borne out at last week’s annual conference of the union, where the General Secretary, Billy Hayes, and the Postal Secretary, Dave Ward, both paraded their opposition to privatisation, while in practice resolutely refusing to confront this threat with strike action.
The only motion on the agenda pad dealing with the question of industrial action concerned holding a ballot on boycotting, what is called ‘downstream access’ – this is where RM is forced by law to deliver mail that has been processed by private companies like TNT.
What Hayes and Ward did at conference was to link opposition to downstream access to privatisation, and claim that, in calling a ballot on a boycott, they would somehow prevent the government from privatising the mail service.
They completely ducked the question of calling strike action against privatisation because this necessarily involves a political struggle against the government, something they are desperate to avoid at all costs.
The boycott issue acted as a cover for their retreat from any confrontation with the government.
It is clear that the leadership has effectively accepted the inevitability of privatisation and that all the CWU leaders are prepared to do is to stay in the Labour Party and try and convince Miliband to re-nationalise Royal Mail, should they form the next government.
Given that the Labour Party is as committed to privatisation of the service as the Tories, this is an admission that they have completely given up the fight to defeat the privatisation of the Royal Mail.
This cowardly refusal to fight is at odds with the determination of CWU members, who saw off Thatcher and Blair, and are more than ready to confront this weak, discredited and thoroughly hated coalition.
The only way forward for postal workers is to immediately demand a recall of the CWU conference where the issue of all-out industrial action against privatisation can be squarely put before delegates.
This must be coupled with a demand that the TUC stop considering a general strike but actually call one – an all-out political general strike to kick out the government and go forward to a workers government and socialism.
All those leaders who oppose such a fight must be removed and replaced with great urgency by a new leadership prepared to lead this struggle and defeat privatisation.