THIS year’s annual Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference marked a historic lurch to the right by the leadership of the trade unions.
At a time when the working class is moving rapidly to the left and demanding action to protect jobs, wages, conditions and the very existence of the welfare state, these leaders are reduced to begging the Tories for help and offering themselves up as ‘partners’ in attacking the working class.
This was expressed most forcibly in the opening speech by TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, where she made it clear the TUC’s determination to avoid any confrontation with the Tories in the quest for a ‘partnership’. On the issue of the anti-trade union legislation, which became law last May, O’Grady had the gall to claim that it represented a victory for the TUC claiming: ‘We beat them back.’
All the main features of the anti-union laws designed to make strikes illegal remain intact. The law on strike ballots, which demands a 50% turn-out for it to be legal, remains untouched. All the Tories did was make minor concessions.
But for the TUC this is a great victory – a victory that O’Grady was quick to ascribe to the support they received from the House of Lords and Tory MPs. In hailing it as a great victory, O’Grady is desperately trying to prove that collaboration works.
This came out openly when O’Grady spoke of Theresa May’s pledge when she was imposed as prime minister to ‘govern for the many, not the few’. O’Grady pledged to work with May, offering the TUC’s full support, saying: ‘And my offer is this: Where we agree with your policy, we’ll support it. If you want elections to put workers on boards; we’ll welcome it. If you’re serious about tackling greed at the top, we’ll work with you.
And if you’re going to drive an industrial strategy that brings great jobs across the UK, we’ll roll up our sleeves and help.’ This is the future as far as the TUC is concerned.
Full support for the Tories, complete collaboration with the government in return for seats on the board for union bureaucrats.
In short, a pledge to transform the TUC into a corporatist organisation, rolling up its sleeves to help the bosses and becoming the loyal servants of capitalism whose only function is to make sure workers toe the line and accept every cut as necessary for the health of a bankrupt capitalist class. This class treachery ran throughout the conference.
On the question of the destruction of the steel industry and the devastation this brings to thousands of workers and entire communities, all O’Grady could do was to beg the Tories to ‘save our steel’. No decision for action, strikes or occupations to prevent closures.
Similarly, with the junior doctors who are right in the front line of the fight to save the NHS and stop the Tories’ privatisation plans. The emergency motion on the junior doctors’ struggle was a disgrace. After declaring that the dispute was an issue for the whole trade union movement, it did not propose a single action in support of their fight.
All it did was to express the usual meaningless ‘solidarity and support’ and appealed to the Tories to ‘work’ with the BMA to resolve the dispute. The junior doctors must not be allowed to fight on alone. The unions who have been most supportive of their struggle must call on their members to come out with them on the next round of strikes and demand that other unions follow suit.
Above all, the rapid move by the TUC leadership towards becoming an out-and-out corporatist outfit must be halted immediately by a massive campaign to remove these leaders, to throw them out of the movement and replace them with a new leadership that is prepared and willing to organise a general strike to bring down the Tories, not collaborate with them, and go forward to a workers government and socialism.
This requires building the new leadership of the WRP and we urge every worker and young person to join us today.