THE TUC’s head of European Union and International Relations Department, Owen Tudor, has recently given a lengthy interview to the internet EurActiv which specialises in publishing views on the EU.
The interview is of interest not least because the TUC is not known for having views on the EU, or if they have, of keeping them to themselves.
Instead the leadership of the trade unions act as if they inhabit a very small bubble of trade union parochialism, a bubble untouched by such trivial matters as the collapse of the Eurozone, the world economic crisis of capitalism and the revolutionary struggles of workers across the world.
What has clearly spurred Tudor to voice his and the TUC’s position on international questions is the growing hostility throughout the trade union movement regarding the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement (TTIP).
He starts the interview with a trenchant opposition to TTIP stating ‘We are totally opposed,’ citing as his main objection the creation of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) regime which gives the right to giant multi-nationals to take countries to a secret tribunal over any law or proposed legislation that might harm its profits.
In particular the TUC have been most concerned that TTIP would be used to prevent any future Labour government from reversing privatisations.
Of special concern is the NHS which is already being hunted down by the giant American health companies out to make a killing through the destruction of the national health service as a free at the point of delivery service.
What Tudor carefully does not mention in his condemnation is that the Labour Party is definitely hedging its bets over TTIP.
This was exemplified in a recent hustings speech given by long-standing Labour MP Mike Grapes (who once spoke for Labour on International questions) who stated that TTIP represented a ‘great chance to set global standards’ and whilst acknowledging fears about the impact on the NHS and other public services posed by ISDS dismissed them saying they were ‘based on mythology’.
No criticism of the Labour leadership is permitted, no matter how reactionary and two faced their policies are.
On the central issue of the TUC’s position on the EU, Tudor was unequivocal in his support for this capitalist outfit and Britain’s membership.
He said: ‘The TUC’s approach to Europe has changed over the years. Last time there was a referendum, we were advocating a no vote based on concerns over the common market.
‘Britain was (different) in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The era of cheap holidays hadn’t started, there were few advocates for foreign food. It is difficult to explain how alien the continent felt at that point.
‘What swung us round was the Delors speech to Congress in 1988. He explained the deal for a social model in return for a free market. We bought into that idea at the time, partly because we agreed intellectually, and partly because at that stage, the EU was the only state institution willing to engage with us. Margaret Thatcher certainly wasn’t.
‘Unions are affected by debates about federalism and peace to the continent. But unions tend to take their opinion of the EU from two places: growth and rights in the work place.’
So from opposing the EU as a ‘bosses club’ that only represented the interests of the bosses the TUC performed a 180 degrees turn into giving it its fulsome support on the grounds that workers were taking holidays abroad and that Jacques Delors, president of the EU commission had given a speech to the TUC in 1988.
In his speech Delors promised that the new further integration signed up to by the Thatcher government would contain an added ‘social dimension’.
This amounted only to rights to consultation and negotiations by the unions in the EU.
This promise of allowing union bureaucrats a place round the capitalist table where they could hob-knob with the bosses, proved irresistible to the TUC – although Thatcher was quick to knock on the head any ideas that it represented anything other than a miserable sop when she said in riposte to Delors promises: ‘We have not embarked on the business of throwing back the frontiers of the state at home, only to see a European super-state getting ready to exercise a new dominance from Brussels.’
Her idea of throwing back the frontiers of the state was to smash the trade unions.
These cowardly TUC leaders were seeking the ‘protection’ to the capitalist EU rather than mobilise the strength of the working class to bring down Thatcher.
What they were really seeking was protection for their own well paid jobs by gratefully accepting the promise of a corporatist role amongst all the other free-loading bureaucrats that inhabit the EU.
As for Thatcher not talking to the unions she was, in fact, only too ready to talk to the union leaders, in secret.
Famously she spoke with the TUC in secret talks during the miners’ strike, talks on how to stab the miners in the back by avoiding at all costs the demand that the TUC call a general strike in support of the miners and against the state attacks on unions – a call that millions of workers supported, so hated was the Tory government.
As for the last part of Tudor’s argument in defence of the TUC’s treacherous position on the EU, workers will ask what growth and what rights?
The idea that growth is possible anywhere in the EU, including Britain, is nonsense.
The entire economy is collapsing – the only growth in bankrupt British capitalism has been in food banks and zero hour contracts about which the TUC has done precisely nothing except for issuing the usual condemnatory press releases lamenting the deplorable austerity and calling for the Tory coalition to be a bit nicer to workers and the poor.
They have unceremoniously ditched their own official policy of considering the organisation of a general strike as ‘unrealistic’ just as they have dumped the policy unanimously supported at last years’ annual conference to campaign for a £10 an hour legal minimum wage.
As for defence of the NHS the TUC and major health unions have done absolutely nothing to save a single ward or hospital from closure, or defend these workers from poverty level wages, instead they have called four hour strikes just to let a bit of steam off, and even these have often been cancelled at the last moment on the vague promise of consultation.
What of his contention that workers are not concerned with peace on the continent?
On the contrary workers look at Europe and all they see is class war being waged against the working everywhere.
It is the TUC leaders who remain unconcerned by events such as Greece.
There is no mention in his interview about the crisis in Greece, a crisis that is set to explode at any moment with terminal consequences not just for Eurozone countries but for Britain and internationally.
Even the IMF has been forced to admit that the Greek debt crisis will create an international banking crisis that will dwarf what happened with the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the US.
But on Greece and the Eurozone’s determination to smash the Greek working class in order to pay off the banks doesn’t even merit a mention.
In February the TUC issued one of its pious and meaningless communiqués under the title ‘TUC solidarity with Greece’.
After listing all the attacks on Greek workers under te vicious austerity regime imposed by the Troika and noting that ‘These measures have not been confined to Greece – they are part of a global assault on workers and ordinary people which has led to increasing inequality, falling living standards for the majority and any gains from growth going to the already rich and powerful. Across Europe, workers’ rights are under attack and living standards have fallen or been frozen’.
The conclusion of the TUC’s ‘solidarity’ with Greek workers is to ‘urge progressive politicians across the EU to learn the lesson that it is the role of democratically elected governments to protect workers’ fundamental human rights and people’s living standards from market forces rather than the other way around’. And to call on workers across Europe to ‘show solidarity with the Greek workers and unions in defending the Greek government’s programme of social justice and redistribution, and its programme of genuine structural reform to tackle the power of the oligarchs.’
How workers can show solidarity without fighting to bring down the ‘capitalist club’ that is prosecuting an all out war on Greek workers is ignored and instead all blame is put on these mysterious ‘oligarchs’ not the system that created and protects them.
When Tudor speaks of the TUC not concerning itself with questions of ‘peace’ in Europe he is alluding to the war against the working class being carried out by the illegal regime in the Ukraine.
At its 2014 conference the TUC passed an emergency motion from the RMT union condemning attacks on trade unionists in the country and the ‘empowering’ of fascist groups – it called for a peaceful negotiated settlement and opposition to the use of British troops in the Ukraine.
Before the conference TUC delegates to the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC) meeting in Berlin had voted for a motion which while calling for support for trade unionists in Ukraine makes no mention of the fascist bands who spearheaded the ousting of the democratically elected government and called for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukraine – thus fully supporting the imperialist lie that responsibility for the Ukraine crisis lies with Russia.
Apart from being forced to vote on resolutions the TUC has remained completely silent on the Ukraine.
The fact that its government was overthrown in a coup financed by US imperialism and orchestrated by the EU has done nothing to diminish their uncritical support.
Instead they remain silent and continue to try and convince workers that the EU is anything but a capitalist conspiracy against the working class.
The EU cannot be reformed or made into an instrument that has any benefits for workers.
As European capitalism attempts to survive the world economic crisis – which the TUC may ignore but which will not ignore the TUC – so the apparatus of the EU, the ECB and the IMF are turned towards civil war against the working class, on this the TUC maintain a treacherous silence.
The only future for workers in Britain and across the continent lies not in this ‘capitalist club’ but in its destruction and replacement with the united socialist state of Europe.
Central to this struggle for the European and world socialist revolution must be the building of a new revolutionary leadership in the trade unions, this means the building of sections of the Fourth International in every country.