Giving Len McCluskey the space to outline a stirring call to arms to a battered union movement seemed like a good, progressive move, but then everyone’s favourite liberal rag has steamed ahead with a staunch piece of anti-union propaganda.
I’m going to assume (along with others) that this is the work of Julian Glover, because there’s a smug, self-satisfied air of self-proclaimed leftiness, an assumption that ‘everyone knows’ that strike ballots are good, Blair was bad and the Coalition is the bad guy. (All very strange from a paper which supported Blair, then the Lib Dems). But I’d be willing to forgive and forget, if it weren’t for this vile diatribe:
“The labour movement will not be able to defend and renew what it cherishes if it follows Mr McCluskey up the blind alley of deficit denial, indiscriminate opposition to all cuts, and a programme of strikes which large parts of the country will see as an attack on rather than a defence of the public realm. The labour movement is now in a minority. A large majority of the public are not in unions and do not vote Labour.”
“There are millions in this majority who nevertheless feel threatened by cuts, who fear for the future of the economy and who think the government is too doctrinaire – but who do not approve of increasing deficits, who accept that sacrifices have to made (and shared fairly), who approve of the trade union laws of the 1980s (even if not of Mrs Thatcher), who think Labour can learn positive as well as negative lessons from Mr Blair, and who are not excited by battling the police or a new wave of strikes. Mr McCluskey’s priority ought to be to reach out to these people, showing he understands their lives and looking for innovative ways of addressing their anxieties. Instead, like a true Bourbon, he sadly sounds as if he stopped thinking in 1979. What a waste.”
Woah. Let’s start with the declining union membership.The reason that union membership is so low is not just because of anti-union laws or the decline of industry, but also because of a lack of militancy within the movement. By beating the drums, McCluskey is getting people to join. Union membership is on the rise.
As for the voting public, Richard Seymour has argued well that if we take into account the fact that the government had to be formed through coalition, alongside decreasing voter turn-out, then the Tory vote has actually never been lower than it is now. And arguabley those who don’t turn out to vote are, in general, alienated Labour voters. Again, a more militant party would increase the Labour vote.
There are two ways of reading the second paragraph. One is that McCluskey needs to find ways of talking to people who aren’t yet convinced of the left’s arguments against the Coalition government. But the other is as a call to ignore the left’s counter-arguments and, whatever happens, never, ever to take strike action.
Of course, Glover wants a nice reasonable end to all this nuisance. Not strike action, but rather something innovative. Like what Julian? Asking the boss nicely to not cut everyone’s wages? Letter writing to your local riot police? Perhaps all the Guardian interns could be subcontracted to Acas, as a gesture of solidarity between moderates.
The references to ‘deficit denial’ show that Glover is unwilling to read any of his own paper’s content on disaster capitalism, and the repeating of the Cameron-esque ‘sacrifices to be made’ is evidence that no one in the Guardian editorial office is paying attention to Brooker or Rowson’s satire. And the dig at being ‘excited’ by battling the police shows that they’re certainly not reading what Paul Lewis and Matthew Taylor have been reporting from the streets. Frankly, it’s quite repulsive to know that people are up for treating police violence against protesters so mockingly.
I just hope that some of the better Guardianistas read what their editors want the readership to believe, and how low their opinion of your reporting is. And when the chips fall, I hope you all go on strike, just the way they don’t want you to. It’s perhaps fitting that the editorial begins with the name of one of the most notorious traitors of the French revolution.