Written by Martin Ralph, ISL
Friday, 11 October 2013 23:30
At the TUC congress, held in Bournemouth between 15 and 18 September, delegates were welcomed with the following words: “With an election only two years away, we are now in a critical phase. The TUC’s General Council is determined to harness the huge potential of a united movement to win support for a future that works”.
This message contained nothing about the looming autumn strikes over pay rises, the Royal Mail privatisation, large cuts in pensions, firefighter staffing levels and teachers’ performance related pay. Nor was there a big show against the austerity plans of the coalition government. It was all about the 2015 general elections.
The delegates were welcomed to the Congress by Frances O’Grady, TUC President, who said in relation to the elections: “The choice that the British people make could shape the kind of country we live in for generations”. For O’Grady the Labour Party is the main question, but all union members should be warned: do not trust those who put their faith in Labour.
TUC support for banks
The TUC does more than put their faith in Labour. They put their faith in capitalism. O’Grady also said: “Governments may have had no choice about bailing out the banks”. May have? The point is that when all the frenzied speculation from the city of London and elsewhere created the biggest pile of fictitious capital the world has ever seen, trillions of pounds, it proved that the banks are the centres of capitalist power.
The banks build their wealth on crisis, oppression, exploitation and austerity. Should the working class save capitalism? O’Grady’s predecessor certainly thought so as he was an adviser to the Bank of England and is now a Lord for services rendered, and O’Grady certainly thinks so. Her values are “equality, solidarity and democracy”. The TUC leadership show that they will never call for a general strike, unless it is already a fact and built by unions that want to fight.
For the TUC the only way out of the misery of mass unemployment, privatisation and the increasing cost of living is the Labour party, which helped create the frenzy of profits by the banks.
The TUC campaign plan aims to discredit the current government in favour of Labour in the coming elections. Not to defeat it by direct struggle of the working class nor put an end to the social war that imperialism and the European governments are imposing on workers.
All the resolutions approved by the delegates must be understood from this point of view.
The delegates approved 78 motions while only two were voted down. What a unanimous congress! But not one resolution pointed clearly to decisive actions to fight the austerity attacks.
The 2013 Congress shows that the organisation of a general strike, it will have to be made by the combative unions. Despite a motion being passed to consider the practicalities of a general strike in 2012 the TUC has done nothing to campaign in the unions and rank and file for that demand.
One of the most anticipated discussions of the congress was the question of a general strike. One meeting was called by the National Shop Stewards Network on Sunday morning and there was a lobby to put pressure on the delegates to name the day for a general strike.
But only general motions were passed, without dates or even a time scale for a call, such as this autumn, when a number of unions are planning to strike for their demands. A Unite motion says that the discussion of mass industrial actions to oppose the cuts is a realistic possibility. We know that “discussions” are always possible, but now workers need action.
The main input over a general strike were the Railway Maritime Transport Union motion, but they were limited to the “practicalities of a general strike should remain” with a call for a “mid-week day of action and protest”, again without any period to be put in practice.
So the TUC congress lost, once more, the opportunity to name the day for a general strike against the government’s austerity plans. This will only happen when the rank and file rise up and create new leaders to replace those who refuse to fight.
The combative unions and union tendencies have to fight for a national day of joint union strikes.