The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 14th September 2018

TUC calls for new general election

by our labour movement correspondent

THE GREAT and the good of the union movement were in Manchester for the TUC’s 150th conference this week, for debates dominated by Brexit and calls for another general election.

The TUC said that a hard Brexit would have “devastating” economic implications on many households, adding that they are “serving notice” to the Government over Brexit whilst delegates called for an early general election but kept the door open on a second referendum.

TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, accused the prime minister of holding Britain to “ransom” in negotiations with Brussels by insisting that a hard Brexit is the only alternative to her widely unpopular Chequers proposals.

“And if Theresa May takes a ‘my deal or no deal’ approach, she won’t be giving parliament a real choice. She is holding the country to ransom, and no one voted for that,” she said. “I’m a trade unionist. When we do a deal, we go back to the members and have to get their approval. Whether it’s through a general election or a popular vote, Ms May should take her deal on the terms of Brexit and put it back to the people, so the people can decide whether that deal is good enough.”

The Eurosceptic opposition was led by the RMT rail and transport union whose leader, Mick Cash, warned that a second vote would let the Tories off the hook and ease the pressure on them for the vote that really matters — an early general election.

Speaking in opposition to a TUC General Council statement that RMT said was a staging post to lever the trade union movement into a campaign for second referendum, Mick Cash said that the campaign for a “people’s vote” hands the divided Government a ‘get out of jail card’ at a point when they are teetering on the brink of collapse.

“Congress, the only vote that matters is a general election. We should be calling for one thing and one thing only, an urgent general election that returns a socialist Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. We don’t need a people’s vote, we need a national vote that will sweep this rotten Tory government out of power,” Cash declared.

But Cash’s warning was not heeded by the delegations of the union giants such as Unite and Unison who, along with their allies, elevate the European Union (EU) as an instrument for social progress and economic advance whilst turning a blind eye the bitter experience of the millions of unemployed workers forced onto the breadline in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy by the austerity regime that Franco-German imperialism has imposed on the rest of Europe.

The General Council statement said that: “Congress calls on the general council to mobilise our movement politically and industrially to prevent either a cliff-edge Brexit or if the government’s withdrawal deal fails to meet the TUC’s tests,” was, unsurprisingly, carried.

And many Eurosceptic workers say these ‘tests’, which include maintaining tariff-free and frictionless trade with the European Union, is simply “remaining” in the EU by another name.

Over 13 million workers held union cards in the halcyon days of 1970s. Now the numbers are down to 6.2 million — largely because of the decline in manufacturing and related industries, and the tranche of anti-union legislation that followed the Tory victory in 1979. The TUC may be smaller but it is still the voice of organised workers throughout the country, and its affiliates still provide nearly all the funding for the Labour Party.

Congress, of course, looked at many bread-and-butter issues close to the hearts of the rank-and-file — not least a mandatory cut in the working week. Naturally no-one opposed the usual platitudes in favour of cutting hours without any loss of pay. “So, for the 21st century, let’s lift our ambition again. I believe that in this century, we can win a four-day working week,” Frances O’Grady declared, adding that it was a pragmatic, achievable goal for most people by the end of the 21st century. It will, however, be difficult to enthuse anyone with a call that no one will live to see if we stick to her incredibly modest timetable.