Save more, save better, don’t spend here and don’t spend on that; restraint, ‘national economic restraint’ is the resounding message of Britain, so the Savile Row suits tell us, or the next leader of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), for that matter.
As though we hadn’t heard enough yet, the new TUC leader Paul Nowak has ‘acknowledged’, in the words of the Guardian, as though it’s some great emotional ‘truth’, that labour can’t ‘turn on’ the spending ‘taps’ immediately if it wins the next general election.
Such thinking is just an impoverished attempt to assert authority; without wanting to seem too ‘radical’ or even consulting reality, Nowak pushed his line. In the triangulated language of the M&S meal deals and Slack channels, Labour can set the ‘direction’ for public services once in government.
This coveted ‘direction’ setting is conveniently directed at the same means, with the same tired ends as always- national economic restraint. Conveniently so, Nowak toes the line of Labour’s own Johnny English- Keir Starmer. Starmer made it clear in his most recent conference speech that Labour economic recovery and reform must be slow and steady.
This is not a new trend. During the infancy of the British Labour movement, some union leaders found a receptive audience in the Fabian Society, which sought to neuter the transformational potential of the socialist movement in favour of gradual reform. To maintain their positions and the apparatus that put them in place, they also advocated class collaboration and caution.
Labour has often acted as a brake on the working-class movement, actively attacking the living standards of the working class when mass movements haven’t forced Labour to do otherwise.
Refreshingly, this is not the only perspective or direction that the working class has to take; YCL General Secretary Johnnie Hunter offers a more definitive direction, “Rather than preaching moderation at a time when working people are suffering from poverty and skyrocketing debt, the TUC should be leading from the front.”
“Working people can’t swallow the line peddled by the Tories and happily parroted by Keir Starmer that ‘there’s no money’. The money is there. It’s in the pockets of the banks, the hedge funds, the millionaires and the billionaires. It’s time to tax the rich and big business.”
“At this time of rising industrial militancy & class consciousness, the labour movement has to fight for a bold programme of public spending & nationalisation, taxes on the rich & and repeal of all anti-union & anti-strike laws, we can’t accept glib Tory-Starmerite economics.”
“The current industrial battles and resistance to the Tory government can and must be the springboard for a fight to remove the Tories from power and win a progressive government that can roll back attacks on working people and our trade unions.”
Grant MacDonald, is a member of the YCL’s Edinburgh Branch