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Year 2010 No. 45, September 21, 2010 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Voicing the Demand for the Alternative

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Voicing the Demand for the Alternative

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Voicing the Demand for the Alternative

This year’s TUC Congress in Manchester was characterised by the voicing of the demand for an alternative to the agenda of cuts and attacks on the working class and people being pursued by the Con-Dem government.

The delegates expressed a militancy not seen for some time at a TUC Congress. In opposition to the mantra of Cameron that “we are all in this together”, Congress expressed the sentiment, “All together for public services.” This reflected the movement across the country to set up campaigns against the cuts, to form alliances that will fight to defend public services and to take action against all aspects of the anti-social offensive, including the destruction of the manufacturing base. The Congress drew attention to the widening gap between rich and poor, and the need to defend the rights of all.

In his opening speech to Congress, TUC President Dougie Rooney said, “To the bankers and speculators who caused this mess, let us say: we will not pay for your crisis. There must be no going back to business as usual or bonuses as usual. We need to build a new and very different kind of economy. An economy where our manufacturing and engineering industries regain their rightful place as engines of growth, prosperity and jobs. Because it's time this country rediscovered the virtues of designing and making things and selling them to the rest of the world. That is the best way to rebalance our economy, and the best way to build a stable, sustainable recovery. But we can't just leave this huge task to the whims of the market, because the industries of tomorrow need support to flourish.” He spoke of developing the labour movement as a “great coalition of workers, trade unions and politicians. A coalition that urgently needs rebuilding.”

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said of the General Council statement on the economy that it was “the union case for an alternative and sets out how we will win the argument for change”. He said that the depth of the recession demonstrated “the complete failure of the neoliberal economic model”. Brendan Barber condemned the government for saying that the “deficit is the big economic problem” and that “reducing it is the only political priority”. The TUC general secretary took issue with the argument that in taking action, the workers and their unions are “just pursuing narrow self-interest”. He countered, “We are at the heart of our communities, passionately concerned to defend the integrity and the quality of the services we provide. But we are entitled to be clear. Although the government is pursuing a political programme that we will only defeat politically, where members – faced with attacks on jobs, pay or pensions – take a democratic decision for industrial action, they will have the support of their unions and the TUC stands ready to co-ordinate that.”

The theme which was emphasised is that the choice is not between reducing the deficit or to experience national bankruptcy. The TUC delegates voiced the demand for an alternative to the programme of cuts and the destruction of society. Their spirit was to organise the workers themselves to take up the responsibility for the fate of society. As Brendan Barber concluded his speech by saying, “This is a heavy responsibility. The weeks and months ahead will test us as never before. And at all times we must and will speak up for everyone in Britain today. Not just public servants. Not just private sector workers. Not just the poor. Not just the vulnerable. Not just those in the middle struggling to make ends meet – but everyone. Let us show there is a genuine alternative to cuts. Let us win this battle for hearts and minds. And together let us shape a more hopeful future for all.”

There is a well-defined mood to oppose the programme of “freedom, fairness and responsibility” of the ruling elite, and instead for the workers themselves to set the agenda with their own definitions of the alternative. The workers will not side with the government’s definition of everyone being in this together, which targets not only the workers and the vulnerable in society but seeks to block the movement for the alternative itself. They are putting forward their own perspective for uniting all sections of society under the leadership of the working class to defend the general interests of society and to refuse to come under the dictate of the monopolies and the financial oligarchy. The speech by Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, which tried to soft-soap Congress into lining up behind the aims of the rich, was treated with the contempt which it deserved.

The TUC is organising a rally on October 19, as well as planning a national demonstration next March.

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