A blow against one is a blow against us all….
No doubt some Labour Party members will be delighted that the High Court has granted an injunction against the RMT’s proposed rail strike on April 6th. Cynically, they will look at the timing and feel it benefits the Party; however, such a view is short-sighted and naive. It is the view of people whose obsession with the past is blinding them to present day realities. In the long this road leads to ruin because it obscures what makes this Party a *Labour* Party.
Bob Crow may not be the most affable character and it may be true that since the RMT is not affiliated it does not have the best interests of the Party at heart. Regardless of that no union can be subservient to the electoral interests of the Labour Party (just as the Party cannot be the same to the unions) because if they are they fail in their basic duty which is to their membership not the Labour Party.
Similarly, the Labour Party must stand-up for the wider interests it represents. However, to let this blind yourself to the wider symbiosis that exists between the two organisations is plain naivety. What happened in the courts today is a blow against us all because it’s a blow against democracy. It should appall any democrat who believes in the basics of democracy ie, that majorities have the right to decide their destiny and that a worker has the right to withdraw their labour.
Above all it strikes a blow against another fundamental covenant at the heart of a democracy; namely, the neutral status of the law. As Brendan Barber puts it:
“It’s becoming increasingly easy for employers, unhappy at the prospect of a dispute, to rely on the courts to intervene and nullify a democratic ballot for industrial action on a mere technicality.”
If the law ceases to be neutral then the effects on democracy are corrosive. This is not about this or that industrial dispute but is increasingly about the basic tenants of democracy and the fact that courts of law are being used as a weapon against democracy in defence of vested interests. It should be seen in the context of the totally unjustified extension of state powers under anti-terror legislation etc, etc. It should be seen as part of the malaise that currently afflicts Parliament and representative democracy.
Looked at this way what Labour’s response should be clear. In this case it must stand with the unions because their cause is the democratic one. The cause of a full review of the anti-trade union laws is no different to that which calls for the repeal of anti-terror laws. It’s time we marched with the unions under the same democratic banner.