Today, the TUC took a giant step forward towards calling Britain’s first General Strike since 1926. Nobody within the Labour Party, and indeed, the wider labour movement should underestimate the significance of this position. For once, it isn’t all just talk and rhetoric. The trade unions, who depend largely on the public sector for a solid membership base, are being backed into a corner by this governments decimation of that sector. This is therefore, first and foremost, a reactive move, a last-ditch battle for survival. Again, this is important to grasp, it would be absurd to see this as the flowering of some kind of glorious left-wing revolution.
The defensive nature of the TUC’s position underscores the weakness of their current strategic position. No doubt exists in my mind that any action must be preceded by a serious hearts and minds offensive to sway public opinion if not to their side to at least a point where it is not actively hostile. Although, Labour has deprived the unions of a champion capable of enunciating its demands in a politically savvy way this is a talent they must relearn and largely do for themselves. The numerical weakness of the trade unions itself should be enough to tell sensible people that they cannot rely on the blunt instrument of strike action alone.
If this action goes ahead, meanwhile, Labour will be caught on the horns of its own dilemma. The vast majority of the Labour Party as a whole will most likely line-up with the unions but the leadership wont, cowed as it is by servility to a media-driven agenda. Sadly, the leadership is incapable of seeing the broader picture, that to advocate an alternative, should mean support for those fighting on the front-line for just such a thing. It cannot see beyond its own fear of negative headlines in the Daily Mail.
What is more, in the wider context, this action could end seriously, maybe even fatally destablising the government and bringing about an early election. However, we all know none of this will be considered by our leadership. So, as Labour members we need to ask ourselves at this juncture, are we going to be cowed by their cowardice, or are we going to put our collective money where our mouths are and support those on the front line fighting for the change Britain needs?