Our Say

After G8 and the London bombings - the way forward

London terror attacks condemned

After Live 8:
from pressure to action

The G8 summit and political power

Make the G8 leaders history

A sham election

10 good reasons to boycott May 5

Don't be blackmailed into voting

Reject ‘dependency’ politics

No votes for New Labour!

Parliament seals its own fate

A secret policeman's government

Vote for "none of the above"

How to remember the victims of the tsunami

A state of crisis

New Labour and the big lie

Yasser Arafat - a revolutionary life

After the US election

Blood on New Labour's hands

Butler and weapons of mass deception

With 'leaders' like these, who needs enemies?

How to meet the threat from the right

Barbarians at the gate

Torture, values and lies

The silence of the lambs

War crimes in Iraq

The slaughter in Madrid

The unfinished business of the miners’ strike 1984-85

L’état – c’est New Labour

The death of liberal democracy foretold

Hutton washes the state whiter than white

Top-up fees and the market economy

Our challenge for 2004

New Labour's march to a police state

Bush & Blair - partners in crime

London Region revolts against FBU leaders

Postal workers in the front line

No turning back

Where we go from here

Stop the War Coalition leaders and political fabrication

Regime change begins at home

Blood on New Labour's hands

There's more involved than just Blair

New Labour, lies and spies

Firefighters should reject deal and disown leaders

BECTU vote on New Labour link a step forward

Time runs out for FBU leaders

New Labour's one-party state

The blind alley of crude anti-Americanism

Occupation of Iraq - time to move beyond protest

War is a test for principles

Iraqi defiance shocks and awes

FBU leaders who backed capitulation should resign now

Down with New Labour's war - for regime change in Britain

FBU at war with New Labour

New Labour, not just Blair, is the target

50 years since the death of Stalin - an assessment

FBU finds itself in Precott's trap

War is Peace - Blair's fictitious 'push for peace'

15/2: Global marches put power on the agenda

Crisis of globalisation behind attack on Iraq

Tell it how it is

An injury to one is an injury to all

War plans expose fraudulent 'democracy'

A 'regime change' in Britain is the answer to war on Iraq

FBU needs a new strategy

Challenging New Labour

A moment of truth in the fight against New Labour

Gilchrist says it how it is

Time to defy the anti-union laws in support of the FBU

FBU must ask for solidarity strikes

FBU leaders must ask for support now

New Labour provokes confrontation

Italian police attack No-Global movement

New Labour declares war on FBU

Don't let the FBU fight alone

UN writes a blank cheque for war

Blood on Putin's hands

Unions must support firefighters with action not words

Support the firefighters - defeat New Labour

Bush-Blair war agenda revealed

Seeing through New Labour's weapons of mass deception

The US media and the new garrison state

The BEGINNING of Politics

How technology could
free humanity

'Terminator' engineering: A threat to humanity

The future is socialist

Asylum legislation fuels racist attacks

Road map to the future

E-mail to hear about site changes, placing 'update' in body of message



With 'leaders' like these, who needs enemies?

New Labour has announced plans to undermine still further the basis of state education through private-sector driven "city academies" and specialist schools aimed at appeasing middle-class voters, without having to worry about any real opposition from the leaders of the teacher unions.

Their judgement was absolutely correct. You could be forgiven for thinking New Labour was announcing the most progressive education policies judging by the reaction. Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, could only say: "This five-year plan is a mixture of tried and tested schemes and a leap in the dark, which could be at children's expense. A three-year budget for schools will provide stability and enable schools to plan ahead with greater certainty. But the plan to expand city academies is not based on evidence of success."

David Hart, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Guaranteed three-year funding is precisely what heads need if they are going to deliver higher standards." John Dunford, the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "Ring-fenced funding and three-year budgets should bring an end to the problems of the present system in which the government and local authorities blame each other when anything goes wrong and schools are left to sort out the difficulties."

All these statements indicate how far union leaders have gone down New Labour's road of commercialisation of state provision. They accept the framework set out by the government in the vague hope that things won't turn out as bad in practice. What a way to represent your members! It was left to the Liberal Democrat Phill Willis to tell MPs that the measures announced were indeed Conservative. "This is Tory policy being delivered by a Labour government."

The teacher union leadership is not alone. Kevin Curran, general secretary of the GMB union, whose organisation has decided to withhold extra funding to New Labour in an attempt to make the party "change course", is another case in point. Writing in The Guardian (July 9) Curran claims that New Labour has "failed to understand" the need for a "value system" and "culture" based on "collectivism, inclusiveness and a shared understanding of and strong commitment to democracy". His main charge against the capitalist New Labour government is that "it does not have the confidence or the conviction to share power".

Curran's call for the party to "to ditch the New Labour approach", which is based on ignoring the trade unions and designing policies in favour of corporate power, is intended to avoid the issue and lock his membership into a futile initiative aimed at resurrecting Old Labour from the dead.

He has to admit that he could not ask GMB members to maintain affiliation - but only if there is no change in policies mid-way through a third-term New Labour government. This is a truly incredible argument. He admits the current government is hostile to the unions and calls for a change in policy. Then he talks about reconsidering his union's position - in the year 2007 or 2008 if nothing happens. In the meantime, presumably, his members have to go out and vote for New Labour at the next election! Opportunism or what.

Curran's real concern is that the trade unions will eventually be "cast adrift from the political process" and be forced to concentrate "on narrow employment-related issues" and that "our potential influence will become so diverse and diluted as to be of no consequence". This is the language of trade union bureaucracy. Officials like Curran simply want to be on the inside, "part of the delivery of reform", as he put it.

Two things are clear, however, if not to Curran then to his members. New Labour is not interested in the trade unions except in so far as they back government policies. And trade unionists like firefighters have worked out long ago that this is a reactionary, business government that can never represent their interests.

The time to consider the consequences of this is now - not in three or four years time (when no doubt Curran and his chums will find further reasons for delay). Trade unionists and workers cannot find political or social representation through New Labour or in the sham of parliamentary democracy. Curran's bleating is a pale reflection of this fact.

If the union leaders were serious in aspiring to represent their members they would call a conference to discuss alternative political representation and a total break with New Labour now. Don't hold your breath waiting for that initiative. Be prepared for more hand-wringing from people who are desperate to keep a grip on members who are clearly making up their own minds.

Movement for a Socialist Future
9 July 2004