It is a strength of trade unionism that it functions as part of a movement for solidarity and justice. That is why strikes are not unpopular; people don’t think the championing of rights is self-serving. They value posties, doctors and train drivers. They know strikes are a gamble not taken lightly and that principles are at stake. They know the miners had right on their side and were trampled for political reasons.
But, if unions are solely motivated by the specific interests of their members, to the exclusion of all other considerations, they cease to be part of a movement and become professional associations. The Police Federation, for example, is not a union.
This isn’t to say that unions shouldn’t fight tooth and nail to defend their members’ rights. Just that, sometimes, other criteria come into play. Nuclear weapons, for example, cannot be seen purely as a source of jobs. If you could convince me that they have any defensive or aesthetic value, I might be reconciled to the billions they cost. But if you just say they keep people in work, I will retort that cracking down on paedophiles poses a risk to workers in the confectionery industry. Or, as Mark Serwotka puts it, ‘It’s like me defending unemployment because it keeps my job centre staff in work.’
I’m not being glib about people whose livelihoods are tied up in Trident. It sometimes occurs to me that, if we had the kind of government I long for, I’d be out of work myself. But that kind of government would have the money to retrain people, because it wouldn’t waste it on weapons of mass destruction.
We could make millionaires of all those employed on Trident and still have money left over to turn Faslane into affordable housing.
As the relaunched Tribune prepares its second issue, Hilary Wainwright assesses the history of the paper and the left Labour MPs who rallied around it – and the lessons it offers today’s Labour left
As anti-Corbyn Labour MPs kick up a fuss in the press about possible reselections, Hilary Wainwright looks back at the strikingly similar alarm in the parliamentary establishment in the 1970s and 1980s
In a world of isolation and a left which tends towards despondency, collective joy is our weapon against neoliberalism. Sam Swann reflects on The World Transformed 2018
Michael Calderbank brings you a bite-sized guide to what went on at conference, and what that means for the future of the party.
Labour needs to develop a socialist strategy that goes beyond a single election manifesto. Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin look at the challenge of state transformation
If we want a radical socialist government, it starts with democratising the party from the bottom up. Dan Gerke argues in favour of mandatory reselection.