HAVE HOPE – THERE IS POWER IN THE DARKNESSOctober 7 2015
So here we are at the beginning of the week after the week before. We didn’t dream it, and we weren’t making it up. We can’t turn back the clock or wish for a different story. The reality is with us. The country has elected a Conservative government with an overall majority.
As one national newspaper put it today “What bright side? It’s worse than you think.”
But there is hope. And it is our job, as trade unionists, to keep that hope alive, and make it stronger. So here are some thoughts on where we are and how to get where we want to be.
First, this is not 1983. That’s the last great Labour defeat which people have compared 2015 to. Also, coincidentally, the first General Election I could vote in. Thatcherism triumphant. Industries privatised. Argentina defeated. The free market being given free rein. But 2015 is worse. Thatcher had relatively easy targets to hit, and social institutions, like unions, were stronger. The Cameron government is half-way through dismantling the UK, and has just been given another 5 years to finish the job.
Second, it’s not 1983, but it may be 1992. Major’s infamous “bastards” had their knives into his back very quickly and the same will probably happen to Dave (seehttp://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/picture/2015/may/10/the-price-of-david-camerons-victory#img-1). But Tory in-fighting could well take the rest of the country down with them.
Third, getting mad is not the same as getting even. We have to recognise that more people voted for “them” than voted for “us”. About 3,000,000 more. How do we get enough of thatnumber on our side? There is a place and a need for street protests and big public demonstrations – but shouting at people is not going to win them over.
Fourth, the runner up in the election, in terms of numbers, was not the Labour Party, but those who didn’t vote. 1 person out of every 3. Who knows how the result would have changed if even some of those people had participated. Voter registration and voter turnout remains a key issue. No vote = no voice. Abstentionists necessarily side with the majority.
Fifth, not all politicians are the same. Can anyone really say that they are as happy to see Cameron in poweras Miliband? Is that how you felt on Friday morning when the news came through? Jennifer Forbes’ excellent “They’re not all the same” piece elsewhere on this site [http://www.cwuyouth.org/view-blog.html?blog_id=413] makes the argument with great eloquence. And as Rebecca Winson points out in a must-read piece – we certainly are all in this together now and squabble at our peril (http://classonline.org.uk/blog/item/five-ways-to-deal-with-a-full-blown-conservative-government).
Sixth, we should celebrate our successes and share them and build on them. Congratulations to the newly elected Councillors, Ryan Case (@CllrRyanCase) and Dan Lewis (@Think_Become), both with strong connections to CWUYouth. As has Cat Smith, off to Westminster today as the newly elected MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood (@cateysmith).
So, seventh, what should the response be? We are already starting to be suffocated by comment. Most of it well-intentioned, most ofsome value (Mandelson excepted). I liked Alan Johnson’s piece on Saturday (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/08/question-time-ed-miliband-die-cast-tories-trample-labour-economic-record). My personal take is that Labour needs to be as good at standing up for our values and our people and the Conservatives are for theirs. (On my playlist right now is TRB’s “Power in the Darkness” (https://youtu.be/auN0ZLcuvXI). But what can we do asindividualsin our workplaces and communities?
Given the scale of the problem and the howl of conflicting views, I do believe that this is actually very straightforward. As Frances O’Grady said “More than ever we need power in our workplaces & communities too. If you aren’t in a union yet, join now”. If you know people you work with who aren’t in the union, now’s the time to ask them. If you are reading this and aren’t a member – join.http://www.cwu.org/join.html
Because everything each of us does should model the behaviours and values that we support. That way we demonstrate that an alternative is possible and exists. Whether we like it or not, we are living advertisements for what we believe in. We have to, as Harvey Milk said, have hope and give hope. (http://www.danaroc.com/guests_harveymilk_122208.html)
Thanks for reading.