Thursday, 9 December 2010

Hiding behind kids

Some friends and I have been discussing our plans to go on the student demonstration tomorrow. We support the students' demand for no rise in tuition fees (and how about getting rid of fees altogether and reinstating free education?). And against the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which helps children from low-income families continue in education. And against the devastating cuts planned in funding to universities, particularly for arts, humanities and social sciences.

We are also buoyed up, as many socialists, trade unionists and campaigners have been, by the young people's courage and imagination.

But along with this goes a certain amount of shame. Feelings of shame that the labour movement has allowed things to get to this pass. We are cheering on children and young adults who simply have no choice but to revolt against a massive attack on their future. If we were them, we would do the same.

But we are not them, we are older, and we have had it easier. Yet we have allowed ourselves to be ground down, and infected by the political rot around us. Now we are facing devastating attacks on our jobs and on the services we rely on. Are we responding adequately? As individuals, some of us are. But as a movement?

A number of trade union big-wigs will speak tomorrow at a lobby organised by the National Union of Students as a "respectable" sideshow. Meanwhile, a few metres away, angry young people, braving the wrath of teachers and the educational establishment, parents, a sceptical media, and the fearsome sight of police lines, including riot police, will be throwing their bodies into a kind of battle. What will the trade union big-wigs say? I hope they will not condemn the young people but will find it in themselves to praise their courage. If nothing else, if it weren't for the students, these bureaucrats would not have a platform to appear on.

What about rank and file trade unionists? What are we doing? We should support the students, but we should do it responsibly, by which I mean that we should be prepared to join them in battle, to defend our jobs and services, and, ultimately, our young people. We can't hide behind kids; we have to start fighting too.

6 comments:

Don't Call Me Dave said...

It is not just socialists and the unions who oppose the cuts to education and I do not believe that I am a lone voice on the right in sharing your opposition. But let us not forget who started the tuition fees ball rolling!

Mrs Angry said...

you mean that right wing Tory administration cunningly disguised as New Labour?

Anonymous said...

It all happens because Diane Abbott is not our PM. Things would have been better if we lived in a socialist republic. My only hope now is that Scotland will become independent and that we could all move there and live a nice welfare state life...

Moaneybat said...

Dave,

Nobody forgets which dinky started that and modified the Dearing report in his next term, the GOOD TIMES. The majority of them went to OxBridge and Top Tier Red Bricks.

Vicki does say something worth considering, is that her union colleagues whatever colour of socialist, must stop being yellow and stop hiding behind themselves, not just behind kids and start fighting too. Consider this, was Scargill proved right in the end, I think, yes.

The big-wigs whose huge incomes come out of the Union members subscription are rather cowardly, shouting the DAY AFTER, the decision was won for the Conservatives by their a**e-lickers, the LibDems.

The Unions big-wigs meaningless sideshow arrives Too late Too bloody late, adding insult to the injuries, the future participants of Big Society will have suffered by the end of today. The Big Society more broken before it's begun as we will discover.

vickim57 said...

"Vicki does say something worth considering, is that her union colleagues whatever colour of socialist, must stop being yellow and stop hiding behind themselves, not just behind kids and start fighting too."

Moaneybat, I thank you for highlighting what I was getting at in the post, although I think it is overstating it to say that I think trade unionists are yellow.

Big-wigs are bureaucrats are doing pretty much what most of them always do. Sometimes, though, bureaucrats act the way they do because they see their members are not 'up for a fight'.

As regards local officials or rank and file members (not just in Barnet) I certainly wouldn't accuse them of being yellow. In fact, for Barnet local officials I think they are incredibly courageous and hardworking - they are real unsung heroes. Even if you don't agree with their politics, you would have to take your hat off to them for their human qualities of self-sacrifice and putting themselves out there. I do. But enough of this!

I do think that, for various reasons, we as a movement are sluggish: political demoralisation; anxiety; getting old, fat and complacent; not sufficiently riled up... etc. The 'etc' does include being afraid - not cowardly, afraid.

Too many people are afraid: one of the functions of the council not saying immediately who is going to lose their jobs, but that many people are 'at risk of redundancy' is to intimidate people into not protesting. Workers know that people are being chosen for redundancy, and I'm guessing that management will choose the people they like least to go. Ergo, there is a pressure to keep your head down and hope you aren't chosen.

This is just one way in which people are afraid (and being intimidated): there are many more, including, mostly, habit. For the past few years - many years - we simply haven't fought and to a large extent we don't know how to. We don't even know what it feels like.

Well, I think we have to get used to that feeling, if we don't want our services decimated and our jobs axed.

Moaneybat said...

Vicki,

You are right about the local officials courage, as some of us witnessed that courage first hand many years ago in John Burgess and a handful, yes, a handful of unionists (who did not keep their head down) against the ALMO Barnet Homes. Whether the rest of them were too intimidated at that time so as not to support him, only endorses his courage, and leadership to the point of resurrecting Barnet's Trades Union Council.

People like myself do appreciate trades unionists, were it not for him and BTUC the sheltered warden issue may never have got off the ground.

Finally, when it comes to the fight, what the unions failed to do was fight B'liars flawed Labour from 2001. A question, are the rank and file fighting their leadership on their huge wages while the ranks are filing at the Jobcentre queue? Those intimated with their heads down do get somewhere at some point i. The others who stick by their principles and say NO! don't.

One was intimidated and threatened before the employer (a huge electronics giant) accepted our subsidiary should also be allowed the same union recognition as the other divisions doing the same job. One's position being untenable, it became a position on the dole queue. When the end did come to certain sectors of the electronics industry, employees whom were still there got their due worth.

Ever remember what happened between the EETPU and the TUC. Keep up the good fight.