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If trade unions don’t fight the workers’ corner – others will

Our Prime Minister certainly has few doubts about who’s orchestrating the backlash against workfare. “Trotskyites!” Cameron boomed during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions; if he’d thrown in “wreckers”, it wouldn’t have been a bad impression of Andrej Vyshinsky, Stalin’s semi-hysterical prosecutor during the 1930s Show Trials.

And yet Cameron barely had time to put down his ice pick before news trickled out that the Government was abandoning sanctions for the work experience scheme. Here was the vindication of that well-known Trotskyist transitional demand: that people should not be forced to work for free against their will.

Workfare is battered, but not defeated. The Mandatory Work Activity (the clue is in the name) and the Community Action Programmes remain intact, all of which compel the growing ranks of the unemployed to work for free or have their measly benefits slashed. But it was a slap in the face for the “protest doesn’t change anything” brigade, and another victory chalked up for the burgeoning alliance between small groups of activists and the Twitterati.

The truth is that direct action and social media are filling a vacuum. A coherent opposition to Cameron’s Britain is as lacking as it is needed. The Labour leadership is hobbled by the fact that, from workfare to NHS privatisation, they laid the groundwork for much of this Government’s agenda. If there’s any force uniquely placed to challenge the most far-reaching transformation of British society since the Second World War, it’s our trade unions.

On Wednesday, Unite’s Len McCluskey was reported as considering plans to disrupt the Olympics. Such was the ferocity of the backlash, you could have been forgiven for thinking trade union plans to kidnap the Royal Family had been exposed, with the proposed campaigning slogan: “Stop the cuts, or the Windsors get it.

You can continue reading this article at The Independent:

If unions are going to take on the mantle of opposition, they’re going to have to change….

and

It’s up to trade unions to force Labour to do the job it was founded for: fighting the corner of working people in the world of politics….

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