Socialist Worker

Who is ‘not credible’—the union leaders or Corbyn?

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2487

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) protest last year

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) protest last year (Pic: Flickr/The Weekly Bull)


Jeremy Corbyn angered and scared the Tories last weekend when he called for the legalisation of solidarity strikes, unilateral nuclear disarmament and a deal with Argentina over the Falklands.

He also enraged the Labour right in parliament and the trade union leaderships.

Corbyn is right on all these issues. And far from making Labour unelectable, he’s showing a wholly refreshing change from the bland Tory-lite politics of his predecessors.

That’s why Labour membership has doubled.

The Tories are blustering ahead with plans to spend up to £167 billion on renewing Trident nuclear missiles. They intend to ask MPs to vote on the issue in the next few months.

Nuclear weapons threaten the extinction of humanity and the planet.

Spending virtually unlimited funds on these weapons is spitting in the face of all of those who have suffered the government’s vicious cuts year after year.

Corbyn is right to say Trident must go. And workers should have the right to strike in solidarity with others—as they could legally from 1946 until Tory Margaret Thatcher abolished it in 1980.

Bosses can support one another in a thousand different ways during class battles.

Why shouldn’t Tube workers be able to say, “the health service matters to us, we want to strike for the nurses and the NHS”?

Why shouldn’t local government workers say, “we’re against privatisation, we will take action to stop it in the schools”?

Numbers 

Workers should be able to picket where they want in any numbers they choose.

Corbyn is mentioning what for decades has been unmentionable. Labour ought to be on the side of those fighting back.

But he faces serious obstacles.

Some union leaders are now fighting to keep Trident on the spurious grounds of safeguarding employment. They’ve done nothing effective to stop hundreds of thousands of job losses elsewhere.

GMB union leaders say Corbyn’s plans are “incoherent” and “not credible”.

Leading Unite union figures in the Trident-based plants have raised the spectre of up to 10,000 workers leaving the union unless it campaigns for renewal.

Unite leader Len McCluskey has urged Corbyn to give Labour MPs a free vote on the issue—which would guarantee the missiles would be retained.

Such pressures are why Corbyn comes up with suggestions such as keeping nuclear submarines but that they should not carry nuclear warheads.

And it’s why Labour remains a very long way from lining up with all those fighting back.

In September John McDonnell rightly proclaimed, “I tell you this: when workers want to take action, we will support them automatically.”

But last week the Guardian newspaper revealed that the shadow

cabinet refused to back the junior doctors’ strike, even though it is a hugely popular strike.

A leak from Labour’s forthcoming official report into why it lost the election admits, “Some of the ‘left wing policies’ were the most popular.”

But the shadow cabinet as a whole remains terrified of consistently backing resistance and radical policies.


‘There’s an alternative to defence jobs’—defence worker speaks out 

A Clydeside defence worker has reacted angrily to union leaders’ backing for the renewal of Trident.

The GMB union sent a letter to union reps spelling out their support for the Trident successor programme.

It noted the thousands of jobs that have been slashed and said, “In this climate it is highly irresponsible for any politician to be playing fast and loose with jobs in the Scottish defence sector.”

The worker said, “If people in England want to save Trident, they can have it down there.

“I don’t want it on the Clyde—but it should be scrapped altogether.

“I think it is a disgrace that trade union leaders are prepared to countenance the melting of women and children in the event of a war.

“Renewing Trident is immoral, irrational and a complete waste of public funds.”

The GMB letter claimed that the idea defence workers could have alternative jobs was “utter nonsense”.

It said the only alternative for sacked workers was “the dole”.

But the worker argued, “There is an alternative.

“Trident will cost £167 billion over its lifetime.

“I think that could be enough money to create alternative jobs. But it needs political will and an industrial strategy to do that.”

 


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