Tony Blair has always edged away from a full scale confrontation involving more than one group of workers. He has emulated Margaret Thatcher, whose strategy was to pick off one group at a time, starting with the weakest.
Blair has relied on trade union officials rushing to accept any deal from this government when proffered, trusting in their blind loyalty to Labour.
So it has been over pension “reform”. The first groups offered a settlement were civil service workers, teachers and NHS staff. We argued it was a bad deal. Once they settled it broke any united front of all workers defending pension rights.
Each subsequent deal has got worse as the government has got cockier. Now it has returned to the first deal, intent on ripping it up while the ink is scarcely even dry.
On 28 March over a million council workers struck in the biggest strike since 1926. It was a great day. It gave a taste of what can be.
Creating fighting and democratic unions requires a break from the masochistic attachment our union leaders have to Labour. This will be a central theme of the conference for trade unionists hosted by Respect this autumn.
Bush hijacks history
The neo-conservatives in the White House have always been happy to hijack history in order to rationalise their imperial ambitions.
On a state visit to Hungary, Bush praised its government for “defending freedom’s cause in the war on terror” by supplying troops for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq’s puppet government, he claimed, was “committed to the democratic ideals that also inspired Hungarian patriots in 1956”.
It is worth recalling a few facts in the face of this nonsense. The Hungarian revolution was led by workers and students, and aimed at creating a workers’ republic in the country free from the orbit of either superpower.
The US government at the time did not support the uprising – a fact it signalled to Russia. This effectively gave a green light to Moscow brutally crush any resistance and re-install a pro-Soviet regime.
Then as now, imperial superpowers used their military might to impose their will on smaller countries. The true historical parallel – which Bush cannot admit – is between the Soviet tanks in Budapest 1956 and US tanks in Baghdad 2006.
Tory is the new Tony
Can David Cameron lead the Tories out of the wilderness? There is a mounting sense of despair in New Labour’s ranks as opinion polls raise the prospect of the Tories winning the next election. Those fears will be played on by those who argue that all we can do is rally behind Gordon Brown.
The truth is that there is little substance to David Cameron. Beneath his PR charm offensive, the Tory party remains the same.
His strategy is to copy the young Tony Blair. That is why both the Brownite and Blairite wings of New Labour are in a spin – they all believe that image and chasing votes in “middle england” is what wins elections.
Some old fashioned Tory bashing would not go amiss. But how can New Labour register a hit when they are competing with the Tories over who privatises, attacks pensions and cuts taxes the best?