TUC Congress 2016:
The Working Class Must Be at the Head of the
Movement to Control the Economy and Society
The TUC Congress 2016 is taking place at the Brighton Centre from Sunday, September 11, to Wednesday, September 14. As Congress 2016 convenes the times are crying out even more for the organised workers’ movement not only to be in step with the fight that is going on led by working people and youth to chart a new path and alternative for the economy, politics and society but to be at its head.
The mass movements against the Conservative government’s austerity agenda, the destruction of steel and manufacturing as well as the wrecking and privatisation of the NHS and public sector is reflected in the political movements of the people to build the anti-austerity, and anti-war pro-social movements as well as to build the opposition around this in Parliament. Then the EU referendum itself reflected the resistance of the people to wrest back control from the EU of the monopolies and to fight for a society where the working class and people are in control of the economy and society. This reflects the mood that exists in the country that the workers’ movement must not only reflect but must take the lead on.
The Calli to the TUC Congress 2016 draws attention to the fact that, “This is a critical time for Britain’s trade unions” and that “It is against this backdrop that the trade union movement will come together in Brighton in September this year, to debate, discuss and decide how we can take action and organise to defend the people we represent and set out a vision for a better way.” But it is not just about “jobs, rights, investment” in the context of “resisting the government’s worst proposals”. The thinking and outlook of the organised workers’ movement has to go beyond the problems that the government and the big corporations impose in terms of limiting productivity, jobs, wage rises, and so forth. It is not just a question of resistance against the Trade Union Bill, now an Act, or for the trade unions to correct some aberrations in the way the economy and society is run. What is crucial is this “vision for a better way”. In fact, if this vision for a better way is not elaborated, then neither will the resistance struggles of the working class and people make headway, because the ruling elite and the monopoly right that this elite upholds attempts to impose on the struggles the outlook and thinking of the monopolies, their so-called “free trade agreements”, “making Britain competitive in the global market”, and so on. Under this outlook and thinking, the workers have no role but to serve the aims and interests of the most powerful monopolies. When the rights of all are under attack, it is vital that the organised movement of the working class itself upholds the need to fight for the rights of all, and to break through these imposed limits, implicit or explicit, on what the place of the workers is and what they may or may not do.
This system, in which the workers are relegated to an adjunct of the aims of the monopolies, in which they have no vision of their own for a better way, is not acceptable. It is not the highest level of society that humankind can give rise to. What is characteristic this year is that workers are already engaged in the struggle for the future of society especially around the anti-austerity movement and defending the rights of all in society. It is a reflection that this movement is, in fact, on the move that Jeremy Corbyn has received so much support as Leader of the Opposition. It is also around the fight for Brexit from the EU of the monopolies as a first step to end the monopoly and the neo-liberal control of the economy. This step forward means a new perspective is needed for the workers’ movement. It is this new perspective that can only be thrashed out in this fight for the alternative, removing the blocks placed in the way of the people for progress so that the working class and people can increasingly wrest control away from the grip that the monopolies have over the economy, society and politics and chart a new path.
In charting this new path standing on the sidelines is not an option for the the organised workers’ movement. The organised workers movement must enter into the movement that opens up a path to a higher level of civilisation against all the backwardness peddled by the ruling elite of racism and war and the criminalisation of the most vulnerable. The workers must increasingly challenge the dominance of the monopolies over society and government with the new perspective that the workers should be in control. This goes beyond the aspiration of simply being on the boards of directors, or influencing share holders, to one of actually being the decision makers in society. The workers must take up the issue of working class representation and democratic renewal, so that political forms and institutions serve working people and not the rich and powerful.
i The Call, Congress Report, Final Agenda (motions) and other documents of the TUC Congress 2016