Spokesman Books, the publishing arm of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, have also produced an edition of What Went Wrong, edited by Ken Coates. This book critically examines and refutes as grossly oversimplistic the myth that the Labour party lost the 1979 election because of trade union militancy during the notorious ‘Winter of Discontent’.
The book, with an accompanying blurb, is listed on their webpage at http://www.spokesmanbooks.com/acatalog/Michael_Barratt_Brown.html
I might have to get this one at some point, because, as the blurb itself says, it is very much ‘conventional wisdom’ that James Callaghan’s government fell because of the militant strike action by the trade unions. It’s brought up repeatedly by the Tories and the right-wing press whenever the unions are discussed or defended, along with comments and verbiage about not going back to the bad old days of the 1970s when Britain was held hostage by the union barons. And so forth.
Much of today’s problems can be traced back to the complete reverse. Thatcher broke the unions, and the result has been decades of poor wages at or below the rate of inflation, poor working conditions, and the creation of the ‘flexible labour market’, set up to make it easier for firms to sack people. Blair’s New Labour was as complicit in all this as the Tories. It was Tony Blair, who threatened to cut the party’s ties with the unions if they blocked his voting reforms. The result is 4.7 million people in Britain in ‘food poverty’, and hundreds of thousands only surviving through food banks.
Advocates of trade unions have pointed out that in companies where there are unions, not only do the workers enjoy higher wages and better conditions, the companies themselves are better run. Which is also an argument for worker’s control. It’s also an argument you are definitely not going to hear from the Conservatives or Smudger and his Blairite friends.
While I don’t want the country to suffer from frequent strikes, as they did in the 1960s and ’70s, we definitely do need more union power, not less.
Tags: 'What Went Wrong', 1979 Election, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Conservatives, Flexible Labour Market, Food Banks, James Callaghan, Ken Coates, Labour Party, New Labour, Owen Smith, Spokesman Books, Starvation, Strikes, tony blair, Winter of Discontent, Workers' Control