Dead Men Left

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

"TGWU leader calls for unity against war"

Despite their sudden discovery of the working class, and specifically its trade union leadership, this statement from Transport and General Workers' general secretary, Tony Woodley, has not made its way onto Harry's Place. Woodley says

“It is a time for the tolerant discussion of differences. The anti-war movement must accept that trade unions will always, and rightly, want to offer support to our brothers and sisters abroad, particularly when they are struggling to establish trade unionism in such a difficult environment as Iraq.

“Equally, those of us in the trade union movement must give some credit to the Stop the War Coalition for its achievements.

“It mobilised people when we did not, and it has a right to a different view as to what happened at the party conference.

“We would only be serving the warmongers if we divide now...

“If George Bush is re-elected, the world will remain a deeply dangerous place with new wars threatened—and even if he is defeated, as I hope he is, we cannot afford complacency.

“The anti-war movement is one of the remarkable political achievements of our time.

“Its breadth, strength and unity has helped reinvigorate progressive politics in Britain.

“That has not been without complications. But I am proud of the part trade unions have played in the Stop the War Coalition.

“Certainly, now is not the time for splits or resignations.

“It is a time for unity against the war danger, and unity to get the most rapid possible withdrawal from Iraq.

“We cannot have progress without peace. We will not have peace without a powerful peace movement. Let’s stick together.”

"...unity to get the most rapid possible withdrawal from Iraq." Where are blogland's keepers of the cloth cap now? Where are the furious denunciations of "scabbing"?

More seriously, the T&G has worked very closely with UNISON over the last few years, with the two often providing a political lead to the rest of the union movement, by virtue of both their size and more politically-inclined leaderships. To find an expression of disapproval from Dave Prentis, at UNISON, countered by this clear call for unity from the T&G suggests that talk of a "split" between unions and anti-war movement is somewhat premature.

We will see how this plays out: significant pressure has been felt on union leaders from their own memberships to maintain the clear line on the occupation provided at the TUC. Subsequent events at the Labour Party conference, where a dubious representative of some Iraqi trade unionists presented a militantly pro-occupation case, have not altered that position. That some union leaderships did use Abdullah Muhsin to defuse a challenge to the government makes little difference to the 71% of the British public now opposing the occupation.