Mike Kay caught up with Daniel Randall, an activist with the Alliance for Workersâ€™ Liberty based in London for his thoughts on the political situation since the formation of the Conservative/ Liberal Democrat coalition government dubbed the “Con-Dems”
MK: What was your initial reaction to the election result?
DR: I was surprised by a number of things. For one thing, I thought that there was a serious danger of the British National Party taking control of Barking & Dagenham council. Instead they got annihilated in that area.
How did that happen?
There was a group called Barking, Dagenham and Havering Together that Iâ€™ve been involved with. It is quite broad and open, mostly run by local trade unionists. The local Labour Party had about 50 people out canvassing. They ran a popular campaign to save the local Accident & Emergency Department, which was totally disingenuous as [Local Labour MP] Margret Hodge had voted for the cuts!
Now that the Tories are in power nationally and Labour locally, itâ€™s essential that the campaign keeps going.
Also quite surprising was the high turnout, bucking the trend of recent elections.
Does that indicate that people are becoming more politically engaged?
On a superficail level, maybe. At the moment it is ridiculously easy to sell socialist newspapers, for instance. The capitalist crisis has forced people to start asking questions about the system.
Unlike in NZ, a coalition governement is a bit of a novelty for Britain. How do you think it will play out?
The governement has already indicated it will push to privatise Royal Mail. In education it wants the “Swedish Model”. That means every school run as an accademy - by a charitable trust, religious body or business organisation. Itâ€™s about putting education outside of public control and could undermine collective agreements for staff.
Vince Cable and Nick Clegg from the Lib Dems have talked about banning public sector strikes.
The British Airways workers have been in legal wrangles with their employer for months…
Litigoius action is now the employersâ€™ default response to a strike ballot. I have visited the picket lines several times, and unfortunately there seems no possiblity of unofficial action in defiance of the judges. The workers tend to be quite conservative, industrially.
The election result seems to indicate more of an anti-Labour sentiment than a pro-Tory one…
But there has been a shift in working class consciousness towards the Labour Party. About 15,000 have joined since the election. The few remaining left wing Labour MPs won substantially increased majorities.
The Workers Party see Social Democracy as essentially dead…
People have been predicting the death of Labourism since the 1970s. We see the party as still being a bourgeois workers party because of the union link, so we advocated a vote for Labour with all the usual caveats, where no credible socialist candidate was standing.
But not all unions are affiliated…
Some left groups have made a fetish of arguing for disaffiliation. The RMT and FBU unions are not more militant as a result of no longer being affiliated. For us, using the Trade Union link effectively is the most important thing. Ideally we would like to see something like the New Anti-capitalist Party in France, but we have to relate to the Labour Movement as it currently exists. Weâ€™re supporting John McDonnell for Labour leader.
But last time around, he failed to get enough MPs to support his bid for the leadership. Doesnâ€™t that idicate the left in the Laour party is dead?
Itâ€™s more about running a campaign within the unions. The whole of the far Left did badly in the elections. People will not vote for alliances cobbled together at the last moment. The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition was a semi-clandestine lash-up. The Socialist Party and a section of the RMT leadership were in back room negotiations and then the Socialist Workers Party jumped on the band waggon. As a result of the whole experience the SP and the SWP are now beginning to re-orientateÂ towards the Labour Party.
Weâ€™re not talking about a situation like the 1980s when the Minersâ€™ Strike found a political echo in the Labour Party. We are advocating a limited intervention, a reconnaissance.
Comrades from the AWL did quite a bit to promote Mike Treenâ€™s speaking tour in 2008. Has the example of Unite NZ had an effect on the British unions?
I am in the GMB [a general workers' union], and have tried to push Uniteâ€™s model, for instance in our campaign to organise bar staff. Unfortunately, the leadershipâ€™s organising model is based on the SEIUâ€™s. Everything is driven by recruitment target figures and getting union recogition, even if that means signing no-strike “sweatheart” deals to get there.
Daniel, to many people you are better known as hip hop performer The Ruby Kid. Howâ€™s all that coming along?
Really well. I will be putting out another recording on free download, and am looking at some overseas live bookings. But sometimes itâ€™s hard to balance the political activism and the musical side of things!