The 2014 national conference of the Trades Union Councils took place in Cardiff this year with approximately 100 delegates, visitors and guests present representing up to 24 County Associations. Steve Brown, Chair of Northumberland County Association of Trades Union Councils (personal capacity), reports.
The 2014 national conference of the Trades Union Councils took place in Cardiff this year with approximately 100 delegates, visitors and guests present representing up to 24 County Associations.
The main theme and thrust of the entire conference was anti-austerity, with speaker after speaker relating the attacks upon working class people and fellow trades unionists at the hands of this government of the rich and for the rich. All reflected the anger, frustration and resentment building up inside working class communities, and almost all the motions put to conference related in some way, shape or form, firstly what is taking place in society due to the crisis of capitalism, whilst also expressing the desire to do practical things to improve peoples lives.
What was clearly visible across all the debates was the need for a change in society to tackle the problems facing working class people, problems such as zero hour contracts, mass unemployment and benefit sanctions, to fighting fascists and racism. This must start with co-ordinated industrial action across all sectors, with pressure put upon the TUC General Council and Congress to up-the-anti in its response to further attacks by this coalition government and the hideous capitalist class it represents.
Delegate after delegate related stories of the horrors facing working class people at the moment, with the terrible tale of the suicide of a young lad who had lost his benefits via a sanction for merely being late for his appointment, and the worsening conditions of ill people forcefully reclassified as fit to work by DWP succubus ATOS despite still have debilitating conditions.
The conference discussed a range of issues such as the lack of affordable housing, attacks on the NHS, marking the coup in Indonesia in 1965 and also the crisis of political representation for working people. On this latter issue the conference voted narrowly in favour of opening up a discussion on this in light of the disappointing response from Labour since the local and Euro elections, and indeed the lack of response to the crisis of capitalism in general since the last general election, which was exacerbated by the obnoxious picture of Ed Miliband holding up a copy of the Sun newspaper across social media last week – a decision he has subsequently lived to regret.
Socialist Appeal comrades at the conference argued against the need to open up this debate at the present time within the movement, outlining the paltry results gained by the small left political formations on the fringes during the elections, urging the conference to continue campaigning to push within the unions for the Labour Party to adopt socialist measures to change society.
One significant motion was moved by Darrall Cozens, President of Coventry TUC, but in Cardiff as a delegate from the West Midlands County Association, calling for the nationalisation under democratic control of the big corporations, utilities and banks as the basis upon which to solve the problems in society, including low pay and unemployment, and build the foundation upon which we can do away with the question of austerity and capitalism for good. The motion urged for the TUC and affiliated unions to argue for such ideas.
Although this is just a snapshot at one conference, it is a clear indication that there is not only a mood amongst the active layers, but also a growing desire amongst ordinary working people for such a change. Based on the related anecdotes at the conference it is now becoming more clear every day that working people do move to the left where socialist ideas are heard and explained but, in the absence of a militant and determined socialist leadership, some are temporarily turning to demagoges such as Nigel Farage and his ilk. As the ideas of socialism and genuine Marxism are explained however, they will find an echo amongst the working class and support for the nationalist xenophobes will melt away.
Through fighting for our ideas within the trade unions and wider Trades Councils, these ideas will find a major foothold once again and play a greater and more significant role in the future. In the meantime, further campaigning work will be conducted around working class issues and Trades Councils could find themselves growing into active bodies of trades union militancy in the future.