The Awkward Squad: New Labour and the Rank and File

Submitted by on 6 February, 2004 - 12:00

a Socialist Worker pamphlet by Martin Smith

This pamphlet is a propaganda exercise. There is nothing wrong with that in itself. However, it also claims to provide an analysis of the Labour Party, the trade union bureaucracy, the Broad Lefts and members of the "awkward squad." It does not do any of that very well, relying on crass comments such as "bright flashes of a new mood" and "the gaps between the explosions are becoming shorter".

On, for example, why the trade unions did not challenge Blair on the war at Labour Party conference, no real answer is given. There is no attempt to relate popular movements against the war and against capitalism to the fights in the trade unions, other than an appeal for trade unionists to be more like Stop The War activists!

The most inaccurate and misleading section of the pamphlet is on "The Rank and File". I was unconvinced by the arguments in this section and take particular exception to the twisting of the truth in the descriptions of the union I do know about, the CWU.

The power of the London Division of the CWU Postal section has nothing to do with the SWP's paper Post Worker. And anyway the most interesting questions are not how many Post Workers were sold during the recent unofficial action, but what was gained by postal workers in that dispute and why we seem to be further from an organised left in the CWU after it than before?

Many of the comments on the telecom-dominated CWU Broad Left are just plain wrong. The criticisms miss the target. The major BT job losses took place whilst the right was still in power on the Executive, and there was a "cut hours not jobs" campaign run by the CWU BL at the time. There are many other criticisms that could and should be made of the record of the Broad Lefts: why pick one that is not true?

Score: 4/10
Reviewer: Maria Exall

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