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Proletarian issue 53 (April 2013)
Labour sabotage in Harlow
Another illustration of the role played by Labour councillors in implementing so-called ‘ConDem’ cuts – actually, capitalist cuts – is the behaviour of the local Labour group in Harlow.

Harlow Trades Council has long supported the work of Harlow Welfare Rights and Advice in its efforts to serve the often hard-pressed local community. Recognising the clear need for the services provided by HWRA, Labour’s General Committee supported its retention before Christmas. What’s more, when the continued existence of the body was challenged on some dubious legal technicality the GC voted for a mediated solution that would not deprive the people of Harlow of this service.

Yet at 7.30pm on 28 January, Labour-run Harlow council abruptly changed the HWRA locks, banning staff from entry and at a stroke bringing its vital work in the local community to a halt.

Whilst this act of vandalism was initiated by a civil servant (the council’s chief executive Malcolm Morley), one very disgruntled Labour councillor noted that “it is clear from my discussion with members of Labour’s cabinet that the Leader and a majority of the cabinet are in agreement with the officers. Most notable for their full and active support of Malcolm Morley are leader Mark Wilkinson and cabinet member Tony Durcan.”

The yawning gap between Labour’s words and its deeds prompted the councillor to reflect “I am very disappointed that councillors don’t have much of a say in running the council. The reason I became a councillor is to help people in Harlow, but so far I have not seen any changes apart from what the government want us to implement.”

The secretary of Harlow Trades Council, David Forman, has drawn some interesting conclusions from this experience, noting that “Labour councillors hide behind the law like a matador hides behind his red cloak, which merely conceals the tools of destruction. A failure to understand the class-based nature of the state, with the law and judiciary being key weapons in the armoury of the ruling class, leads those on the right and centre ground to see the state as neutral and benign.

A deliberate rewriting of history ... allows the labour movement to be lulled into thinking fine oratory and legal manoeuvres by the middle classes produce reforms. In reality, it is a series of struggles on the industrial front by a militant working class that leads to changes on the political front. All this obfuscation is designed to disarm the working class and make them dependent on their so-called ‘betters’, thus allowing Labour and reformist union leaders to spout the worn out phrase: ‘There is no alternative’.

It is indeed social democracy (not least its ‘left’ face, be it said) that blunts the edge of class struggle and conceals from workers the only real alternative: socialism.

Taken to task over the closure of HWRA, Suzy Stride, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for this Tory constituency, responded with the classic plea “that we do not lose sight of the bigger issue that the reason the council are having to look at any cuts is because of the cuts being forced on them by our Tory-led government.

She went on to warn darkly that “if we overly criticise our councillors we are also in many ways helping the Tories’ agenda and helping the Tories to win in Harlow and ultimately then helping the Tories to continue to make all the cuts that are devastating people’s lives in Harlow.

So that’s clear then: those who resist the imposition of cuts are themselves to blame for the cuts! QED.

Whilst Labour thus tries to persuade Harlow residents that resistance is useless, the Labour-dominated unions help blunt the sword in the anti-blacklisting campaign.

When a motion was put up for discussion at a recent meeting of Harlow’s Labour group with the aim of holding the Kier construction company to account for its alleged blacklisting activities, in line with official Ucatt policy, the union dispatched NEC member Jim Gamble to muddy the waters. By raising the false fear that refusing to give Kier any future council contracts could jeopardise existing jobs, councillors were stampeded into defeating the motion.

Yet as Harlow’s TUC secretary pointed out, “Jim’s concerns about jobs were completely unfounded as the motion before the Labour Group was to bar Kier and the other blacklisters from future work. Kier’s existing 10-year contract was not in question.” From this it was clear that “the enemy within the Labour party is also rooted in the unions. The collaborationist elements in the trade-union movement must be exposed and denounced.

We can only heartily endorse these sentiments.

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