Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Taaffe Tells A Good Tale


of the Spirit of Lobscouse about the Socialist Party! All those red round-faced folk with a west coast of Lancashire twang and glasses. Bespectacled Liverpudlian, Linda Taaffe (now living in London), wrote a triumphant report on the recent 'National Shop Stewards Network' (NSSN) London Conference [11/06/11] on pages 6 and 7 of the current issue of 'The Socialist' saying that the 'NSSN has gone from strength to strength over the last year' and that the 'NSSN has increased its presence and will continue to develop a respected role in the labour movement'.

Mrs Taaffe described the conference thus: 'A solid working class trade union conference' with '350 workers' in attendance and representing what Lynda writes was 'the best NSSN conference so far'. She tells us that 'this regular event is rapidly becoming a feature in the calendar of the labour movement.' Hence, the conference went on to unanimously support a resolution 'Saluting those unions who are balloting their members for strike action' on the 30th, June and declaring that the NSSN has 'produced 40,000 flyers and 15,000 placards all calling for a public-private sector general strike to stop ALL cuts and defend pensions.' This report was accompanied with a photo of Socialist Party veteran, Tony Mulheard, mouth open and fist clenched close to his throat threatening whatever or whoever should defy this noble Network. And well he might threaten, for Linda writes: 'We understand a couple of ... detractors snooped into the conference hall simply to do a head count'.

Who might these 'detractors' be one wonders? Well, none other than 'those who walked out from the NSSN in January ... after a democratic and open discussion', thus, writes Linda, leaving the 'NSSN stronger and more active'. 'Stronger and more active' maybe, but with a 'newly elected steering committee' cut to '24 trade unionists with positions in most of the major unions'. Last year's national NSSN steering committee had a membership of over 60 and the previous year it was over 50. It would seem that last January's breakaway from the NSSN by independent minded syndicalists and socialists has had its effect on the make up of the NSSN steering committee and Bob Crow, the General secretary of the RMT, has been reported as saying that the NSSN split resulted in the loss of some good people.

Linda Taaffe has now clarified the current dilemma for the Socialist Party and the NSSN; the NSSN may appear 'stronger' and more 'active' in so far as it is all of one mind being mainly a creature of the Socialist Party itself. Dialogue and discussion is no longer necessary because they can kid themselves that they are united. This is the illusionary strength of the narrow-minded and the monomaniac.

Thus the ingredients in the Network, or stew, are diminished in the same way that traditionally Lobscouse as a dish has less and more boring ingredients than Lancashire Hot-Pot. My copy of 'British Cookery' edited by Lizzie Boyd describes Lobscouse as being a nautical dish - a variation on Lancashire Hot-Pot - and constituting 'a monotonous diet' often including scrag end of neck of mutton, shin of beef, swedes, potatoes and carrots, while proper Lancashire Hot-Pot is from middle neck of lamb with lamb kidneys, sliced potatoes, onions, white stock and dripping traditionally served with red cabbage; in the case of Bolton Hot-Pot adding mushrooms and fresh oysters and some Lancashire cooks add curry powder. Compared to this Lobscouse, which traditionally was eaten by sailors on board ship with rock-hard ship's biscuits was a tedious affair, not unlike the Socialist Party itself. Hence, the National Shop Stewards Network today is a movement for monomaniacs which the British labour movement, with all its many faults, is not. In fact, the British labour movement is, if anything, too heterogeneous, too varied in its constituent parts.

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