The National Shop Stewards Network met in London for its annual national conference last Saturday 9 June, proclaiming that it is taking place at a crucial time and all trade unionists should try to attend this event. It declared: 'Now the task is to build mass action against the cuts and attacks, with trade union industrial action at the centre. Solidarity with our brothers and sisters across Europe is essential, as is how to build for the 20th October TUC "A future that works" demonstration and ensure that is followed with decisive action not just rhetoric.'
It is always a sign that the British trade unions are starting to flag when they have to turn to the European example. All the indications are that the campaign against the cuts in this country is tailing off and that the government will get its pension reforms through. This month, the anarchist paper, FREEDOM reported: 'The trade unions' great struggle to stop the government from stealing public sector pensions has been and gone with barely a whisper it seems, as participation winds down following the 10th, May walkout.'
It now looks like the young syndicalists around Dave Chapple, Secretary of Bridgewater TUC and the former national Chair of the NSSN, and the other independent socialists, who left the National NSSN steering committee last year on account of the Socialist Party's obsession with the campaign against the cuts, got it right. Increasingly, the campaigns against the cuts in this country look like a wild goose chase, and the trade union's inconclusive demos and marching together is, if anything, undermining morale among rank and file workers.
Compared to the electrician's campaign against Besna and the blacklist, the National Shop Stewards Network's efforts look like political 'rhetoric'. The NSSN failure to develop a serious grassroots movement, when it went into competition with the Socialist Workers' Party in an adventure in tub thumping political show business against the cuts, was a critical mistake. A writer in the June issue of FREEDOM comments: 'What is missing in the union equation is leverage. Without it, begging loudly is still begging and, as the law stands, union bosses have no way of providing that leverage. They are a bankrupt power.' The political left is also bankrupt.