Kinnock Pleads For Government

Labour Leader, Neil Kinnock, was witnessed by millions on TV recently begging trade union delegates at the TUC (Trades Union Congress) annual Conference to reject the traditional union tool of direct action and to put all their faith instead into government.

Kinnock appeared to be at desperation point. It was clear that he considered recent events involving the Miners strike as a direct challenge to the raison d’etre of his party. If workers could threaten government by direct action, then what use is the Labour Party as the traditional sell-out arbitrator?

Each time trade unions undermine the principal of government, then this in turn affects the future standing of a Labour Party government, while strengthening the hands of the unions as an independent body capable of uniting in opposition to Parliament. The very idea that the trade unions have the potential to become the real opposition – an extra-parliamentary opposition, would make someone like Kinnock go weak at the knees.

Of course the unions are far from that position and traditionally have always sucked up to the Labour Party giving them carte blanche to do more or less what they like.

Throughout the Miners strike, Kinnock has pressed the Tories to intervene and work out a compromise solution (i.e., a sell-out), which is what he, Kinnock, would have done if he’d been in charge. As with Labour, the Tories have been secretly intervening behind the scenes for years – there’s no such thing as a non-political strike anyway – and Thatcher’s part in the current dispute has been to avoid compromise and to back the class enemy to the hilt. Kinnock has never had an interest in solving the dispute in the interests of the miners, only in securing a, vote-catching, role for the Labour Party and ensuring that direct confrontation (something the Labour Party has instinctively always shied away from) is avoided at all costs.

But at the recent TUC Conference it was significant to see Kinnock making his plea for the supremacy of parliamentary democracy. In doing so he was rejecting the powers of trade unionism; he was saying, ‘use the Labour Party, we need you for our survival.’ He also made it perfectly clear that he considered the ballot box to be the ultimate and sole means of challenging tyranny. In saying this Kinnock uses the same rhetoric as the Tory hardliners and the anti-trade unionists. They insist that the ballot must be the only way to make decisions and that the Miners strike – and all industrial action – can only be legitimised if voted on in this way. The same principle in which the class enemy is voted into office. Kinnock, like Thatcher, et al, support the ballot box and parliamentary democracy because they know it to be one of the lowest forms of democracy – a system that allows issues to be reduced to the superficial, decisions to be made in ignorance, power to be delegated to the few.

Kinnock rejects violence not because he is against violence but because his party receives power in the same way the Tories do: through apathy, through defeatism, through the rejection of responsibilities. If violence was proven an effective weapon to challenge and threaten the authority of one government, then it can prove to be an effective weapon to challenge the authority of another. Kinnock knows this. He knows that if he even gave tacit approval to the use of direct action by the unions then that would in turn weaken the power and legitimacy of the Labour Party. Kinnock’s plea was a plea for the TUC to reject any advances the Miners had made and to put their trust in the Labour Party as a negotiating body. Kinnock desperately sought a role as he saw his party being delegated to second place. It was an act, perhaps, of a man who had a fleeting vision of a future society where it was the workers and communities who controlled their own destiny, without the intervention of government or any other authority. And the thought sickened him.

From Black Flag Quarterly vol 07 #07 (Autumn 1984)