Last week the Tory idiot in charge of transport, Chris Grayling, suggested the Tories were considering making people’s right to withdraw their labour illegal (something which Downing Street have added to their list of ‘things my most senior Ministers say but which May is now publicly distancing the government from’). You have to suspect that Grayling simply got his timing and the mood of the British commuting public wrong.
It is my suspicion that Grayling was voicing current Tory leadership policy think and it is part of their infamous ‘long term economic plan’. I have talked before that the public have been mocked by the Tories with their incessant talk of ‘long term economic plan’, without knowing what it actually meant. The public face of the Tory ‘long term economic plan’ has been Austerity to pay down the deficit but the truth is that the ‘long term economic plan’ stems from the last period of Tory governments and Thatcher’s Britain.
A defining aspect of Thatcher (still the high empress of the Tory Party) is that she ‘defeated’ the miners. In fact, Thatcher can be defined by the Falklands War, the Miners’ strike, milk snatching, the Poll Tax Insurrection, Steve Nallon and being the most hated figure in British political history. Thatcher began the destruction of the welfare state and worker protection and the current Tory ‘long term economic plan’ is her bastard offspring legacy. Whilst Tony Blair’s New Labour failed experiment perpetuated the failures of neoliberal economics, the back alley Tories watched on and rubbed their hands with glee, sharpening their teeth.
Fundamental to the legacy of Thatcher’s Tories is the removal of worker protections and redirection of public spending on the public to public spending to privateers (key aspects of trickle up/monopoly neoliberal economics). For exploiters of businesses to thrive, workers must be compliant, fearful, low waged, unskilled, and interchangeable. Breaking workers is key and breaking unions is key to breaking workers. In Thatcher’s era, the public were sold on the narrative that people should have no right to earn decent salaries, especially not public paid workers (apart from politicians, obviously, who we should lavish not just high salaries and inflation busting pay rises but also generous expense accounts and pensions). The miners were portrayed as the enemy of ‘hard working tax payers like you’ and any means necessary were considered acceptable to break them and no expense was spared doing just that.
Exploitation requires an imbalance of power and it is considered best if that imbalance is grossly overwhelming. The threat to exploiters if any group of workers can resist their exploitation is twofold. Firstly, if that group of workers can have a national impact, they can resist alongside less powerful workers, providing greater collective strength to resisting exploitation. Secondly, if workers see that other workers can resist, that exploitation is not the natural order of things, more workers will begin to resist. The miners gave workers across the country a vein of resistance because they could act on a national level. Thatcher wanted them broken because, in her ideological mind, workers are the underlings and are not fit to be engaged in the ordering of their lives and no group of workers should be able to act on the national stage.
Thatcher’s minions did not cease to exist once she was ousted from the Tory leadership, nor did they retire to the country once New Labour supplanted the Tories in government. In 2010 the beast offspring of the Iron Dragon took back the keys of Downing Street and picked up where Thatcher left off. New Labour’s experiment had (I will be generous) naively perpetuated the neoliberal doctrine and the Tories had little to undo to begin implementing their own agenda. Blair had begun exposing the NHS and Education budgets to privateers and the Tories gratefully continued apace. In coalition, the Tories were mildly hampered by the LibDems but Gove provided the example of a Minister who would simply ignore all but his own agenda and began dismantling Education at break neck speed; not only the economic constrictions against privatisation but also attacked the imagined ‘Left’ who controlled Education from the shadows. I hope that forensic accountants will one day pick over the seeds of damage sown during Gove’s tenure in charge of Education and he will be held accountable. Gove provided the blueprint for Blitzkrieg politics which has become a veritable firesale.
Where Gove attacked the perceived Left in Education, transport workers are being set up as the fallguys for future attacks on workers’ protections. Grayling was the Tory ‘long term economic plan’ toe in the water but the timing was wrong. The Tories want to strip away all worker protection and leaving European Union oversight is considered a step in the right direction and the chaos created by the decision to leave the EU is itself being exploited as a smoke screen for increased exploitation. Just as the Tories have been attacking protections offered by the welfare state, forcing people into becoming an army of compliant, fearful, low waged, unskilled, and interchangeable workers, they also wish to strip you of any rights to withdraw your labour or work to rule. The Tories are paid for by the 5% exploiting class and rule us with Thatcher’s attitude that we are not fit to engage in the ordering of our lives. It was thought that the traveling public would have bought into the lie peddled by the Tories and the media that the misery and failings of out transport service is attributable to the strikers but people really aren’t that stupid.
If the Tories thought they could get away with it, just as they have done with the ‘Snoopers Charter’, they would attack our workers rights as thoroughly as they have attacked out rights to privacy. The headlines are about rail workers but the truth is that it is all of our worker protections that are on the line. The Tories are driving this country in a race to the bottom because the ideology they prescribe to is one that is built on exploitation of the masses for the betterment of the few. Instead of our economy recycling its wealth through decent wages and pensions, our economy makes enemies of workers and those in receipt of benefits so that it can profit those in our economy who siphon off the wealth into offshore banks. Despite massively increasing our national debt, the British economy is floundering but our wealthiest have doubled their wealth over the past six years. We are being told that it is selfish transport workers who are ruining our economy, just like Hunt telling us it is selfish doctors and nurses, Gove told us it was teachers, IDS told us it was benefit scroungers and the disabled, and the Tories and UKIP want us to believe it is immigrants. Yet some are making out like bandits.