I've been watching Ken Loach's Days of Hope which forms part of a boxed set containing the films he made for the BBC in the 60s and 70s. It's a superb piece of work and it's almost unimaginable that it would be broadcast on mainstream TV today. Unimaginable not only because of its artistic and moral seriousness but also because of its politics. Of course we don't need to see it on TV because we've now got our own live version.
In the second episode at around 32:10 there is a marvelous bit of dialogue. Four striking miners have been rounded up by the police and taken, against their will, to meet the mine owner. He treats them to beer and sandwiches at his mansion:
Miner 1: "Well there's none of us want to see the country on its knees Mr Pritchard, but at the same time I don't see why everything should be put all right at our expense."
Mine Owner: "But we've all got to make sacrifices. We're in this together, we've got to help one another."
Miner 2. " Well the way I see it the boot's always been on the other foot, like whatever we've had's been taken off wor. We've got nowt left now have we?"
Remember this was broadcast in the same year that MI5 were orchestrating a dirty-tricks campaign against a Labour Prime Minister and at least one Tory MP was, allegedly, talking with senior military figures about destabilizing a democratically elected government, here, in the UK, not in Chile.
The working class, deserted by its political party, may now lack an instinct for class politics, but the ruling class have never lost theirs (instinct or party). Whenever there is even the slimmest inkling of popular discontent they just get the old script out of the closet and dust it down. Substitute public sector worker for miner and Cameron for Pritchard and we're bang up to date.
My good friend and former colleague DL drew my attention to this piece by David Simon creator of The Wire. His point is very simple: just as you really do not want to live in a one party socialist state, you also do not want to live in a world where Capital wins all the time and can, essentially do whatever it wants, whenever it wants (let's face it, if you can crash the financial system, say sorry, get a handout and 12 months later be awarding yourself the same old obscene bonuses, then you really can do whatever you want).
Here's the crux of Simon's argument:
The unions actually mattered. The unions were part of the equation. It didn't matter that they won all the time, it didn't matter that they lost all the time, it just mattered that they had to win some of the time and they had to put up a fight and they had to argue for the demand and the equation and for the idea that workers were not worth less, they were worth more.
Who in Britain is putting it as well as this? Certainly not the Labour Party.