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Labour sabotage in Harlow

Protest in central London against cuts to welfare, 2012

Protest in central London against cuts to welfare, 2012

This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 9 February meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.

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Another illustration of the role played by Labour councillors in implementing so-called ‘ConDem’ cuts – actually capitalist cuts – is the behaviour of the local Labour group in Harlow.

Harlow Trades Council has long supported the work of Harlow Welfare Rights and Advice in its efforts to serve the often hard-pressed local community. Recognising the clear need for the services provided by HWRA, Labour’s General Committee supported its retention before Christmas. What’s more, when the continued existence of the body was challenged on some dubious legal technicality the GC voted for a mediated solution that would not deprive the people of Harlow of this service.

Yet at 7.30pm on 28 January, Labour-run Harlow council abruptly changed the HWRA locks, banning staff from entry and at a stroke bringing its vital work in the local community to a halt.

Whilst this act of vandalism was initiated by a civil servant (the council’s chief executive Malcolm Morley), one very disgruntled Labour councillor noted that “It is clear from my discussion with members of Labour’s cabinet that the leader and a majority of the cabinet are in agreement with the officers. Most notable for their full and active support of Malcolm Morley are leader Mark Wilkinson and cabinet member Tony Durcan.”

The yawning gap between Labour’s words and its deeds prompted the councillor to reflect: “I am very disappointed that councillors don’t have much of a say in running the council. The reason I became a councillor is to help people in Harlow, but so far I have not seen any changes apart from what the government want us to implement.”

The secretary of Harlow Trades Council, David Forman, has drawn some interesting conclusions from this experience, noting that “Labour councillors hide behind the law like a matador hides behind his red cloak, which merely conceals the tools of destruction.

“A failure to understand the class-based nature of the state, with the law and judiciary being key weapons in the armoury of the ruling class, leads those on the right and centre ground to see the state as neutral and benign.

“A deliberate rewriting of history … allows the labour movement to be lulled into thinking fine oratory and legal manoeuvres by the middle classes produces reforms. In reality, it is a series of struggles on the industrial front by a militant working class that leads to changes on the political front.

“All this obfuscation is designed to disarm the working class and make them dependent on their so-called ‘betters’, thus allowing Labour and reformist union leaders to spout the worn-out phrase: ‘There is no alternative’.”

It is indeed social democracy (including its ‘left’ face) that blunts the edge of class struggle and conceals from workers the only real alternative: socialism.

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