Tory Buffoon, and London Mayor, Boris Johnson, has a Big Idea. Despite the fact that Britain has the harshest anti-trade union laws in Europe, despite the fact that unions have to go through hoops, just to conform to all the rules relating to ballots, of their members, despite the fact that, even where a large majority have voted for action, the Courts stand ready to intervene, if just the slightest error can be found, Boris wants to make it even more difficult for workers to defend their conditions.
The reason for Boris's annoyance is that some workers in London, RMT members on the Underground have refused to be cowed, and the leadership of their union has done its job, whereas the leaders of many other unions will use any opportunity to sell-out their members, preferring an easy life, while they draw their own large salaries, like the £200,000 a year salary of Derek Simpson of UNITE. Boris wants to make it the law that, before a strike can be valid, at least 50% of relevant members must take part in the ballot, or put another way, at least 25% of the membership must vote for the strike.
The basic principle of socialists is that we reject any interference by the State in the internal functioning of our organisations. We have no say in how the Tory Party elects its leaders, or decides its policies, we have no say in how its Business associates make their decisions in the Board Room and so on. They should have no such say in our Trades Unions, Co-operatives, or Labour Party. We should oppose, vigorously, any attempt to introduce such legislation. But, were the Tories to succeed in passing it, it could be the single biggest mistake they could make, amongst the many other mistakes they are currently making.
As socialists, we should have another concern than just the Tories proposal in relation to the requirement for a minimum 50% turnout. As socialists, we seek to create a society that is the most democratic ever known. Yet, in that respect, we should be deeply ashamed that, so frequently, the democracy within our own movement fails to even reach the shabby level of bourgeois democracy. On every occasion that the turnout, in such ballots, fails to reach 50%, we should feel deeply ashamed that we have failed to so enthuse workers even to vote, let alone to take an active role in voting to take action. Marx said that our task was to win the battle of democracy, by which he meant to win over the vast majority of workers to the idea of Socialism, understood as their self-activity and self government. For so long as we cannot even persuade a reasonable number of workers to even bother to vote in their Trade Unions, we have no possibility of achieving that end. That is why this is an important question for us. At the same time as opposing any intervention of the bosses State in our affairs, we also have to ask ourselves why we are unable to enthuse workers even to that most basic level of self-activity.
Once we have the answer to that question, and act upon it, then that is the day that the Tories really have to worry. The day that the majority of workers DO begin to take an active role in the organisations of the Labour Movement, do begin to recognise the need, and the possibility, of regaining control over their own lives, of exercising that self-government that Marx and the First International spoke of, that is the day that the death-knell of the Tories and the system they defend will have sounded.