The fall, rise and rise again of Barbara Castle’s 1969 white paper ‘in place of strife’(IPS)
Everyone has been in that situation: You’re sitting at the bar, five drinks in and suddenly the topic of conversation changes to the unions. The right-winger in your group says that in smashing up the miners, Thatcher did a hard but necessary task, the left-winger talks about Tube drivers being the last bastion of the well-paid working class worker and the Centrist... well the centrist has a faraway look tinged with sadness. “If only we had implemented In Place of Strife (IPS)…”
The Labour Party leadership contest, in addition to enabling debate on different policies, provided a valuable opportunity for members to reflect on the party's ideological core. The radically different visions offered by each candidate paid tribute to the many different readings afforded by Labour’s ‘democratic socialism’. Now is an apt time to re-evaluate an important but oft-overlooked interpretation – one which stresses the ‘democratic’ in democratic socialism’s – which can offer much use if applied within the context of the workplace. If taken to its ideational conclusion, its adoption would herald a profoundly positive shift in the relationship between labour and Labour.
The Labour Party was founded to provide Parliamentary representation for the trade union movement. Socialist societies, including our own [Fabians], provided the other foundational pillars. For as long as these core links to the labour movement remain intact, Labour remains a worker's party. Despite this, the contemporary Labour Party suffers a tendency of courting a liberal meta-narrative that seeks to de-legitimise the foundational remit of the labour struggle. Bombarded by the media and opposition parties with the message that trade-unionism is dead, out of touch and out of date, the public are often left without access to an alternative discourse. This in turn destroys the incentive of workers to rally behind the only party that institutionally represents their interests.
From the Archive
With numbers of trade union members plummeting, Usdaw the trade union for shop workers, is managing to buck the trend.
Anticipations editor, Ellie Groves talks to the General Secretary of Usdaw, John Hannett, finding out his big secret behind this success and what he thinks an ideal relationship between the trade unions and the Labour Party would look like.
In the 1970s, American Sociologist Mark Granovetter posited a theory of social action based on what he called ‘weak ties’. Granovetter argued that the strength of community and social movements comes from the amount of interaction they have with each other. He used the example of two American neighbourhoods, one white working-class (WWC) and one Italian, who were trying to resist redevelopment of their area. He observed that in the WWC neighbourhood, everyone worked in the same factories, drank in the same pubs, attended the same events etc. In contrast, the Italian neighbourhood was based primarily on strong familial relationships, with little interaction between families. In the end, the WWC neighbourhood were able to form a strong community resistance based upon the pre-existing ties between workers and friends and succeeded in protecting their area. In contrast, the Italians were never able to agree on who should be leaders of the movement and could not organise, and they lost their fight.
One of the principal reasons for the success of the C4 series Undercover Boss was the emotional punch packed by seeing wealthy individuals recognise the hard work and commitment of their employees. Often alien to the shop floor themselves, they went back to the boardroom with new compassion for their frontline staff.
It is great to be here tonight to talk about our party, where we are, where we could be going and what that might mean.
The past couple of months have been fairly eventful for all of us in the Labour party and the movement more broadly.
I think all of us here, we are a room full of Fabians after all, will have done some hard thinking about where we went wrong and where should be going.
The EU debate throws up emotive arguments – it is something that seems to affect us all. From holidays in Spain to the French cheese selection in the supermarket, we all come into contact with the UKs membership of the European Union someway or other. I have to confess that I am entering this discussion with a belief that generally referendums are a bad idea; we elect our politicians to represent us, and for something as important as our membership of the EU we should have research to back up the outcome not just emotion. But the reality is, for better or for worse, we have a referendum promised to us, and at an as yet undisclosed date we will be walking to our polling stations and voting to stay In or to Leave the EU.
Election campaigns are a means to an end, and a pretty clear end at that: winning political office. Yes, while it is true that some can flower into “movements” or “causes”, and become greater than the party or individual they are built to promote, when the dust settles on election day this is the only true measure of a campaign’s success.
“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” This perceptive quote from the final scene of The Dark Knight aptly describes the challenge currently facing the Labour leadership. Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory on September 12 afforded him hero status in the eyes of his many disciples and an aura of infallibility that has so far proved impervious to reason.
In 1971 Norway legislated for the rights of employees to demand representation on company boards. This was the result of a debate dating back to before the First World War, about the right of employees to participate in the governance of companies. Among other things, concerns were raised with regards to lack of knowledge on the part of the employee representatives, but now the arrangement is uncontroversial.