Saturday, 15 October 2011

To strike or not to strike?

There is much talk at the moment about the possibility of industrial action against cuts to public sector pensions. Public sector trade unions are balloting their members over whether or not to take strike action.
I believe that all workers have the right to withdraw their labour at any time they choose, and I oppose the oppressive anti-union legislation currently in force in this country which places restrictions on this right. However, I believe that strike action is rarely in the best interests of workers. Whether in the private or the public sector, it is almost always the case that the employer is in a far stronger position than the workers when it comes to the war of attrition that a strike entails. In other words, the employer can usually survive for longer without new profit being generated than the workers can survive without pay. Even in the case of a general strike, in a sense the workers are cutting off their nose to spite their collective face. Why should workers allow themselves to be forced into a position where they cease to produce the very goods and services that they depend on for their own wellbeing, either directly or through their pay?
In my own area of employment, the NHS, the public sector workers' union, UNISON, is balloting its members over whether to take part in a one day strike next month. Unfortunately, being very familiar with the culture of the NHS, I am fairly sure that most of the strikers will, when they return to work the next day, work twice as hard as usual in order to catch up on the work they weren't able to do the previous day. In the end, productivity will not have suffered and the Department of Health will have saved itself a day's pay for several hundred thousand health workers.
If industrial action is to be taken then, before the drastic step of strike action, a work-to-rule or go-slow might prove effective in some cases; it would damage productivity while allowing workers to continue drawing pay, which would not only be less harmful to the workers but would also allow for a more protracted campaign.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Conservative Socialism

Socialists usually see themselves as progressives, helping to drive society forward, away from the outmoded social forms of the past towards a more rational, scientifically based future.
A (small c) conservative socialism (as conceived by me!) would be about recognising that socialism can be a force for holding on to what is worth preserving in a world where rampant capitalism is rapidly destroying traditional values and social stuctures and riding roughshod over local economies as well as causing enormous environmental damage.

What makes conservative socialism conservative?
- In the field of economics, a conservative socialism would recognise that competition and market forces are very efficient tools for stimulating innovation and allocating productive resources. While the basic necessities for living would, under a conservative socialism, be provided through democratic planning, free enterprise would still have an important role to play in the economy.
- A conservative socialism would be opposed to 'social engineering'. Governments should not attempt to change human nature or to control the way people think.
- A conservative socialism would not share the thoroughly materialistic outlook of traditional Marxism but would be comfortable with the idea of a religious or spiritual dimension to life.
- While acknowledging the importance of solidarity between working class people (indeed, all people) internationally, a conservative socialism would recognise the importance of nations as the most appropriate basis for democratic governtment (based not on race or common place of origin but on shared residence in a particular country and shared loyalty to that country's civic institutions).
What makes conservative socialism socialist?
- One of the most important tenets of a conservative socialism would be that everyone has the right to access the means of making a decent living. This does not just mean that everyone has the right to a basic income, but also that everyone has the right to dignified work. The essentials of living (food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, education, security from crime or invasion) should, as far as possible, be produced at the most local level possible, under democratic control, and everyone should have the right not only to be provided with these essentials, but, if they so wish, to take part in the actual process of producing them. There would, in fact, be no unemployment under a conservative socialism.

I have transcribed the comments from my old blog, below:


MrKa22 April 2012 06:55
I really like this, we can say: "Socially conservative economicaly socialist"

Brice Baumgardner11 November 2012 04:12
I like this as well. Needs more of a following. I linked here from /r/socialdemocracy. Was not disappointed.

Abram200024 June 2013 at 15:46
I agree to some extend. My own personal ideology is part conservative, part liberal and part socialist. I am wondering why though you are opposed to 'social engineering' since in practice all laws and politics is about changing and directing collective human behaviour. You need to explain to me why you think previous attempts failed (I suspect you are thinking of Soviet Marxism-Leninism and the New Left of the post-60s Western world)and what exactly do you mean by human nature?