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GOUTI RUNNIN’ by Gerry Kangalee

posted 6 Jul 2013, 21:29 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 6 Jul 2013, 21:38 ]

The demonstration of July 5th 2013 called by the Joint Trade Union Movement witnessed the takeover of the mass movement by the People’s National Movement (PNM) or rather the handover of the leadership of the mass movement to the leadership of the PNM. 
The PNM outnumbered the forces of labour five to one. They showed that they understand what it takes to mobilise their aging but committed members. They smell UNC blood in the water and they are moving in from all sides to participate in the feeding frenzy. This is to be expected. PNM is an election outfit. 

The strategic objective of their leadership is to get into office by any means necessary, including mamaguying trade union leaders and riding on the backs of organised labour. Their goal is not to implement the Workers Agenda; it is to get back their hands on the trough stuffed with public funds. 
These funds are being well and truly devoured by the UNC to the chagrin of those who consider themselves the natural party of corruption and plunder. After all, they created the crony capitalist system and it was quite a shock when they realised that PNMism could get along fine without PNM. 

Nothing said here about PNM is particularly earth-shattering. They are what they are. You can’t expect a vampire to eat rice. It is not in its nature. 
The mobilisation of the forces of Labour was, quite frankly, poor. Instead of going into the workplaces, engaging with the workers and convincing them of the need to come out and participate in the demonstration, the leaders preferred to hand out flyers on the high streets and junctions. While this certainly kept them in the limelight, it did not facilitate the two way feedback that is necessary when engaging with the rank and file. 
So, once again, the burden fell on the shoulders of the branch officers, shop stewards and activists who ever since the mobilisations against the five percent wage cap have been tramping the streets of T&T over and over again with less and less enthusiasm. 

It makes no sense overplaying your hand when it comes to deploying your forces to achieve particular objectives. The deployment of numbers acting collectively must be utilised in a judicious manner. Its power must not be frittered away every Monday morning as the spirit moves the leadership. 

The leaders of the JTUM are, to put it euphemistically, in a bit of a bind. They believe or pretend to believe that their personal political ambitions and interests are one and the same with the interests of the working class and still burdened by a discredited Stalinist style of work they are surprised and dismayed that their membership, and more so the mass of the unorganised working class do not see it that way. 

So here we are, once again, trade union leaders eschewing the hard work of democratising their organisations and building the mass movement brick by brick. They favour the line of least resistance: attaching themselves to whatever crony capitalist party representing the interests of a tiny minority they believe has the better chance of winning electoral office. They keep on fooling themselves into believing that a seat in our Mickey Mouse Parliament is tantamount to having power. 
On 1st October 2011, there was a Conference of Shop Stewards and Branch Officers (COSSABO) at Paramount Building, OWTU headquarters. This was during the State of Emergency. This was when the MSJ was still holding on for dear life as part of the People’s Partnership, although the PP had made an about turn on its minimum wage position; pursued a policy of suppressing workers’ wages; dragged its feet on ratifying ILO Convention 189 on decent work for domestic workers; announced a policy of privatisation; made no move to repeal or amend oppressive labour laws and imposed a state of emergency. 

The strategy of the labour leaders who jumped into bed with the employers in the People’s Partnership in a futile bid to influence them into adopting more “labour-friendly” policies had, predictably, crashed and burned. The pressure from their membership was building on them to abandon their failed tactic/opportunist position (take your pick). 

At that COSSABO, the National Workers Union presented proposals, most of which were ignored. One of the proposals stated “We propose for the consideration of the COSSABO that labour representatives be withdrawn from all government boards and committees, including state enterprise boards. This step would signal to the government that the JTUM is serious about defeating their policy of wage suppression. We cannot have our cake and eat it too. We cannot be gouti and hound dog at the same time.” 

I was assigned to present the proposals on behalf of the NWU and the Chair of the COSSABO chided me by saying words to the effect that the NWU should be careful that we were not making track for PNM gouti to run! Isn’t that the Mother of all ironies? They themselves have cleared the way and the PNM gouti is off and running! 

The NWU from the beginning characterised the People’s Partnership as a neo-liberal government opposed to the interests of the working class and we had to bear the brunt of ridicule from our comrades who were sleeping with the enemy. 

Our position on the PNM is quite clear. Those two parties are mirror images of each other in terms of class position, policies and programmes. We are saying loud and clear those labour leaders who made love in a UNC bed and just as easily are preparing to make love in a PNM bed better re-examine what class interests they are promoting and what policies and programmes they stand for. In a phrase they better pinch themselves!
I may be taken to task for making this critique public, but while we demand transparency and accountability from others, isn't it time we start to practice it ourselves?