Friday, January 21, 2005

(Concillatory) Thought for Today

The left wing of the trade union traditionally supported the formation of "general unions" (one's that incorporate workers across different industries and differently skilled workers) as a sort of institutionalisation of class consciousness that transcended the older craft unions, which had their origins in the medieval guilds.

However, economic history often told a different story: far from representing a weakness in organised labour, that a plethora of unions could survive was often a sign of their relative strength and has been a feature of labour history when the economy has been buoyant and skills bottlenecks have increased the bargaining power of workers. And the amalgamation of unions - although not without obvious benefits - has tended to occur when they are weaker, due to stagnant growth and higher unemployment.

Very imperfect analogy of course (historical ones always are) but could it not be argued contra-Hitchens and Cohen that, far from representing its demise, the fact that the left feels it can afford the luxury of dividing itself into pro-war and anti-war factions is a sign that it might not be so weak after all?

Just a thought...

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