Friday, March 9, 2012

Should the Unions become apolitical?

There was a time when the Unions and the Labour party were hand in hand but those days seem to be quickly disappearing, especially in Scotland. Could the time be close when the Unions have to seriously think about breaking its ties with the Labour party and forging its own future? After all, the Trade Union political activists of the 1800s were first sponsored by the Liberal party to stand for seats. The Labour party sprang from the political needs of the Unions at the time and managed, in its early days, to further the causes of the working classes and instigate institutions in the UK that fundamentally changed the conditions in the way that working class people were forced to work. As the working classes became more affluent the Labour party had to shift its political policies slightly to the right to keep in step with their core voters. In doing so they abandoned the other working classes to the scrapheap who, through no fault of their own, were now non-working classes. There are whole generations of families who have never seen work and, if current policies continue, never will see work. They are ignored by the Unions because they pay no Union dues, ignored by the government because they don't care, as long as they don't riot, and ignored by the Labour party because their votes are more or less guaranteed, in England and Wales.
So, the Unions have no political, moral conscience when it comes to the long term unemployed which, even though contrary to their initial ideas of socialism for the masses, in reality, is not their concern. Their concern should be for the members of their respective Unions. However, in the past, we have seen horrendous situations were the Union leaders were taking undemocratic steps to follow a purely political agenda at the expense of their members' wishes and needs. It would have to be stressed that at that time the Unions, and the Labour party, were deeply infested with 5th columnists from the old USSR whose ultimate agenda was world domination by destroying the capitalist system from within. The question that needs to be asked is: "Do the Unions need the Labour party or the Labour party need the Unions?". I think the later is the correct of the two because the Unions are the paymasters.
The old needs for the Unions have gone as their political off-shoot, the Labour party, managed to achieve a fair number of their goals. So what should be the role of the Unions now? Evidently their primary function is to look after the needs of their members. Their members no longer need to fight for free education, free NHS, free school meals for poor children. Those battles have been won. There is a wider view of Unions that should be explored with regards to the EU. Too many countries are welcoming immigrants with one hand and on the other moaning to their own citizens about their inability to do anything about it because of EU rules. Decide for yourself which countries in the EU do this. The answer, but not just now, is to have EU wide Unions that can level the pay for tradesmen all over the EU. If a member country goes through a financially difficult period then their trades people can travel to any other part of the EU knowing that they will receive the same wages as their mother country. These are the things that the Unions should be heading to. They should also get out of this mind-set that there is a them and us attitude. Fair enough, the same could be said for the management side. If the company they work for shuts down then everyone loses. It should be incumbent upon Unions to help the company to survive and flourish; not try and grab everything it can.
So, can the Unions politically afford to dump the labour party and move on? I believe they can. The idea that a Union 's only concern is for the welfare of its members within a wider capitalist structure is fundamental to their current aims and, in some cases, survival. The Unions have had too bad a press in recent years and doesn't seem to be able to get over to its potential members the benefits that a Union can give them. There are many, many people who are in the Unions but do not support the Labour party. The Unions will have to, eventually, realise this and change their allegiance back to their membership by dumping the Labour party and forging new links with all who would support their aims.
But I'm not holding my breath for that one. The Unions are a good idea but the way in which they are being run is far too political. Released from it political obligations then I can see the Unions returning to their original function whichwas to look after their members wishes and needs.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The trouble with English education

It's the same all over the world

I was sitting at home with my partner (she works as an EAL teacher at a primary school in an underprivileged area of London) and we were having our usual slagging off of the education system in London while collectively reminiscing about how much better it was in the old days; mine in Dundee and hers in the USSR. I had always known that the English education system was bad. My daughter started school in a primary school in London. I was missing my home town so we moved up to Dundee and when I put her into her new class in Dundee we were surprised to be told by her teacher that she was way behind the other pupils. She quickly caught up but we had to leave Dundee to go to Liverpool as my wife's mother wasn't too well. When we put her into the new primary school in Liverpool we were surprised to learn that she was way ahead of the other kids. She soon slowed down to their level. So, when my partner was telling me some of the things that go on in the school it only added to my suspicions that the English education system is in trouble.
What did surprise me was the amount of physically and mentally disabled children that are in the school. I may be old fashioned in my thinking but those children, for whatever reason, who found it hard to keep up were removed from mainstream schooling and placed in 'special schools'. I know what you are saying about the 'special schools' and I would agree with you on the standard of schooling those types of schools used to provide in the past. That is a fault of the system and not a fault of the idea.
It is stupid to waste precious resources on one to one tuition of severely disabled children in mainstream schools. Not only are those children a disruption to the normal running of a classroom but the, so called, one to one tuition is a TA (teacher's assistant) who never has the time to spend on a one to one situation with the disabled child because she has to help the teacher keep control of a unruly classroom. The object of the education system is to educate the masses up to a standard that is suitable for them to function in our society. Here, in England, they are failing in this basic task in more and more areas and, instead of addressing the real problems the politicians are frightened to tackle this issue head on because of the liberal wishy-washy attitude amongst the English middle classes who have never experienced the real social stigma and rejection of having to go through those types of underprivileged education.
The real bust up of the education system happened way back in the 1960s when the Comprehensive system came into being. There was this wonderful socialist idea that everyone should have the same education. (Strange how some of the leading government Labour ministers, at that time, still sent THEIR children to private schools) Before that the education system was split into two. You had the secondary schools for those whose job it would be to serve in shops and sweep the streets or even work in factories. The academies were for the children of the aspiring working class, and lower middle class who couldn't afford private education for their children, which gave their children a chance to get on the ladder because they were better educated and civilly trained than the great unwashed. The system then was a good system. What turned it rotten was the greed of the middle classes who could have afforded to send their children to private schools but chose to take up those places designed for the upper working classes. Employers would know that if you went to an academy then your standard of education was good and you had shown the ability that, when the need arose, you were able to stick your nose to the grindstone. The idea of encouraging the more intelligent children to advance their education was a sound idea, it was the corruption of people that made it rotten.
This all relates back to the original current concept of integrating disabled children in mainstream education. It is morally degenerate to sacrifice the lives of aspiring children because the English middle classes think that it is a good idea to put disabled children in with non-disabled children. The concept is wonderful but in practise it is destroying the education of our young. Add to that another factor and the reasons why the English education system is in such a mess, in certain areas, becomes more apparent. In the 1950s the UK was in severe shortage of working men and sent out envoys into the old empire to recruit men from the colonies to fill those gaps. The fact that during the war women were more than capable of doing those tasks in the middle of a blitz, but, somehow, were incapable of doing so in peacetime. More likely the government thought, as they still do, that bringing in cheap labour from abroad will keep the wages down of the great unwashed who had the decency to die during two bloody world wars. But that's another story.
So, along came those hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the colonies who were picked because they were fit and could speak English. All fine and good, but they started to bring over their families and parents etc. who weren't as educated or knew English as good as the original immigrants. This fact started to put a strain on the education system as the local authorities would have to employ extra staff to deal with the lack of English amongst the newer arrivals. The situation suddenly got worse when the east Europeans flooded over to the UK, the vast majority to work, as their children would also need special help to integrate in an English school. Just finding out the age of a child and then sticking them in the class of the same age group just will not work if they cannot speak or understand English. I dare any of you to go onto a Russian news site and listen to what they are saying in Russian, with no English subtitles, and see how you get on. You would soon tire of listening to some foreign language that you don't understand. The same applies to these children. Their own boredom will add to the disruption of the classes.
When all of this is taken into account it is no wonder that some schools in England are failing. They are failing because the criteria which decides if they are failing or not does not take into account certain schools which have severe difficulty due to the dumping of refugees into their catchment area.
Areas like those were a blot on the landscape of the political elite, regardless of the colour of their rosette. No one wanted to address the real issues of educating our young as political ideology held sway among the political masses. It was far better if the political elite covered their own backsides and loaded down the teachers with a huge pile of endless and totally worthless paperwork thereby not giving them the time to express what they know is wrong with the system. The English education system, at its heart, is corrupt and due for an overhaul. 

Also @ Scottish Commune????