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Thursday, 31 March 2011
The well attended event at Unite’s London HQ was organised by the National Pensioners’ Education and Welfare Centre and chaired by former UNISON General Secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe.
Len said that it was an incredible privilege to be giving the inaugural lecture in honour of Jack, ‘who was an icon in my union and who gave inspiration to millions of working people.’
He added that Saturday’s anti cuts demonstration would have made Jack proud. It was an indication of the latent power of the labour movement. In 2008 “the role of the state collapsed before private greed. It was wrong to place all eggs in the financial services basket with no role for manufacturing and industrial growth.”
Len pointed out that in Jack’s time the trade union movement had been twice the current size and there had been a political consensus in support for full employment. On the other hand we suffered a major defeat at Grunwick as well as the embrace of monetarism, pay restraint and cuts in services under a Labour Government.
Jack had taught us to embrace change and today we need to adopt a modern approach that learns from the failure of new Labour without imagining Old Labour can be recreated. The key question is for unions to relate to the wider community. Jack exemplified that there is a life beyond the union card’.
Len condemned the media demonization of UK Uncut since the weekend’s demonstration. He rounded off an excellent lecture by saying that “the capitalist economic crisis is holding the country by the throat. The attack on public services and the welfare state is a brazen and brutal exercise in class power by the rich and powerful.”