The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) has long had a reputation as a right wing force in the labour movement, a bulwark of the right inside the Labour Party and a voice for “moderation” inside the TUC, where it champions the utility of cosy “partnership” deals with employers and avoids even the occasional language of confrontation.
Close to Tony Blair throughout the New Labour era, the union nominated Andy Burnham in the 2015 Labour leadership election and, learning nothing, backed the hapless Owen Smith in the 2016 attempt to depose Jeremy Corbyn.
Much has been written about how globalisation has rendered workers powerless. American socialist Kim Moody’s important new book on the restructuring of capital in the past four decades argues that the working class, far from disappearing, has renewed potential power, writes Mark L Thomas.
The defeats suffered by the working class movement from the late 1970s onwards created a new common sense that saw the increased internationalisation of the world economy as having fragmented and dissolved the working class. It might still show up in statistics but its collective power had been undermined, perhaps fatally.