A Proletarian Response to Trade Union Manoeuvres

CWO introduction

The bosses ’ press have been full of propaganda about a “summer of discontent”. Without a doubt workers have plenty to be discontented about with the list growing longer every day. As yet the majority of workers who have taken action have done so under the control and manipulation of the same Trade Unions who have helped manage years of attacks on their members’ living standards.

On July 17th the three main Trade Unions covering Local Council workers tried to defuse the simmering anger of hundreds of thousands of workers with a day’s strike. (1)

In many towns and cities rallies were held with self-congratulating “Labour Movement” worthies making the two related points that :

  1. They were still able to manipulate whole layers of the working-class including some of those who are amongst the lowest-paid in legal employment
  2. They are still able and willing to provide a “left-wing” opposition within the bosses’ system - a valuable tool for diverting workers anger into safe channels.

The re-emergence of the Trade Unions with their new left-wing leaders coincides with a re-emergence of their political equivalents in the Socialist Alliance and the newly resurrected Labour left. These forces are positioning themselves to benefit from the increasing numbers who are questioning the increasingly obvious attacks on the working-class. The growth of those forces is no step forward for those looking to a real class-based resistance.

The purpose of those left-wing formations is to ensure that workers are diverted into bogus activities, controlled by the establishment, on a programme based on capitalist solutions to capitalism’s problems. Workers are divided by the Unions, by employment, employer, nature of work and geography. Where they are brought together by Union-controlled activities it is strictly under union control. The unions make sure that workers meekly return to their workplaces the following day with the Unions playing out their role in keeping day-to-day control. The actions of the Unions and the left-wing politicians can only serve to stifle any moves to a collective working-class class-consciousness. The maturing of that consciousness inevitably means leaping past the Union divisions.

The Union charades are only a part of the ruling class’s task in supporting and strengthening the capitalist left. They also sustain popular-front type campaigns around any issues which may otherwise allow for a class-based resistance to emerge. Over the last twelve months this has been seen noticeably in the “Stop the War Coalition” (STWC) and the more recent eforts to whip up support for Palestinian and Iraqi nationalism. In these campaigns the puppet-masters, particularly the Socialist Workers Party and their hangers-on, play a key role in dragging their supporters into a mish-mash with other liberals, pacifists, supporters of national liberation. The resultant movement is, and only can be, a force to misdirect activists into support for one or other bourgeois (ruling-class) faction.

In contrast to the SWTC’s reactionary lash-up the CWO has worked with others to expand the network of those prepared to assemble under the banner of “No War But the Class War” (NWBCW). We encouraged the Shefield NWBCW group to intervene around the Council strike on 17th July. As part of their intervention they produced a leaflet which was distributed in Shefield, presented to an NWBCW event on the preceding Saturday and also circulated more widely via the Internet.

The CWO does not pretend that the leaflet is identical to one which we would have issued in our own name. In particular, we would have wished to explore strategies for taking class-resistance beyond the controls of the Trade Unions. As part of that the CWO also wishes to re-assert the necessity of building a revolutionary organisation to bring together the most advanced class militants and start laying the basis for a future world party of Internationalists.

Nevertheless we believe that the statement from the Shefield NWBCW is part of an important efort to regroup a class resistance to bourgeois attacks, both their war-drive and austerity plans.

The CWO will continue to whole-heartedly support such initiatives and the expansion of the NWBCW network.

(1) See “Public sector strikes - a summer of discontent” in this edition.

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