Solidarity and the Sparks

The following brief comment on the electricians’ strikes appeared in Aurora 22. It cannot do full justice to the topic in this brief space but we will follow it with a longer analysis in Revolutionary Perspectives 59 ( which is due out in early November. CWO

In the run up to the strike ballots on pensions by public sector workers the press have tried to divide public and private sector (or “productive”) workers. Private employers have spent the last twenty years plundering the pension pots of their workers so they think it is time for the state to do the same. So they run stories about how “privileged” some of the lowest paid workers in Britain will be if they get a miserly pension. This is divide and rule and an attempt to undermine a collective fightback against the cuts. In fact the private employers take their lead from the state. Wages, and working conditions are under attack.

Look at the electricians’ strikes. These are the result of the 8 leading companies in construction cutting their wages from £16 to £10.50 an hour by withdrawing from the Joint Industries Board (JIB). If the sparks don’t sign up by 7 December they are sacked. They quickly discovered that their union Unite intended to do nothing just as its predecessor had done nothing in 1999. Their response was to organise themselves. One worker (not a steward or official) posted in August on

"Now this is gonna affect EVERYONE whether your a cardie or subbie. The union has decided not to support us due to lack of members. NOW is the time for action because 6 months down the line we're all going to be on £10.50 an hour or have no job. This goes for all other trades as well countrywide ... the only option we have at our disposal is our right to STRIKE."

A meeting at Conway Hall on 13 August led to the formation of the Unite Construction Rank and File Group. The meeting heard that at Westfield 8000 workers have been represented by one “appointed stooge” convenor and that the first thing they needed was “union democracy”. It then elected its own strike committee whilst calling on Unite to hold a ballot on striking alongside the public sector workers on 30 November. In did not wait for that. Rank and file action started in London and has spread to Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh so far. The sparks have been holding mass rallies at construction sites and using tactics such as blockades, traffic disruption, walkouts and flash site occupations. Not only has this forced Unite to support some of the action but has led to one of the construction firms withdrawing its attack.

The lesson is clear united action organised by workers themselves are far more effective than ritual one day union stoppages. Many sparks still have illusions in their union but in practice what they are showing is that we don’t need bloated bureaucracies. We need fighting organisations run by the workers themselves. Across every sector we need to take control of our own struggles. We need mass meetings which elect and control recallable strike delegates. We need to unite our struggles and ultimately we need to recognise that we are at a “them and us” situation. Either they force us to our knees or we set our sights on a better way of organising the world.


Like this very much and All power to the Sparks. Like the fighting talk about the "them and us" situation. We will not be forced to our knees, because we are taking action. I doubt"they" would be happy to live on £10.50

an hour, especially if they had to work for it. I'm all for mass rallies, blockades, walkouts and site occupations. Specially mass rallies, where we can all talk about the shitty mess called capitalism, and how to respond best, and how in the end we will just have to get rid of it. It's a failure! We can arrange something better. Wait and

watch us.

Agree with Charlie about the report and the positive response from the rest of the sparks. Just shows that workers can take action which need not be sanctioned by the union and the power lies in workers power to withdraw our labour. Without us nothing would work.

It also seems to me that we need to be reaching out to other workers regarding the actions workers are taking in an attempt to build class solidarity which has been so badly damaged during the past thirty years. We also need to be able to win workers to a Communist programme with it's aim of overthrowing the capitalist state as the first step in building a global communist society free from exploitation and oppression.

Dave is right in pointing out how the solidarity of the class has been damaged. Our rulers, and their media never miss an opportunity to do damage. Their right wing sniveller Adam Boulton, on Sky tv, is good at this. Recently, interviewing some trades union guy, he suggested that "it wasn't fair" (curious how the bourgeoisie longs for fairness among workers, but nowhere else!) it's not fair, he slithers, that public workers get a bigger pension than those in the private sector. Quite right, replies the union guy, the private sector should be raised to the same level as the public workers! A smart answer for a union hack. Boulton was disconcerted. The pension in question would of course be a pitiful sum in both cases, so the union hack wouldn't be depriving the bourgeoisie of much.

But don't the media make you sick with their constant whining on about what's "fair" and what's not, and how we're "all in this together" and we've all got to "tighten our belts". Soon we'll be so starved that belt tightening will become life threatening. What we need is to tighten belts round the necks of the bourgeoisie, and the sooner the better They and their screw you system are well past their sell-by date. As Dave says we must win workers to the communist program, and overthrow the capitalist state. Once enough workers see this, surely it won't be so difficult? The relief of realizing that we don't have to live with this idiotic childish system of exploitation, and all the war, lies, hypocrisy, and just effort that goes into it's daily maintenance ( and for what purpose, other than further idiocy?) will give us the solidarity we need to boot it out for ever.

Aurora (en)

Aurora is the broadsheet of the ICT for the interventions amongst the working class. It is published and distributed in several countries and languages. So far it has been distributed in UK, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Colombia.