From International Socialism, No.57, April 1973, p.1.
Transcribed & marked up by by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The government has weathered the storm – for the time being. It has done so by courtesy of the TUC. We wrote last month ‘the TUC will not effectively organise solidarity, no matter how radical some of the speakers at Congress may be’ and the prediction was all too rapidly confirmed. True, Trades Councils have been asked to organise meetings in support of the hospital workers and ‘statements of support’ may be issued in some cases. Meanwhile the strike movement is petering out and the Phase Two freeze law becomes operative from the first of the month. Heath has good grounds for self congratulation.
In only one case – the gasmen – has an increase in excess of the Phase Two norm been extracted. The leaderships of the civil servants and the teachers are running for the cover provided by the ‘illegality’ of actions after the end of March and, in the former case, the lack of financial solidarity from other unions. The partial actions at Fords are clearly declining, the locomotive men look like settling. The miners’ ballot may change the picture but at the time of writing only the health service workers, handicapped by a compromising leadership, a lack of industrial damage potential and – it must be admitted – exceptionally difficult tactical problems, are still showing fight.
The magnificent effort put up by these workers, a section with a history of poor organisation, abysmal pay and conditions, no tradition of militancy and the successful exploitation by management of their obligation to the health service, is beyond all expectations. Victor Feather and his colleagues are, in the strictest sense of the term, selling out these workers. Nor is the conduct of the ‘left’ leaders any different. Hugh Scanlon said that their defeat ‘would mean the end of trade unionism as we know it’. Neither he nor Jones nor Briginshaw nor Daly have taken any practical step to prevent such a defeat.
The ‘national day of protest and stoppage of work’ against the Phase Two freeze was always a less important proposition than concrete solidarity action. It could have real importance as part of a campaign of solidarity with actual struggles against the freeze but, of course, nothing is further from the minds of the TUC leaders. The recommendations of the Finance and General Purposes Committee amount to outright sabotage of the Special Congress decisions. By the first of May the present struggles will be over – or so the leaderships devoutly hope. The ‘monster demonstration’ on the previous Sunday is a direct invitation to ignore the May Day strike call and that call itself – for one hour stoppages upwards – is made in such a way as to generate the least possible enthusiasm. The right wing will ignore it wherever possible and the ‘lefts’ will merely go through the motions.
In spite of this a massive stoppage is entirely possible and must be worked for. The government and right wing must be given a slap in the face. But the thing has to be seen in proportion. The Communist Party and the leaders of the Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade Unions will try to direct the whole struggle into this protest action. They will do so to divert attention from the basic task of developing local Liaison Committees, local Action Committees rooted in the workplaces. These remain the key to effective solidarity. The CP obstructs this development precisely because their growth on any scale means sharp clashes, not merely with the right wing, but also with those ‘left’ leaders on whom the party stakes its hopes for increased influence and favours.
The government’s successes will be temporary. In spite of the economic revival, the underlying position of British capitalism remains precarious. The policy objectives of continued economic expansion, maintaining the balance of payments and seriously curbing inflation are incompatible with one another. Barber’s ‘neutral’ budget indicates that the government itself sees no clear way forward. On the one hand its advisers are suggesting that without increased consumption the boom will falter and die. In spite of claims to the contrary there is no hard evidence of any big revival in industrial investment. And to the degree that Phase Two is effective it will cut consumption. For one economic prediction can be made with complete confidence. Prices are going to go on rising at a greater rate than the wage adjustments permitted by the Phase Two norms. In the first two months of this year, wholesale prices rose by 15 per cent and world price trends continue sharply upwards. Government success now will be bought at the price of building up a tremendous head of steam later in the year.
Last updated on 15.2.2008