mixed reactions to cwu-royal mail deal

13 11 2009

Interview with a communist post worker

postvan

How strong was the national post strike?

At a national level I would say the strike was very strong. It is hard to say the whole picture from the one location where I work, but judging by Royal Mail Chat [a web forum] — even if the people on there are more militant than average — there were no signs that it was losing momentum. In London there was perhaps a certain tiredness after eighteen weeks of strike action but not such that it was close to exhaustion. At no time did the union claim that they were calling off the action because they were losing people – Royal Mail management claimed that 25% of people were not on strike, but those were fiddled figures given that in that number they included managers and people on holiday, rest day or sick…

Do you think it would have been possible to mobilise people for more ongoing strikes?

In London we had a long series of one-day strikes, and in the ballot the union never raised the question of an overtime ban. People working overtime did in a sense weaken the effectiveness of the strike, but also it allowed less strong people to make up for losing a day. Certainly, however, I found agreement from others when I suggested that one day a week was not enough to defeat management, and indeed there is the question of what people had already invested in the strike: the amount of days’ pay they lost over the course of the dispute meant that they needed to get something worthwhile from it.

Indeed, towards the end of the dispute the union planned to have two days effectively in a row on strike — a Friday and then the following Monday — which did represent some level of escalation. But that was never put to the test.

What were the motivations behind the deal?

There has been a lot of talk of ‘betrayal’ and ‘sell-out’, but if you look at what the union said it wanted to do, it was always to accept modernisation but to negotiate the terms. In the union’s own “realistic” perspectives, the main objective was to get back to negotiation, and they will be happy to do so. Of course, although we were indeed told that that was what we were striking for, that’s not what people really thought it was about: when you’re on strike you naturally want to gain something from it.

The London Divisional reps are perhaps not so happy with what the national strike has done for us, and that is one of the reasons behind the measure in the deal allowing for a review, every two weeks, of the postponement of the strike, dependent on the good faith of Royal Mail in negotiations and them not bossing people about too much at work. London reps might have been unhappy with the deal otherwise, and indeed the interim deal was not released to them in advance, only the section referring to the review. When we went back to work on the Friday that was the one thing they could tell us – they said whatever we’d seen in the media the strike was not over and the ballot is still live.

However I would be sceptical of there being any further  strikes before Christmas, management will seek to avoid too much provocation and it would be a big loss of face for Dave Ward [CWU deputy general secretary] to announce a deal then take us out on strike again. I think the review element is to make themselves feel better about it, but the deal looks bad because Royal Mail were not defeated: right until the end they were very aggressive, calling on us to scab and publishing an open letter claiming the union couldn’t say what the strike was about. That reflected the reality that it was vague, on the terrain of ‘what kind of modernisation?’ rather than standing up for members’ terms and conditions.

Could it be said that the deal is a success in that the union has gained a stay of execution from a management determined to break it?

That’s a hard one to tell. The union often portrayed this strike as management out to force the union out of the workplace rather than just forcing it to accept different terms and conditions, and they wanted to preserve the requirement that management should have to discuss any changes with the union. There’s two ways to look at it: this could be sold as a compromise, even if management might have got all they wanted to get anyway, but in a certain sense the union has succeeded. It remains to be seen what comes from the talks.

How do you perceive workers’ level of satisfaction with the deal, and what is the likely consequence of that?

There is a great deal of dissatisfaction, expressed on Royal Mail Chat and the office where I work, but the real question is whether this is just anger or whether anything will come of it. As I say, negotiations are what the union had said they were fighting for, and there does not seem to be any push from the lower levels of the union itself, nor the union at local level, to continue with unofficial actions. The advantage for the leadership is that they can get reports in from across the country and gauge the level of support for continuing action — we cannot be sure how they use that information, but given they have that kind of overview it would be quite a daring move to be seen to go beyond the union in that way and I do not see any moves in that direction. One way in which anger expresses itself is that some people said that, after the 2007 strike, if the same thing happened again this time then they would leave the union. But leaving is only a very individualistic way of reacting to the outcome.

The left often talks of the need for the rank and file to take control of the strike: but to what extent does a rank and file versus bureaucracy dynamic really exist?

Firstly there is the question of what you mean by rank-and-file, since it could just mean the lower levels of the union and the shop stewards, or else the ‘ordinary’ workers, among whom there are also different layers of militancy and involvement in the union. There are also stronger areas, including London. But what you don’t see at the moment is any rank-and-file which is properly constituted as such and calls itself that.

In the past there has been discontent at right-wing leaderships but even when that did exist it did not show itself at the level of a rank-and-file movement. There have been unofficial strikes and criticism of right-wing leaders, including those who start off on the left, and their displacement, but this then leads to the election of another left leader, and the same process repeats itself again…

Are further strikes likely after Christmas, and will Royal Mail attacks continue?

There will be further attacks by Royal Mail, as they have already said they are going to do, but the question is whether the union can come to an agreement with it over those attacks and its own role. For sure, having organised and then called off a national strike, the union will be humiliated if it has to admit that its strategy failed and we have to go back to strike action again — people will ask, ‘what the fuck did they call it off for?’

Also, the outcome of the dispute is not seen as a defeat by the membership, and that is perhaps something Royal Mail need to carry out their plans. It depends on what level of modernisation they really need: if they’re out to smash both our legs and only get one, they may be content with that.

There is also the matter of the next government in 2010, with the Conservatives giving every indication that it is their intention to privatise Royal Mail entirely. The demands of capital to casualise and sell off the service may be to such an extent that the union has no choice but to react and preserve itself and then we will see further strikes: even if at the current time from the workers’ point of view we can say the union is failing to adopt the right strategy to defend jobs and the service, from the union’s perspective it also makes sense to do what it can to defend itself.

About these ads

Actions

Information

25 responses

13 11 2009
Pete

This article sees the “interim agreement” as a bit like the proverbial curate’s egg – good in parts.
In fact the deal is only a framework for future discussion, it is not an agreement as such. So the strikes were called off solely on the basis that Royal Mail agreed to talk. It is no good saying that this is what the union was demanding – in itself debatable – while admitting that it wasn’t what we were striking for.
While the demands of the dispute were never made clear – a failing in itself – at the very least people were expecting an end to, and possible reversal of executive action – unagreed changes – and an agreemenet on how change will be brought in in future. The strikes were called off for neither and the level of disillusionment is massive.

13 11 2009
David

Pete, I don’t think that’s the tone of the piece.

It is not saying that the deal was good, but rather, that the CWU had set its sights very low and thus it was satisfied, whereas members are dissatisfied because they had wanted to win something – more than just talks – in spite of the union’s explicit objectives.

Nonetheless it recognises that further strikes are unlikely.

14 11 2009
Barry

Hi

This is a very odd communist post worker who straddles the fence between the union(officials) and the membership. There are two ways to look at it.On one side there are the officials and on the other side are the members. Our ” Communist Post worker” is inbetween and can see both sides. There are two ways to look at it.

On the one hand, from the official point of view there can be no talk of a sell out since the official aim was to negotiate the terms of modernisation. This is a realistic and the official point of view and very understandable. In a sense the officials have succeeded.Even if management got what they wanted it could be presented as a reasonable compromise.

Furthermore, even though there is real anger from the membership will anything come of it? It is so difficult to tell.Lets face it from the point of view from the fence, only the officials have an overview and information about the level of support. Was there really a push from below to go further than negotiations? sat on the fence you have to be sceptical.

Even though at the current time the membership are convinced the officials or the union are failing to adopt a startegy to defend jobs and services the official or the union has to defend itself. It all depends on what level of modernisation the employers and government need. Optimistically it could be the limited damage of one leg lost rather then two. so the union or officialdom will survive.

If a journalist is a communist that person should surely not describe and promote a point of view that is clearly not so left social democratic and not a view from the working class grass roots and the struggle against the trade union bureacracy and the neo liberal state. The officials are not the union and the strike was not about the official aims but the potential of mass action from below not just for postal workers but the wider working class and the fight back against the capitalist offensive.

It is not a question of two sides or two points of view,but who’s side are you on?

15 11 2009
Chris

For a communist analysis I find some glaring weaknesses also which perhaps the author can come back on. For example this dispute was very much about the labour process and the ability of the workforce to have greater control over the managements perogatives. Implicit in this dispute was the question of workers control or grater management control. Yet these is none of that being articulated here. This is perhaps down to the fact that, knowing the author, he actually opposed to any concept of workers self-management as such does not see this aspect of the labour process as important.

There is also a degree of political indifferentism, what about the CWU relationship to the Labour Party, the role of London Region in getting a vote on over the relationship with Labour.

15 11 2009
Barry

i think that if Alberto Durango was a postal worker we would have a much sharper focus on the role of the trade union bureacracy. His attitude to top officials is communist in an instinctive way. Following the sell out it would have been better to have had a prominant article reflecting the anger from below rather than an article offering excuses for the top officials. Another commune comrade has made some deep points about the structural limitations of trade unions and the need to obtain knowledge and experience of the labour process at the grass roots.

15 11 2009
martin

Here’s a simple question: what are the aims of the dispute? They are not clear to me. I wonder how clear they are to the membership? From the point of the view of the majority (I would guess) they see it as hitting back against management bullying and the fact that they are being loaded up with more work than they can manage.

The fundamental problem vis a vis the union is that the strategy is this:
Liberalisation is a reality about which we can do nothing. If RM is to survive, then the union and the management need to create the conditions for the company to compete successfully against its competitors. The only thing standing in the way of such a partnership is that RM management are not playing fair.

The position of the CWU is synonimous with that of the major unions in the public utilities when they were privatised: partnership with the new companies to ‘win’ in the new market. The result was the destruction of hundreds of thousands of jobs and the identification of the workforce interests with those of the management.

In contrast the RMT, although not strong enough to stop privatisation of the railways, maintained its independence, did not go into partnership with the new companies, and set itself the long term campaign of re-nationalisation of the railways. As a result it was able, despite the difficult conditions, to keep its organisation together, and combative, and (later on) rebuild it after the dire consequences of privatisation impacted on the union’s organisation. (Quite a lot of activists took the redundancy money because they had had a gutfull.)

The CWU failed to campaign at the European level against liberalisation. It concentrated on opposing privatisation of the company, at the very time when it was the work that was being privatised.

Sadly, the left in the union has failed to counterpose the need for a break from the strategy of its leadership: opposition to liberalisation, the need to campaign for an end to it, for the RM to be a public service, to stop the unfeasible workloads etc.

What is the CWU’s position other than ‘negotiated change’ rather than imposed change? How many job cuts are acceptable?

The competition, of course, is rigged against RM, in any case; they have to deliver the mail of the competitors over the ‘final mile’

I suppose that the leadership of the CWU considers such an alternative strategy to be ‘unrealistic’. Yet is it realistic to accept that workers compete with each other in this new market? With such a strategy the CWU members are fighting with their arms tied beyond their backs, with no clear objectives.

RM has made what appears to be a manoeuvre designed to get through the Christmas period, the very time when the staff have the greatest leverage. If the action restarts after Christmas it will have to be protracted and probably more difficult to sustain.

The dispute needs clear objectives designed to defend jobs and the service, end its casualisation (a big increase of part-timers to replace full-timers), as opposed to selling jobs. Somehow the need for a break with the existing strategy of the leadership needs to be raised amongst the members and given organised expression, or else the danger of defeat will loom over the workforce.

15 11 2009
David

I think there is some misunderstanding of what the post worker being interviewed says.

He is not standing up for Hayes, Ward etc. or their strategy, he is merely explaining why there is a distinction between the interests of the workforce and the interests of the CWU in terms of the latter’s willingness to accept ‘some’ attacks/”modernisation” as long as it can maintain a top table negotiating position.

He repeatedly says the deal is crap and that the potential of the strike went to waste given its momentum and the lack of escalation.

Saying that the union’s approach was from the start conservative, rather than it being the case that it set ambitious goals then betrayed them, is not to defend it! It is not “excusing” them, but rather explaining their motivations. It is also only fair to say that there is great, and justified, dissatisfaction but that this is unlikely to result in further action.

15 11 2009
c0mmunard

Chris, this is a silly comment:

For a communist analysis I find some glaring weaknesses also which perhaps the author can come back on. For example this dispute was very much about the labour process and the ability of the workforce to have greater control over the managements perogatives. Implicit in this dispute was the question of workers control or grater management control. Yet these is none of that being articulated here.

This is not an article by the worker concerned. It is an interview. That means that it is the interviewer who determines the topics covered through the questions asked. In my opinion, the questions asked are perfectly reasonable, but in any rate it is ridiculous to suggest that omission of reference to the labour process constitutes a “glaring weakness” of the comrade’s analysis.

In any case, this dispute is hardly unique in being over labour process: the 1996 dispute over the Employee Agenda was as well, as have been many local disputes.

This is perhaps down to the fact that, knowing the author, he actually opposed to any concept of workers self-management as such does not see this aspect of the labour process as important.

I don’t think the comrade is opposed to workers’ self management, at least in my understanding of the concept. I think that there is a legitimate communist critique around certain liberal theories, and definitions of ‘self management’ (i.e. as self managed capitalism), to which I think the comrade correctly subscribes.

In any case, it is utterly baseless and spurious to attempt to link, here, the self management question with the labour process question. Why? For a fact, I know that the comrade has a detailed understanding of this as a dispute over the organisation of work, since we’ve talked about this at length. If Chris, or anyone else, wants to emphasise this fact in another article or interview, they should do so.

Barry’s reference to how the text would be different had it been from another comrade is also preposterous, as is the use of the phrase “instinctively communist” – which merely expresses a prejudicial preference for certain familiar formulations. The comrade interviewed here is a worker, a communist, a member of his union branch committee, and has been involved in building strike action, and having lost well over a grand in the proces. What comes across in the interview is a rather cool acceptance of the different interests of the official union and the workers. Different strands in the communist tradition have different ways of voicing the critique of the unions. One is to simply talk about “the bureaucracy”, and emphasise attempts to displace (and replace) them – we can see this in Alberto’s article. Another (to polarise ideal types) is to emphasise the limits of the union as such, and the divergence of the interests of the official union from the workers; the idea being that merely talking about “the bureaucracy” can feed into a simplistic “crisis of leadership” type analysis propagated by some trots. The second approach is taken by the comrade interviewed above. It is absolutely communist.

Comrades need to show more respect to workers who have taken the time to be interviewed for our press, and who are part of our movement.

Comment updated from original posting.

15 11 2009
David

I agree with c0mmunard. Martin’s points are also interesting.

16 11 2009
Bill Butlin

I agree with C0mmunard – The Communist Postman is clearly not a dogmatist.

22 11 2009
Barry

It is hardly standing up for the postal workers to suggest that the sell out of the vote to strike to defend jobs and conditions was not a betrayal of the needs of the workers because the the officials/Bureaucracy had modest objectives or had already accepted modernisation. if our outlook or judgement was determined by the Bureaucracies own objectives there would be no betrayals and no independent communist approach. To say that it makes sense from the unions perspective to do what it can to defend itself is making excuses for the top leaders and implies officialdom is the union or the bureacracy is defending the workers interest.it is to stand inbetween the workers and the Bureaucrats. There is now a demand for a national strike.Will we focus on why this is in the workers interests or why it makes sense for the officials to oppose it?

22 11 2009
c0mmunard

It is hardly standing up for the postal workers to suggest that the sell out of the vote to strike to defend jobs and conditions was not a betrayal of the needs of the workers because the the officials/Bureaucracy had modest objectives or had already accepted modernisation.

well… I guess that the thought is that you don’t call it a betrayal in the same way you don’t call it a betrayal if Royal Mail reneges on the agreement. We wouldn’t say, “post workers betrayed by RM”, because we’d assume that RM and postworkers have different interests. The particular mode of talking about unions I mentioned above, that we’re talking about now, takes a similar attitude toward the union: of course it has different interests, so why call it a betrayal?

To say that it makes sense from the unions perspective to do what it can to defend itself is making excuses for the top leaders and implies officialdom is the union or the bureacracy is defending the workers interest.

I don’t think it implies the bureaucracy is defending workers’ interests at all, but I agree that it can imply an identity of the union and officialdom, and that this is a pitfall of this way of talking… the pitfall of the other standard approach that I talked about above is that you just effectively end up, without using these words maybe, talking about “a crisis of leadership”.

There is now a demand for a national strike.Will we focus on why this is in the workers interests or why it makes sense for the officials to oppose it?

both?

23 11 2009
Barry

well, communard or our friend the “communist” postal worker, aknowledges I do not use the words crises of leadership.( Is he haunted by the ghost of Gerry Healy? ) He also concedes the pitfall of his way of argumentation is the identification of the Bureaucracy with the union- a fundamental error.

But although it is a mistake to identify the leaders with the union in any simple or direct sense,the top officials are union leaders,and their position is based on representing their members or a claim to represent union members or their election platform promised to represent the interests of members. so if members vote for strike action to defend their conditions and jobs and the needs of the rank and file postal workers is at odds with the neo liberal agenda of cuts in jobs, conditions and services, then betrayal is the word to use as an accurate description of the leaders action.

Obviously the management in following their own capitalist agenda cannot be accused of betraying the workers. They are not workers leaders. It is important not to throw out the baby with the bath water. Because the marxist or communist view of the nature of trade unions has been misused in the past is no excuse for making excuses about the leaders of the postal workers.

23 11 2009
David

“communard or our friend the “communist” postal worker”

They are separate people.

24 11 2009
Bill Butlin

I understand a member of the SWP who is also a member of the National Executive of the postal workers union has been expelled by the SWP for voting for a suspension of strike action. Should not all good socialists be defending this lay rank and file union member from this autocratic and bureaucratic behaviour? I understand that the vote for the suspension of the action was unanimous and this presumably meant that both left and right sections of the union thought it was tactically advantageous to end the protest action for a period. I think it would be a good idea for the pluralistic Commune group to provide a platform for this comrade so that she can explain her position

24 11 2009
c0mmunard

OK, I don’t think Jane Loftus would take up the opportunity if she had it, but anyway…

– She wasn’t expelled. She resigned from the SWP, having been asked to repudiate her decision to vote for the deal, or resign from the postal executive committee (PEC).

– I think she’s not a “lay rank and file member”, she’s a long term, full time member of the executive. She doesn’t work as a post worker, she doesn’t work in a mail centre or delivery office, or on the network. She works in the Wimbledon head office. Her job isn’t at risk from mechanisation, and she won’t have to walk longer to absorb rounds from lost jobs.

– I don’t think the fact that the postal executive took a unanimous decision shows that it was a good one. I think there is alot of rank and file disillusionment, even anger at the decision. Now, a couple of weeks after that decision, the London Division is calling for the strikes to be reinstated on a national basis (hopefully at a meeting of the PEC today), but workers in London and I believe elsewhere are demoralised. What does that tell us about the quality of the deal? Ask your postman or postwoman what they think about it!

– In his book, The meaning of militancy? Postal workers and industrial relations (p179), Gregor Gall quotes a Divisional Rep, “Industrially headquarters people act the same even if they have political differences with each other”. So I don’t think it’s necessarily true that these “political” distinctions, at least insofar as they’ve ever been manifest in the CWU, necessarily mean alot from the point of view of strikes – further suggesting the influence of an independent “bureaucracy effect”.

– Loftus ignored and trampled on the opinions of rank and file SWP post workers, who wanted the strikes to go ahead. How are grassroots activists in a political movement ever going to be able to affect control over their “representatives” on a union executive (or in parliament or in a council chamber, for that matter), if not by making acceptance of mandates from below a condition of continued membership? In this case, the SWP CC was defending the views of its grassroots members. It shouldn’t have to have gone through the CC, but in this case, they acted rightly.

In general, Bill, I take your point that it’s not true that most workers are being actively held back by “the bureaucracy” (they’re not even self-organised to take action in the first place), I think in this case the CWU PEC did hold back members, and “the bureaucracy”, by the unanimity of its vote, showed its interests to be be distinct from the membership.

24 11 2009
Bill Butlin

Thanks for the clarification on the expulsion issue. Nevertheless I think that asking the comrade to repudiate her actions is quite wrong and reeks of the semi-Stalinist form of organisation that has become a hallmark of this organisation. Indeed I think asking a trade union comrade to repudiate a decision that she has taken in good conscience is typical of the bureaucratic interference in the affairs of the class that have become a central component of this sects ideology.
On the point about if the member is a lay member. It seems quite clear to me as a member of the union executive can of course be a lay member. In that respect I have described the comrade as such because I am assuming that she is not an employee of the union. This is an important distinction as full time officials have to carry out orders, usually made from above, while a lay official is usually answerable to the members that elect them.
I also can’t see how a unanimous vote of the union’s executive can be described as an undemocratic decision as I would assume that the majority of members on the exec were elected. Notwithstanding my own view is that it is always best to allow the membership to decide if strike action is to be continued or suspended.
It is important to note here that taking strike action is not a lifestyle decision as many left groups seem to regard it but a continuation of collective bargaining by other means, that has the objective of winning a concession from the employer. In this respect the advocacy of the continuation of one day strikes may not have been a tactic that could have won the dispute? Again this should to be a legitimate area where a debate can occur.
On the question of how this dispute should continue as their seems to exist a plurality of views in the class on this question, it would be good for this to be reflected in the pages of the Commune. The appalling witch hunts in UNISON have one important lesion. The persecution of militants for holding sincerely held views is no substitute for discussion and debate. In that respect asking a trade union comrade to repudiate her views on this important question, is the real method of a bureaucratic organisation and one that the unions rank and file, who have a great interest in working class democracy should fight against.

24 11 2009
c0mmunard

Hi Bill, you’ve every right to solicit an article from Jane L, just like anyone else…

I think the decision was “democratic” in the same sense in which decisions of parliament or the Parliamentary Labour Party are “democratic”: they’re taken by people who’re elected by the base at some point. But this is formal democracy only, not substantive democracy, the people at the bottom have no real control over what is going on.

24 11 2009
Bill Butlin

Yes a trade union is not a Soviet or a workers council so its democracy is mainly formal as opposed to active. Notwithstanding I do think it is the job of Socialists to develop more active forms of democratic control within the unions. This is not done my repeating the leadership and rank and file mantra as the Trotskyist left perpetually does, but developing more participatory forms for these organisations. In this respect Socialists should be the most consistent advocates of democracy in the trade union movement.
One Stalinist theoretician of trade unionism gave his view of trade union democracy by writing
‘ Trade Union organisation is not based on theoretical concepts prior to it , that is on some concept of democracy but the ends it serves…The end of trade union activity is protect and improve the general living standards of its members and not to provide workers with an exercise in self government’
I strongly disagree with this view not only because I think trade unions function better when they function democratically, but also because the self organisation of the class is an important socialist principle.
However I feel certain that if an insurgent rank and file did exist in the CWU, and not merely in the imagination of the dogmatic Trotskyist, this would be a very difficult movement for the formally elected leadership of the union to sidetrack.

29 11 2009
Barry

Hi Comrades

I can remember a conversation with a leading Trade union member of the socialist party following meeting of the campaign for a workers party in Sheffield. she was a member of the executive committee of her trade union which had just voted to accept a rotten deal on pensions in which new starters would not receive the rights of long standing members. she said this was the Best possible deal. I responded by saying how do you know it was the best possible deal when it had not been put to the vote of the membership of her union as the GMB, regarded as a right wing union, had done with a vote against the deal. she was a prisoner of the trade union bueaucracy in every sense.

But Bill Butlin who is supposed to be an advocate of communism from below defends a member of the SWP Who has betrayed its membership and has no defence whatsoever from a rank and file or communist point of view. she voted against the CWU membership who clearly voted for national strike action to obtain a deal that defended their working terms and conditions.

She voted for a killing off or cooling off period from militancy and for the co operation and trust with management without a deal on terms and conditions.Yet he wants to defend her and her supposed freedom of conscience. Freedom of conscience is of course the last refuge of every social democratic scoundral who wanted to oppose the democractic votes of the ILP or the labour party and the socialist rank and file.

His own view is obviously bureaucratic. Forget the view that the executive did not represent the membership and workers needs. They were elected and their decision should be respected. How dare the SWP leadership interfere in this bureaucractic decision. Gerry healy has a lot to answer for. I say this beacause I now know the identitiy of Billy Butlin.

Give a platform to a sell out merchant. No thanks. It would discredit the commune.

Barry B

30 11 2009
Bill Butlin

Hello Barry
I think the comrade from the Socialist Party may well have been right on this. It would have been extremely difficult to organise effective strike action on this issue. That’s because the members they would have balloted would not have been the members whose terms and conditions would not have altered for the worse by the loss of existing pension rights. These would have been the new starter’s who of course could not have been balloted. Given this it may have been a tactical error to go forward with a ballot that not only may not have had any prospect of success but which would not have led to effective industrial action. Hence the real division here would not have been between left and right, or the rank and file and the leadership; but between the experienced trade unionist, who would chose carefully the issues they fought over and one or two daft sectarians. I know which side I would have been on.

30 11 2009
David

“However I feel certain that if an insurgent rank and file did exist in the CWU, and not merely in the imagination of the dogmatic Trotskyist, this would be a very difficult movement for the formally elected leadership of the union to sidetrack.”

Bill, it is very true that there is no point simply calling the rank-and-file into existence, and also that it would be hard for anyone to hold it back if there was such organisation. It is also very true that the union can’t just declare an all out strike and expect the masses to stir into action. Not every strike is winnable.

However in the post workers’ dispute there is something slightly different, which is the majority of the workforce being opposed to the return to work but lacking the confidence and organisation to push forward regardless. There was no drop-off in the strength of the strike, and where is the evidence the partial escalation (i.e. a Friday followed by a Monday at all sites) would not have come off?

On the other thread you quote a poll to the effect that 36% wanted continued strike action. That is not the case. What the poll says is:
“‘No we should have continued to strike’ – 36%
‘Its a VERY poor deal, I feel shafted’ – 42%”

Even if many among the 42% might fall into total cynicism/hopelessness, the figure is really 78% against stopping the strike. The exec members may be ‘experienced’ trade unionists, and we don’t expect the union to be a revolutionary organisation. It is not a Trotskyist “crisis of leadership” scenario. But that hardly means we have to defend the deal…

1 12 2009
Biil Butlin

Sorry David the post before yours was about the pension issue that Barry wrote about not the CWU dispute.

2 12 2009
Barry

Hi Billy

I was drawing a link between two trade unionists who were members of their union executives and were also members of “revolutionary groups” when push came to shove, they voted with the officials and not their union members, let alone their socialist groups.

In the example I gave of the socialist party member in sheffield who was a member of the executive of the civil service union, her experience of trade union work only dated back to the late 80’s or mybe early 90’s certainly not back to the 1960’s of their critic. How can any self proclaimed communist vote for the officials or the executive without going back to the membership.

i did make a criptic reference to Gerry Healy in a late night posting and I apologise for that. let me give a concrete reference about what I was trying to talk about. When I was member of the SLL we had a branch member who was a member of the central committe and one day I said to him: you never give a report about what was discussed at the CC. His response was to say the business of the CC is their business. They discuss, as top leaders ,overall strategy. The lower committes discuss tactics and thats their business. Before he finished i said and the branch discuss paper sales and that’s our business. And the recurring theme or dogma of the SLL’S paper was the revolutionary rank and file straining at the leash and held back by the Bueaucracy. Because we criticise the bueaucracy does not mean we are repeating this dogma.

4 12 2009
Bill Butlin

No problem Barry- and some interesting observations.




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 16,927 other followers

%d bloggers like this: