by Joe Thorne
Many of us will have been defending the tube strikes that begin on Monday evening, and continue – amongst different groups of workers – until the end of Tuesday to friends and fellow workers. Many will be grumpy about their journey being disrupted; susceptible to TFL and government propaganda; and – perhaps without admitting it – somewhat jealous of the leverage, organisation, and (at least what they imagine to be) the superior terms and conditions of RMT members. RMT General Secretary Bob Crow may be a figure of particular annoyance.
Against these ideas, we need to emphasise that the strike is not the work of an individual, who has dragged thousands of presumably credulous workers into an unwinnable battle, but the work of thousands of ordinary workers who are doing what most of us wish we could do: stand tall; and refuse to accept the dictatorial rule of the bosses. It may take us a little longer to get into work for a day or two. But the reminder that we all could be more than passive units of labour power is surely worth more than that. We need to remind others that this strike is about staffing levels, and is hence about safety – no return to the fires of the ’70s and ’80s which killed dozens at a time. But we also need not to be ashamed to say that, yes, this strike is about the interests of the workers – workers just like us – who refuse to be thrown on the scrapheap. For most of us, one day, the time will come when capital finds a way to mechanise, off-shore, outsource, or otherwise do without us, our family members, or our friends. Will we accept that? We should not. And we ought not to accept it now either.
“But this is progress, greater technological efficiency means fewer jobs”? Even if this were what this strike were about – and not an attempt to recoup the money lost on the abortive privatisation attempts on the underground – it would nonetheless show not the justness of the bosses’ case, but the bankruptcy of capitalism: it’s inability to realise socially – rather than through increased unemployment or precarious employment at best – the gains it makes in technological productivity. This contradiction will not be finally resolved, but will only constantly reappear, otherwise than through the strength of the working class in general, and the workers’ movement in particular.
“Management’s right to manage”? We admit of no such thing, which is nothing more than a specific expression of the general domination which capital claims over each and every aspect of our lives. From 22:00 Monday night in some locations; and from early tomorrow morning in others, you can go down and show your solidarity with workers who are taking a small stand, but a stand nonetheless, against this. Click the link above for more information.