Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Marching along together (1985)

From the May 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

With thousands of others I marched behind my union banner in London last March against wage cuts and rate capping. As always, it was a field-day for the Left Wing. Every variety and type of hole-and-corner reformer: Anti-Blood Sports. Free Abortion on Demand, Gays, Lesbians, Vegetarians - you name it, they were there. Greenham Common Women, CND, Support the Miners and Keep Music Live. The road was littered with thousands of leaflets. Two in particular caught my attention.

The first was issued by the Trades Union Alliance of the Workers Revolutionary Party and wanted the TUC to call a General Strike to fight rate capping. Seeing that the GLC has pulled the rug from under their feet by setting a rate the whole stunt became even sillier, but the idea that the TUC would call a General Strike against rate capping - or for anything else - is ludicrous. The TUC cannot call a strike anyhow. It is difficult to know why the WRP think that payment of local rates is a working-class issue, since it mainly concerns local businesses. The poverty of the working class is not caused by high rates but low wages. If rates go down, wages follow. But the most comical conclusion of the WRP is the proposal to form community councils, or soviets, as the basis of a Workers' Revolutionary Government. It is unbelievable that 68 years after the soviet "experiment" - which failed to produce anything but state capitalism, with some of the harshest conditions and lowest wages in Europe a political party still talks about soviets to establish a Revolutionary Workers' Government. In 1985 the government is that party which gains the most seats at an election. This gives it control of the machinery of government, which is political power. The notion that a party can seize power by a minority revolt, using Leninist tactics, is ridiculous. There is no analogy whatever between Britain in 1985 and Russia in 1917. The Workers' Revolutionary Party is living in a cloud- cuckoo-land of street battles for soviets (which is only Russian for councils anyway).

It is tragic to see during such demonstrations the number of sincere, enthusiastic young people deluded by this pathetic rubbish. Fortunately there is not the slightest likelihood of any local soviets being formed. If they were and they staged their illegal, unconstitutional revolts, they would be cut down like chaff. There is no socialism without a majority of socialists, and it can only be established by a democratic route. What the WRP mean by a Workers' Revolutionary Government they do not say. Socialism will not be a workers' government, but a classless society.

This brings us neatly onto the next leaflet, from the Holborn and St. Pancras Miners' Support Group which states that the 1984/5 NUM strike "ended amid anger and heart-rending tears . . not for the £5.000 to £10,000 every striking miner had invested in this great struggle" but for the "betrayal" of thousands of miners by "the snivelling reptile Bill Sirs; David Basnett; Murray and Chapple . . . these pea-brained Quislings now kneeling in the House of Lords"

Obviously the Miners' Support Group of St. Pancras has not learnt the lesson of this strike. The recipe for a successful strike (bearing in mind that the best strikes are those that never happen), would include these elements:
First, consider very carefully whether conditions are favourable. Fifty million tons of coal stockpiled was no recommendation for the miners to strike. Then strike only after a completely democratic ballot has demonstrated solid support. Keep the strike firmly in the hands of union members with decisions to continue or return by majority ballot only. Give no blank cheques to leaders. Do not be led astray by resolutions and cheers at Trade Union Congresses.
For the St. Pancras Miners' Support Group to complain after about fifty or sixty years of betrayals by leaders, from the General Strike onwards, shows how little they have learned. It is no use denouncing "snivelling reptiles" of leaders if members put them there and fail to control them.

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