The 50 Years Ago column from the February 2013 issue of the Socialist Standard
Nobody who has troubled to keep an eye on the trade union movement will have fainted with surprise at the news that the New Year Honours List brought a knighthood to William Carron.
Carron, president of the Amalgamated Engineering Union (motto, carved impressively on the presidential chair, “Be United And Industrious “), is the latest in a lengthening line of trade union knights, preceded by such as Tom O’Brien of NATKE and Tom Williamson (now a life peer) of NUGMW.
One thing these men have in common. They are all what is known as “moderate” trade union leaders. And “moderate” is another of the euphemisms beloved of the Capitalist press.
It means a trade union leader who can be relied upon to angrily denounce unofficial strikes. It means the sort of leader who suffers the wage restrictions of a Labour government and who cooperates in drives for greater efficiency and productivity. A man who thinks that it is a good idea for the unions to be represented on the National Economic Development Council and other such bodies, which are designed to promote co-operation between the workers and the employers. It means a man who does his best to ignore the fact that there is a class struggle in Capitalist society. .
But this is not what trade unions are there for. The unions should concern themselves with protecting and advancing the interests of their members. They should be struggling for higher pay, shorter hours, better working conditions, and so on. But where do honours come into all this?
Honours are reserved for the people who have served Capitalism in some way or other; they are the establishment’s mark of appreciation.
It is a bitter commentary on the standing of the trade unions today, and on the standard of consciousness of their members, that the men at the top are so often coming to wear a coronet or some other bauble to show that Capitalism has looked upon them and found them good.
(From ‘News in Review’, Socialist Standard, February 1963)