Report from the May 24th 1966 issue of the Hackney Gazette
Lecture at Hackney
"Necessary as they are to resist encroachments on conditions and wages by the employing, class and to maintain the workers standard of living the S.P.G.B. has no illusions about Trade Unions and exposes their limitations," said Mr. A. L. Buick, lecturing on "Socialism and Trade Unionism," recently, at Hackney Trades Hall to the Socialist Party of Great Britain’s Hackney branch.
"While Capitalism, with its conflicting class interests, remains, they can serve only as defensive organisations, their effectiveness depending on the state of the labour market. The real solution of working class problems lies in political action by a majority of socialists to replace Capitalism by World Socialism."
Summarising a brief review of Trade Union history, Mr. Buick said that they had evolved from weak protective organisations of craftsmen, concerned with regulation of wages, into massive stable forces, now very much involved in the administration, of Capitalism; pillars of the State, whose opinions are considered before legislation is embarked upon. Early in the century they had formed the Labour Party to defend their interests in Parliament, but Labour Governments, concerned with running Capitalism in the interests of the Capitalist class, are forced to act contrary to working class interests and though linked with them may conflict with the Trade Unions.
Trade Unions, he continued, aim at strengthening workers, by combining together in bargaining with employers over wages and working conditions. The strike, organised withdrawal of labour power, is their main weapon. The S.P.G.B. endorses fully both aim and method, since if workers relinquished their organised struggle they could no longer resist the pressure of the employers to increase profits at the expense of wages and conditions of labour.
The S.P.G.B., he said, sees not only the advantages of Trade Unionism in teaching workers solidarity and in helping them to obtain the best price for their labour power, but also its limitations. In the interwar years with high unemployment, Trade Union action was practically ineffective. Since 1945, however, with boom conditions, living standards have been improved, but the exploitation of the workers still continues. If wages, however, are pushed too high, employers may install more modern machinery to reduce costs. The S.P.G.B. does not approve of some activities of Trade Unions and their officials, such as industrial collaboration, serving on Government economic bodies, and support of Prices and Incomes Policies, since this lessens the independence of the unions and creates confusion among their members. It neither seeks to infiltrate the unions in order to use them for political purposes nor deludes itself that they can be used to abolish Capitalism. The time and money spent to securing a Labour Government is considered by the S.P.G.B. as misdirected, since all Governments are committed to Capitalism, which perpetuates working class problems.
"Although the S.P.G.B. and the Trade Unions both arise out of the class conflict in Capitalist society," Mr. Buick concluded, "they have quite different aims. The Trade Unions, like employers' organisations, are part of the present social system with its wages, profits, money and markets, and accept its continuation. Their purpose is to struggle to maintain or improve their members' living standards. The object of the S.P.G.B., on the other hand, is to end Capitalism and establish World Socialism, a classless, moneyless society, in which there will no longer be a working class selling its labour power to an employing class, and in which, therefore Trade Unions would be unnecessary. The sooner the workers understand the pressing need for such a basic social change, the sooner will they become socialists and organise politically to realise it."