Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Labour Government Lock-Out (1948)

From the December 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Evening News reports (29/9/48) that 2,000 miners employed at Betteshanger colliery "may face the sack unless they reach an agreement with the National Coal Board over a wage dispute . . . "
"The men were told that if they fail, the Board will consider closing Betteshaanger colliery, and 2,200 men will have to seek work elsewhere. The negotiations were being conducted by the Kent Mine Workers' Association and the Board's headquarters in London. The South-East Regional Coal Board were acting as 'forwarding agents.'"
"Neither side would admit more than that secret negotiations were in progress.
"It appears that the colliery had been running at a loss for some time, and the Board was believed to have told the men bluntly that costs must be cut if it is to continue in operation."
Here then is one more proof that the workers fare no better under Nationalisation that promised "full employment" and an end to the "bad old days of the private owner." It is also an answer to those Trade Union leaders who would assure the workers that the "boss" is no more, they're "our" mines and railways, etc., now. The threat of closing Betteshanger does not seem to differ much from the lock-out used by the former private owner when resisting wage demands. There is one little difference though, and certainly of no interest to the worker, that whereas formerly the mineowner would close down and lose, now, under Nationalisation, as a former stockholder, his investments are secure, backed by the workers' "very own Government." Whatever happens at Betteshanger, it will perhaps prove an object lesson for workers, who have clamoured for Nationalisation, thinking that such schemes would better their conditions, and believing that Labour Governments can run capitalist industry in the workers' interest. One thing is certain, that they must "pay their way," this meaning at a profit, for investors in Government stock, and as Alfred Edwards, M.P., who recently left the Labour Party, said when speaking of the possibility of steel Nationalisation: "If the Government bought a steel works for a million pounds the owner would still be  getting his three per cent. interest on that million if a depression came—but the workers would be walking the streets."

Workers should remember that they are only allowed to work and be exploited in the interests of profits. No profit, out on the street, whatever Government is running Capitalism.
G. Hilbinger

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