Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Directing "direct action" (1984)

From the March 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

In trying to fight back against the suppression of their trade union, workers at the Government Communication Headquarters at Cheltenham have complained about an implied “slur" on their patriotism. Speaking on this, Len Murray was quoted (The Times, 26 January) as saying, “It is grossly offensive for the Foreign Secretary to imply that . . . trade union membership poses any threat to national security”.

We have no reason to doubt that these members of the working class are just as patriotic as any others in Britain. Unfortunately. But what if they weren’t? While we are indulging in hypothesis, let’s suppose that a significant number of workers, say 10-15 percent of our class, had come to accept the socialist case and that this proportion was rising, as we would expect once that level had been reached. What could the government do then? Might it not then decide to leave things as they are rather than risk widespread industrial disruption as other workers, more class-conscious of course than at present, came to the aid of the GCHQ staff? Might it not be more preoccupied with how it might stop the further spread of socialist ideas than with the possibility of a tea-break stoppage at Cheltenham? Might it not be thinking of what concessions it might try in a desperate attempt to buy off the revolution?

In contrast, the emphasis on patriotism simply encourages the ruling class to play on these feelings by trying to convince workers of how “the nation" would be harmed by any moves against capitalist interests. Of course we support action by workers in defence of their union organisations. However, although it sounds contradictory, we have always argued that the way to get “something now” is not to demand this or that specific item. The way forward is to organise for socialism and face the capitalists with the prospect of losing the lot.

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