Unity is Strength
We have all seen the ad. on TV in which demure Asian air hostesses pour champagne for businessmen on a Cathay Pacific flight.
This idyllic scene has been interrupted because those very same hostesses are on strike. Cathay, like every other airline in a dog-eat-dog industry, want to cut costs and have demanded that cabin attendants also perform more menial tasks.
Although the union made "significant concessions” this wasn't enough for Cathay's macho management which said it would discipline strike activists.
Now other trade unions in Hong Kong are backing the strike because:
"If Cathay Pacific is allowed to go ahead and dismiss people who are taking strike action, it could set a dangerous precedent for any other trade union", said Lee Chukyan, leader of the Confederation of Trade Unions.The Guardian 26 January
It's good to see trade unionists looking beyond their own narrow, sectional interest by giving mutual aid, but they must eventually realise that their real interest lies in helping to establish socialism rather than forever fighting their employers.
Another example of sound trade union action has been seen on Clydeside where the workers in Yarrow's shipyard have come out on strike over pay and against their union's wishes.
But what is sound about striking during a recession? The fact is that during the boom years orders for the naval ships which Yarrow's builds were scarce, so instead of making gains the workers had little option but to let management walk all over them.
Now, despite the recession, the yard's order book is full until 1997 so the workers are taking the opportunity to get some of their own back. As the yard convener said on Scottish Television on 5 February - "It's our turn now".
All too often workers hit the street when they haven't a hope of winning, but here their timing — and their chance of success — is much, much better.
We haven’t looked at Tribune, "Labour's Independent Weekly”, for some time because it is so boring but the issue for 8 January was very interesting.
For example, Robin Cook confesses that Labour's membership is down to "around 250,000 and declining". This is after a national recruiting drive, so mugs are obviously harder to come by these days.
But the juiciest item was the editorial’s confession about the quality of the debate now raging in Labour's ranks over which way the party should go —
It is impossible to dismiss out of hand the possibility that the columnists who are crowing about Labour's intellectual bankruptcy are absolutely right.
Could any Tory rag have been more damning than that? Must make a note to read Tribune more often.
Mods and Trads
That battle between Labour’s "modernisers" and "traditionalists” is really hotting up.
Clare Short MP is a trad and has made a bitter attack on the mods. She thinks their obsession with changing Labour’s image means —
People no longer know what Labour stands for. Many feel they cannot trust a party that appears to have dumped everything it used to believe in, and seems not to have a way forward that is different from the mess the Tories have created.Tribune 15 January
Of course when Labour dumped nationalisation it lost whatever distinct policy it ever had, but what is Clare Short's "way forward"7 Only the usual left-wing ideas for improving British capitalism's performance.
She wants "an industrial strategy based on . . . Japan's success in fostering long-term investment in the economy", "cuts in defence spending to restore our industrial base", etc.
And what will the workers get out of all this? "the chance to work and train and a right to decent pensions", "real equality of opportunity” for women, and so on. Can you see stuff like this having them storming the polls to vote Labour?
Merchant of Death
With the demise of the Bolshevik dictatorship and the break up of its empire Western politicians talked glowingly about a "new world order”. We were promised such goodies as a "peace dividend".
Unfortunately capitalism doesn't work that way. The hostilities in the Gulf, "ethnic cleansing" in Croatia, conflict in Palestine. It is business as usual.
Mr Major may have talked about a "peace dividend" but he has delivered a much more welcome dividend to the share holders of British Aerospace. A staggering £4-£5 billion order for bombers for Saudi Arabia.
The outcry about arms sales to Iraq seems to have subsided and anyway as a spokesman for British capitalism "nice Mr Major” must ensure that the highest sales possible come into British coffers. Profit today and to hell with the death and destruction that may follow tomorrow. It was ever thus. Whether its "nice Mr Major” or "the iron lady" Thatcher business always comes first.
To the Editor,
The Daily Wail,
Sir, are you aware of the many lunatics at large today? For example, those loonies who insist there is a worldwide conspiracy to install John Major as controller of the planet.
These maniacs are everywhere. There is David Icke, none of whose fearful predictions for 1992 came true, thank God, and those South Koreans who abandoned their homes, jobs and even families because they thought the world would end last November.
And I recall the Americans who some years ago fled up a mountain to escape Armageddon or some such. Still up there I shouldn’t wonder.
All this is bad enough but now I have learned of the Socialist Party. They apparently believe that society as we know it cannot last forever; that at some future date there will be no place for rulers, employers, the military or even money and everyone will actually co-operate with one another!
You, Sir, may agree with me that, compared to this Socialist Party, all the others I have mentioned are as sane as you or I.