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3 thought on “Sunday Socialist July 31st”
  1. My reply to Colin Middleton could be taken to mean that I have a romanticised view of the working class, eager for revolution and only held back by machinations of the Labour and Trade Union bureaucracy. This may be true at times of heightened class struggle. The struggle itself energises the more class conscious workers, who are normally a minority, and draws the majority into action and opens them up radical political ideas. I recall one NUM delegate talking about the Miners’ strikes of 1972/74 who said that a week on the picket lines had done more to politicise young miners than all his arguments over the years.
    When the level of strikes is low and militancy declines the officials can appear more left wing than their members. This is when it is tempting to place your faith in the ability of reformist politicians and union leaders to deliver for a working class that seems unable to fight for themselves.

  2. I recognise that Mike Stanton is or was a member of the SWP (or probably IS in 1972), but his view on the action to free the Pentonville Five was sectarian, inaccurate and in some areas plain wrong. The leading role of the Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade Union (LCDTU) is not mentioned; nor that of the trades councils. This is probably because of the role played by the CPGB in these group. Including Bernie Steer who was a CP member and a leader of LCDTU). Bernie and others were ableably joined by industrial IS members (mostly against the wishes of the leadership) in the leaders of the LCDTU). Also castigating the leadership of trade unions is frankly an insult to the roles played by Jack Jones in the TGWU and Hugh Scanlon in the AUEW in mobilising their unions behind the rank and file group and getting the TUC to call for a general strike to release the docker (yes, that’s right, it threatened a general strike!). It is important to accurately access our history to learn lessons that will help us in current and future actions (dialectical materialism, anyone?). Comrade Stanton’s partisan musings do not help in this.

    1. I thank Colin Middleton for reminding me of the role of LCDTU in opposing both Labour’s In Place Of Strife and the Tories’ Industrial Relation Act. I do not recall them playing a leading role in 1972. But no matter. My point was not to indulge in sectarian point scoring but to stress the positive role of rank and file organisation.
      My criticism of the Union leadership was not a personal attack on Jones or Scanlon. Instead, I was trying to point out the limits of trade union leadership. If your prime role is to negotiate a deal between the demands of Capital and Labour you will inevitably adopt a more moderate position than your membership. Normally this is not a crucial issue. But when the bosses refuse to compromise and are using the state to impose their demands, a willingness to compromise in those circumstances is a recipe for defeat.
      Ultimately we were defeated. 1972 was a high point in which we managed to wound the beast. But it nursed its wounds and came back hungry for revenge. I think the bosses learned the lessons better than we did as a movement and our movement was severely weakened as a result. I am optimistic that the tide is turning once more and, like Colin, I believe that we need an honest assessment of our history. In this I welcome factual corrections and theoretical challenges that add to the discussion. But I do not see how impugning my motives or accusing me of sectarianism takes that discussion forward.

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