With Gorbachev's Police-state Unions ---- Or With The Workers? (1987)

Submitted by dalcassian on 13 July, 2014 - 8:56

The TUC Left won a victory over the TUC Right last week. As a result, the TUC is sending a delegation to the so-called Congress of the so-called trade unions of the USSR _ that is, to the 'Congress' of the police state labour fronts misnamed trade unions which have the job of helping the Russian totalitarian state regiment, repress and control the Soviet working class.

The 'Congress' the TUC will be visiting will be a congress of organisations which are in no sense trade unions. They are pseudo-unions, one of whose chief functions is to prevent the working class in the USSR organising a real workers' movement.

Those who try to organise independent trade unions are persecuted and sent to jails and labour camps, or to asylums for the insane where their minds and bodies are often destroyed by drugs forcibly administered.

How things stand with trade unionism in the Stalinist states was exposed by what hapPened in Poland during the glorious month of August 1980, when strikes spread out from the Gdansk shipyards and engulfed much of Poland.

For the first time in history a Stalinist regime was forced to recognise the right of the working class to organise free trade unions. Militants of the small underground free trade union movement such as Lech Walesa and Anna Walentinowycz, came out of the underground. The ten million strong Solidarnosc movement mushroomed in a matter of weeks.

And the official 'trade unions'? They supported the police state against the strikers. In early August as the strike was getting under way the leading 'trade union' official at Gdansk told the workers to go back to work or he would have them shot down, "to teach them a lesson they would never forget".

When the workers won the right to form free trade unions, the police state 'unions' more or less collapsed. Today, five years after Solidarnosc was banned under Marshall law, the regime has still not put the police state 'union' together again, although they are trying to.

Solidarity of workers with other workers everywhere, whether in Chile, S. Africa or in Stalinist Russia, is a basic Principle not only of socialism but of trade unionism itself. That we should help the workers in Stalinist states form free T.Us - and support them and cheer them on while denouncing their oppressors - is as elementary a principle as the principle that you don't cross picket lines during a strike.

The British labour movement should do everything it can to help Solidarnosc and the other, much smaller, free trade union movements in the Stalinist states. We should do nothing to help the police state 'unions' and we should not, by associating with them, endorse the foul lie that these organisations for repressing and controlling the workers are real trade unions.

On this question the division in the labour movement is a strange one. The left - those like Arthur Scargill who are usually on the good side of class struggle in this country - are indifferent or hostile to the free trade union movement in the Stalinist states, and believe that the anti-working class regimes there are some sort of socialism.

The right- those like Eric Hammond and Bill Jordan who want to teach the British labour movement to crawl on its belly to the Tories and the bosses, people who are normally and instinctively on the wrong side of the class struggle in Britain, and who sometimes play the role of scabs in it - are loudly and outspokenly friendly to the free trade union movement in the Stalinist states.

This is a false division and an unnntural one. Movements like Solidarnosc are the natural allies of the British left, not of the right. What is the explanation for this unnatural division?

The problem is that on the one hand many on the left think, with Arthur Scargill, that the Stalinist regimes are socialist, and on the other hand the problem is that oppositionists in the Stalinist states, including working class oppositionists often seem to find the liberal capitalist system preferable to the Stalinist.

This is natural: They spend their lives in police states in which the socialist programme of nationalisation of the means of production seems to have been realised, and in which nationalised property is the basis on which savage anti-working class regimes have been stabilised. Naturally they look with sympathy to the west, to the enemy of their oppressors.

In Britain a working class politician like Arthur Scargill looks to the enemies of our capitalist enemy, to the Stalinist states - while in Poland a great working class fighter like Lech Walesa does the same, from his side of the great East/West divide. Anti-capitalist militants and their anti-Stalinist counterparts stare uncomprehendingly at each other across a historical void - if not a historical time warp - which makes them mirror images of each other. Each one sees in the other the dupe, ally or distant starry eyed admirer of its own Stalinist or capitalist enemy. Naturally they repell each other.

Walesa looks to the West for the salvation of the Polish working class - to the West were there is much more freedom, but also class exploitation, oppression, racism, poverty, unemployment and misery on a vast scale in even the richest of capitalist states, the USA. Scargill looks to the East for the salvation of the British working class - to the East where the workers are bled dry by the ruling bureaucrats and locked into a police state system which Leon Trotsky once rightly said was in some respects - human and civil rights for example - worse even that Hitler's fascist Germany in the years before the Second World War.

Instead of independent working class politics, politics which bases itself on the International Socialist programme of action against both the Stalinist and capitalist systems, you get inverted partisanship on the primitive rebels pattern of 'my enemv's enemy is my friend'.

On both sides what is glaringly lacking is an independent working class socialist view of a world divided between bureaucratic Stalinism and captalism.

In Britain the TU right wing's championing of the anti-Stalinist free trade unions does their reputation a great deal of harm among militant trade unionists.

It is time to put an end to this state of affairs. The fight for a free working class movement in the Stalinist states is a left wing cause! The serious anti-Stalinist left - those who base themselves upon the international working class; who believe that socialism will mean the end of class exploitation everywhere; who fight to destroy and dismantle all the systems of state repression everywhere; who stand for workers liberty East and West - must make the fight of the working class in the Stalinist states their fight too.

Accordingly SO will in the next few weeks approach various groupings and campaigns and ask them to help us call a conference in the Autumn to which will be invited those in the British labour movement who believe with us that the duty of the British labour movement to give active support and help to the free trade union movement in the Stalinist states is, to repeat, as fundamental a question as not crossing a picket line during a strike.

Ed, SO 298, 15-1-87