It can sometimes be difficult to see beyond the small battles we fight all the time at work; these can lead to two attitudes.
One is to say, “Why are we banging on about socialism, we’re a trade union, what's that got to do with us?”. The opposite is, “what's the use? Even if we win this small battle and they'll just come back at us with something else.”
However, there is a very simple reason why these small battles are not only important, but expose the very nature of the system we live in.
Whether we are defending an individual member who the company wants to get rid of, fighting for a reduced working week, or campaigning against red tabards, we are saying one thing: we are not robots, we are not pieces of machinery. We are complete human beings entitled to a home life, to leisure, relaxation, and fun. We do useful work and many of us are proud to work on the Underground, but work is not what we are for. It's not the reason for our existence.
The reason we have to fight for this to be recognised is that we live in a capitalist society.
London Underground has to quantify everything in monetary terms. When our system breaks down, the impact is measured in terms of money lost to the economy. When a part of the machinery breaks, it must be repaired as quickly as possible or thrown away if it will take too long to repair. London Underground sees us in the same way.
The system works a lot more efficiently if all of its parts (us!) are obedient and trouble free. If we’re on strike, it costs money; if we're sick, it costs money; if the system can be run with fewer of us, it saves money; if each unit (person) performs more tasks, it saves money.
The needs of the system are completely opposite to the needs of the workers because of this contradiction.
When we fight the smaller battles mentioned earlier, they are a direct product of that. When we fight against a member being medically retired, we are saying, “No, she's not a piece of broken down machinery, she's a human being and must be treated like one.”
When we fight against red tabards, we’re saying, “No, we won't help you pretend to the customers that the only thing wrong with your programme of cuts was a mistake in the colour of the uniform.”
When we fight for cleaner air, a shorter working week, longer holidays, we’re saying, “We are entitled to this because our purpose as human beings is to live healthy, happy lives. We are not profit producing robots”. Socialism is what a society would look like if it was measured in human terms.
Capitalism must be resisted, and we will fight to chip away at it until we can abolish it altogether.