British Airways strike: SWP stunt at ACAS hurt our cause

Submitted by Matthew on 27 May, 2010 - 12:29 Author: Tom Unterrainer

The decision by 200 members of the Socialist Workers Party and a handful of others to enter the ACAS building on 22 May and disrupt talks between BA and Unite was nothing more than an ill-thought-out stunt.

It should be obvious to SWP members, as it is to the majority of the organised left, that such “militant looking” action had no positive impact on the cause of striking cabin crew and does not constitute valid solidarity. It may even have set back our ability to make solidarity with BA workers, at least solidarity which has their trust and support.

SWP comrades should not confuse media attention for their own actions with furthering the interests of our class as a whole.

Sadly this sort of stunt and the politics that determine such stunts permeates the whole of the SWP’s approach to workers’ struggles, trade union work and labour movement politics more generally. This is not the first and it will not be the last such example of them elevating sectarian interests above the logic of struggle.

If we look carefully at what happened, then it is clear that the SWP could not have planned to enter the building in advance. They could not have reasonably expected to gain access or to find Willy Walsh inside. What they seem to have planned is a vocal protest outside the ACAS building in support of the cabin crew — nothing wrong with that. The SWP members and the members of the Central Committee marshaling their activity then “got lucky” and invaded the building.

Rather than helping the workers, the stunt enabled BA boss Walsh to walk away claiming that union supporters were making progress impossible.

In other circumstances and with the active co-operation of striking workers, direct action solidarity has a place. Our movement has a long history of such actions. Of course..

Here, in the cold light of day, it is clear that the SWP has just damaged its own reputation. In doing so, as the most visible organisation on the left, it has damaged us all.

The left should ask the serious trade unionists and activists within the SWP to hold their leadership to account and demand a public repudiation of this stunt.

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