Strikes and trade union history

Why did working-class militancy collapse in face of Thatcherism?
Strikes from the late 50s to the early 90s
martinSun, 17/06/2018 - 17:06

A small pamphlet published by us in 1989, reprinting extracts from Trotsky previously presented by us in 1983 with a new introduction.

Add new comment

Guns, controls and the labour movement

Submitted by Matthew on 28 February, 2018 - 10:53 Author: Gerry Bates
Second amendment

The US constitution famously states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed”; historically, revolutionary democrats insisted on this right as a guarantee against arbitrary state power and the development of tyranny.


Submitted by peewee29 on Fri, 02/03/2018 - 12:11

The pro-gun lobby and right wing libertarians tend to ignore what the Second Amendment actually says (though I note the important words are underlined in the graphic at the top of this piece):

"A *well regulated Militia*, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" (my emphasis).

Interestingly, many of these people also quote George Orwell, writing about "that rifle on the wall" of a worker's house, being a guarantee of our liberty. I eventually tracked down where this quote actually comes from, and it's from something Orwell wrote in WW2 about the Home Guard ("Don't let Colonel Blimp run the Home Guard"), which again seems to emphasise the point about being part of a "well regulated militia."

Submitted by peewee29 on Fri, 02/03/2018 - 15:37

Further to my last comment:
Bernard Crick in his book “George Orwell A Life” has the following quote in Chapter 12 The Challenge and Frustration of war (1939-41).

“Even as it stands, the Home Guard could only exist in a country where men feel themselves free. The totalitarian states can do great things, but there is one thing they cannot do: they cannot give the factory-worker a rifle and tell him to take it home and keep it in his bedroom. THAT RIFLE HANGING ON THE WALL OF THE WORKING-CLASS FLAT OR LABOURER’S COTTAGE, IS THE SYMBOL OF DEMOCRACY. IT IS OUR JOB TO SEE THAT IT STAYS THERE.”

Crick correctly attributes the quote to an 8 January 1941 article Orwell wrote for Evening Standard. The article was titled “Don’t Let Colonel Blimp Ruin the Home Guard”

Submitted by peewee29 on Fri, 02/03/2018 - 15:38

Submitted by Jason Schulman on Fri, 02/03/2018 - 21:47

A smart contribution to the conversation.

(I can't figure out how to switch to plain text so that the link will actually work. Webmaster, please fix. Thank you.)

Add new comment

Why the 70s shop stewards lost

Submitted by Matthew on 8 November, 2017 - 11:00 Author: Jim Denham

For a brief period in the 1970s, Derek Robinson (who has died, aged 90) was widely regarded as the most powerful trade unionist in Britain.

The so-called “Red Robbo” wasn’t a full-time official. He was a shop steward (albeit a senior steward, allowed time off by management, to devote himself full-time, to union duties).


Submitted by Janet on Sun, 19/11/2017 - 03:32

I'm guessing that this from Jim Denham "Edwardes must have realised that the majority of senior stewards in British Leyland were severely out of touch with their members. He dispensed with the soft-soap Ryder approach, drove a coach and horses through participation" is what the Economist obituary tells like this : "Mr Robinson’s forte was haranguing mass meetings on windswept playing fields, with strike votes taken instantly by an intimidating show of hands. But in 1979 British Leyland’s new boss, Michael Edwardes, balloted the workers directly (and secretly) on modernisation plans, gaining a seven-to-one majority for drastic job cuts in exchange for investment."
I'm also interested in this story for its similarities (though many differences) with the way Australian manufacturing unions promoted and enforced a national Prices and Incomes Accord, essentially out of fear of growing unemployment. Promises of investment, leading to jobs, weigh very persuasively to workers generally and union leaders in particular. There is nothing beneficial to employees in their employer going bust. It's not so hard to come up with general demands against unemployment - shorter hours, nationalisation, decent unemployment benefits - but in the maelstrom of uncertainty about being able to earn a living - there's a profusion of cases of unions submitting to capital. What efforts if any, were made through the 1970s, from an independent working class perspective, to anticipate and avert job losses from the coming demise of car manufacturing?

Add new comment

Three big disputesMatthewThu, 13/07/2017 - 14:13

The most important industrial disputes that I’ve been involved in were the 1985 SEQEB (South East Queensland Electricity Board) dispute; the maritime dispute of 1998; and the 63-day Queensland Children’s Hospital construction workers’ dispute of 2012, after which I had a long battle against both criminal charges and litigation for civil damages.

Add new comment

Three big disputesMatthewThu, 13/07/2017 - 10:54

The most important industrial disputes that I’ve been involved in were the 1985 SEQEB (South East Queensland Electricity Board) dispute; the maritime dispute of 1998; and the 63-day Queensland Children’s Hospital construction workers’ dispute of 2012, after which I had a long battle against both criminal charges and litigation for civil damages.

Add new comment

Comrade Hand GrenadeAWLThu, 13/07/2017 - 07:48

The Builders Labourer, the journal of the Builders Labourers Federation of Queensland, carried this tribute by Bill Hunt to Bob Carnegie in 2008 when Bob decided to step down as a full-time organiser with the BLF to return to work on the sites.


By now many if not most of our members will be aware that Bob Carnegie is no longer an organiser with the BLF Bob has a job with Grocon as a peggy [site cleaner] and is looking forward to reacquainting himself with the rank and file.

Add new comment

What is the “social strike”?MatthewWed, 08/03/2017 - 11:02

Recent strikes by “gig economy” workers (e.g. Deliveroo) are profoundly significant. They explode the myth, peddled by some on both left and right, that so-called precarious workers can’t organise, and that the proliferation of those types of work is in the process of rendering labour organising historically redundant.

Add new comment

Shrewsbury 24: how we started a campaign to defend pickets MatthewWed, 01/02/2017 - 12:30

Our political group has recently celebrated our 50th anniversary. We have been reflecting on some of the movements and disputes that we have played an active role in. One of these was Shrewsbury 24 campaign over the victimisation of building workers in 1972.

1972 saw a major wave of industrial action in Britain. There were more work days lost to strike action in that year than in any other since the 1926 General Strike. States of Emergency were declared during both a miners’ and a dockers’ strike.

Add new comment

Changing through struggleAWLWed, 30/11/2016 - 12:40

Sun-Hee works as a cashier in a large supermarket in a South Korean town. She is just about managing, working unpaid overtime she hopes will earn her the permanent position she has been promised which would enable her to satisfy some of her children’s wants. Shy and passive, she watches as a colleague, Hye-mi, is humiliated by being forced to apologise on her knees to a customer.

Add new comment

A socialist who grew with the movement
martinMon, 24/10/2016 - 14:52

Ernie Lane was an active fighter for revolutionary socialist politics - as he understood them, in different ways over the years - in Brisbane, Australia, from the late 1880s through to 1954, a model of persistence and tenacity though not always of acuity. Jeff Rickertt, author of a recently-published biography of Ernie, The Conscientious Communist, talked with Solidarity about Ernie and about the book.

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.