Friday, June 19, 2009

Not A Minute On The Day, Not A Penny Off The Pay

The wildcat sacking of 900 staff at the Lindsey oil refinery shows that the neoliberal counter-revolution is in full swing.
There will no doubt be many among the Counter-Revolution's Bought Priesthood who will say that this is a Good Thing - those who have built careers by fostering hatred of organised labour. They will be delighted that this has happened at Lindsey, the place where their Counter-Revolution was faced down earlier this year. There is nothing that the powerful, any particular group of the powerful, hate more avidly and fear more deeply than the organisation of those who would stand in their way.
That was the motivation behind the crushing of the Warsaw Ghetto, the crushing of the Prague Spring and the crushing of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. The UK has seen the same crushing, albeit in a very British, for which read half-assed, pantywaisted, fair trade, and crush-lite, kind of way - the crushing of union power under Margaret Thatcher.
One wishes Baroness Thatcher a speedy recovery from her recent injury - yet one does not wish to see her absolved by history for a rule characterised by her party's active desire to separate citizen from citizen. A close relative recently attended the dinner held in Glasgow to celebrate the 30th anniversary of her accession to power. Their description of it was evocative of a scene in a movie in which members of a former ruling party, long out of power and still unpopular, got together to chew the fat and have a knees-up.
The Thatcher government was not forward-looking, but incredibly regressive. In her excellent book 'A Very British Strike', concerning the General Strike of 1926, Anne Perkins quotes from a book written by an Establishment shithead called Sir Philip Gibbs in 1923. Gibbs's case was that the spirit of national unity fostered by the Great War had all been well and good, but times had moved on, and it was time to get back to business; as Gibbs put it -
'Back to cheap labour. Back to discipline'.
Those who make such remarks of course believe that they discipline, they are not disciplined; and in the same way as the apparently quite bloodthirsty Winston Churchill would have been keen to inflict violence on anyone he perceived to be threatening his constituency's interests, there would have been those in the Conservative leadership c. 1984 who would not have been happy until striking miners had been shown receiving the coup de grace in the back of the head on The Nine O' Clock News.
If people are free, they are free to organise in groups. Any attempt to restrict what the rights of groups can do is an assault on fundamental freedoms. The union reforms passed by Thatcher, and unchanged by Tony Blair, were such assaults on fundamental freedoms- pure Friedmanism, economic liberty (a term which should by now be synonymous with pillage) deemed to be of vastly greater importance than political liberty.
On Question Time last night, it was stated that British Airways has asked staff to work without wages for a month. Staff who might be affected should remember the General Strike's slogan - 'Not a minute on the day, not a penny off the pay'. Having been treated as little more than liabilities and costs for so long, they should have little reason to co-operate with any plan that now treats them as assets.
And if BA seeks to solve the problem by ditching refuseniks in the hope that Poland's still got an unemployment problem, I wouldn't bank on it staying in business for long. Do such companies actually think they have a right to stay in business? It's a tough world out there, don't you know...


Blogger James Higham said...

There are two sides to this. In the Liverpool area, it was the out and out greed of the shop stewards which brought down industry. As they demanded more and more, the bosses became more and more intransigent.

There was no compromise anywhere and what the workers demanded was lost when industry shut down in response to impossible claims.

19 June, 2009 14:40  
Blogger Martin said...

Might be a bit more complex than that, James.

If you have not read Correlli Barnett's 'The Pride and The Fall' books, I'd recommend them to you. The way in which the decline of British industry has been portrayed as being entirely the fault of unions reeks of the 'official version' issued concerning the fate of an Argentine disappeared.

20 June, 2009 07:10  
Blogger David Lindsay said...

It is time for a Total boycott. They couldn't do this in France. There would be riots at the merest hint that they might be considering it.

Historically, it was Labour governments that acted to protect jobs, wages and working conditions by restricting immigration accordingly. No "free" market rubbish there, and rightly not. Far more like Gaullism, or Christian Democracy, or the conservative Democrats, all currently on the march while our three neoliberal parties cannot collectively reach anything like twenty per cent of the eligible electorate.

But that party no longer exists. So no wonder that leaders of the Lindsey oil refinery workers headed the lists for No2EU - Yes To Democracy both in Yorkshire and the Humber and in the East Midlands.

But, of course, our very own Council of Guardians - Fleet Street and the BBC - blacked them out. At least the Iranian system, of simply keeping people off the ballot in the first place, is honest and above board.

20 June, 2009 12:56  

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