Saturday, 26 May 2012

Calling for a General Strike - a different perspective

Walking through Cambridge today, I spotted the regular Socialist Worker Party stall near the Grafton Centre. The stall had posters of David Cameron with the tagline He must Go (well, its not up to the SWP but the electorate) and a poster with the inevitable cry out to the TUC to call a General Strike.

Leaving aside the fact that to call a strike requires an industrial dispute and a secret ballot of members. Yes, PCS, NUT and others have an existing mandate to strike. But to get the likes of the British Dietician Association and United Shops Distributive and Allied Workers involved would be a different kettle of fish. There would be no point in the TUC calling a general strike if all the affiliates are not taking part.

Is such a call realistic? Would the revolution win out?

For it to work, it has to be one hundred percent legal and without reproach. The slightest mistake in a ballot or to proceed without reference to law, no matter how tempting, will alienate the public, lead to injunctions and employers will be perfectly justifiable to dismiss for breach of contract and harsher rules introduced on calling a strike.

Your standard socialist as you might find in a Trade Council up and down the country has a theory that when taking this course of action, two million workers would walk out, Dave Cameron go "D'oh! Of course, its obvious! I must resign as a prime minister, dissolve parliament, call an election" out of which the Unions channel the spirit of 1973 and win through with a socialist government elected.

The socialists are fond of their history. But no so fond as to leave out the inconvenient bits that disrupts their narrative. The glaring omissions from the average socialist who harkens back to the glory days of 1973 are Wapping and the 1984 Miners Strike. Even Owen Jones missed this in his article for The Independent newspaper when discussing the use of the word socialist as an insult.

History is not on the Unions' side. The 1926 General Strike was a failure and more recently, Wapping and the 1984 Miners Strike have given Employers carte blanche to ride out an industrial dispute. The Government will do no less. They can't afford not to.

Even if by some miracle, the Left achieve their aims and the government falls, the Conservatives will do a re-run of Heath's "Who Runs Britain?". The only two winners out of this scenario will be the Tories, perhaps with an overall majority, or Labour who promises £8 in cuts for every £9 proposed by the coalition government and are certainly in no rush to overturn decades of anti-union laws.

The Unions are no longer in a position to hold a government or a country to ransom. A General Strike will fail and people who lose a days pay will lose it for nothing.

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