thoughts for a militant autumn…

Steve Ryan shares his ideas for another wave of struggle.

Many Communists would traditionally have ignored the TUC congress this week.

However this one may prove of more interest. Debates will be had about pensions and jobs against a background of escalating industrial unrest as PCS, FBU, Teaching unions etc move to ballot for coordinated action. McCluskey for UNITE calls for civil disobedience. The TUC is actually backing the march at the Tory and Lib Dem conferences – even Barber is talking.

we can do so much more ourselves

This is a real challenge to the libertarian-left.

This IS the biggest wave of strike action for decades, building on the March demo and June strike. Student activists are back and angry with the possibility of further action. The riots demonstrated that there is anger growing – albeit unfocused in many urban communities. Continue reading “thoughts for a militant autumn…”

‘some past rank and file movements’… and the future?

by Sheila Cohen

Bryan Pearce’s 1959 article ‘Some Past Rank and File Movements'[1] is an intriguing piece, not only because of its date during a period of relative quiescence in the labour movement but also because it puts its finger on almost every issue that currently confronts today’s perhaps even more quiescent – or at least less powerful – working class.

Paradoxically, the piece begins with two de rigeur quotes from Leon Trotsky which in turn muddy two of the central points Pearce’s account later indicates. This is largely because of the conflation which Trotsky, like so many other writers, makes between trade unionism in its aspect as organiser of class resistance and as bureaucratic institution through – again like almost every other writer in the field – referring to both aspects under the same rubric. Thus: “The trade unions of our time can either serve as secondary instruments of imperialist capitalism for the subordinating and disciplining of workers… or, on the contrary, the trade unions can become the instruments of the revolutionary movement of the proletariat…” Continue reading “‘some past rank and file movements’… and the future?”

the politics of workplace trade unionism: recent tendencies and some problems for theory

Richard Hyman asks whether leadership and bureaucracy are synonymous, and looks at the meaning of rank-and-filism and structural limitations on union democracy. Although dating from 1979 this Capital and Class piece offers insights on themes raised in recent The Commune discussions on the nature of trade unionism.

The aim of this paper(1) is above all to stimulate discussion: firstly about the nature and significance of the changes which have occurred in British trade unionism (particularly at shop-floor level) since the 1960s; secondly about the implications of these changes for the analyses of union democracy and union leadership which are popular on the left.(2) Much of the argument is tentative or exploratory; constructive criticism will be very welcome. Continue reading “the politics of workplace trade unionism: recent tendencies and some problems for theory”

rank and file versus bureaucracy in the unions?

Barry (Sheffield) poses questions on the nature of trade unionism as part of the preparations for the discussion at our 12th December aggregate meeting.

This look at the platform followed some recent criticism that the platform did not have a communist understanding of the nature of trade unions. For these critics the platform suggested that a communist rank and file could win the fight against the bueaucracy in the unions and take them over or control them, to turn them into revolutionary organisations. Continue reading “rank and file versus bureaucracy in the unions?”

where next for the unions?

by Steve Ryan

Recent events covered by The Commune such as the wild cat strikes and Visteon would indicate a surge in militancy amongst workers. However, look a bit deeper and there are real problems emerging in the trade union movement.

Both the wild cats and Visteon took the unions by surprise, but more telling was the lack of concrete support given by the union leaders and general union movement.

Also, as we sink into the deepest recession since the 30s the reaction of the TUC was to produce a booklet on how to spread your debts and write CVs! Continue reading “where next for the unions?”

a workers’ guide to bureaucracy

…or anyone in a movement which should be fighting but isnt

By Joe Thorne

You might have noticed that though trade unions are supposed to be workers’ organisations, they don’t always act like it.  You’ve probably noticed this first in a contrast between the energy, bravery and camaraderie of a campaigning organisation of grassroots union members at your place of work, and the general apathy, cowardice, inertia, incompetence and paternalism of higher levels of the union.  The point of this guide is to explain why something that should be so good got messed up, and what to do about it. (Also available as as a PDF.)

Continue reading “a workers’ guide to bureaucracy”