Back to Labour Values index
Back to Dock Strike index
Back to article index


The response of the Labour Party and the trade union leaders to the first implementation of the Act has been to hark back to the "good old days" when stability was the paramount aim of the ruling class in the economic struggle. They have had nothing more to offer the working class than a plea that the ruling class should ignore its economic interests. Jack Jones has promised that the TGWU will support its shop stewards to the hilt when they are acting within the Union's rules. Also that the Union would obey the law but not embrace it. This defensive stance does not shield the Union or its members from the NIRC's powers to define a new system of industrial relations as the law of the land. The railways case forced the TUC to decide whether its opposition to the Act would extend to disobeying the law. Though the working class would probably have defended its leaders in this defiance, a solid but outlawed working class movement would not have forced the Act's repeal. It would have forced a political confrontation which neither the TUC or the working class are prepared for. (The TUC are not prepared because their job is to advance the working class' interest inside bourgeois politics; the working class are not prepared because they do not have Communist political leaders.) The 'left' reacts by calling for a labour Government or by telling the rank-and-file that if they resist hard enough the Act will be defeated. Neither of these represent a political challenge to the ruling class.

It is still far too early to judge the effect of the Industrial Relations Act on the economic struggle. Without the necessary changes "on the shop floor" required both of employers and the working class, the Act will in practice prove of no help to the bourgeoisie's economic dilemma. The NIRC and Government and CBI plainly understand that they must re-educate their own, the employers, into the new ways and that the job is not an easy or a short one. The TUC and CBI are jointly talking of a new, "really independent" conciliation service to discover and deal with the black spots before they erupt. Much of the trade union opposition to the Act is not with the new system it espouses but to the extension of the law and courts to the economic struggle. The courts have usually been zealous in rolling back "rights" the unions have won in the economic struggle. The bourgeois press is well aware that even if a Labour Government repeals the Act, "it will never be the same again." The ruling class have tried to set in motion a change in the conditions of the economic struggle. They have done so through bourgeois democratic channels; their coercion has been political. Unless the working class can counter that political coercion in kind - i.e. a political counter-attack - the ruling class' initiative will have only the inertia of an extraordinarily stable society (by bourgeois standards) to contend with.

This is the fiftieth issue of The Communist. Started within the ambience of the anti-revisionist movement to provide an organ for the various groups to seriously discuss differences and hammer them out, it has faced the blanket refusal of those groups to deal with the real world of Marxism-Leninism and the class struggle. The B&ICO has been dealing with the real world and will continue to do so, recognising that it is the only way forward for the working class.