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Trade Unions and the Labour Party

Editorial: The Organisation of the Working Class


 Ever since the existing social order originated in the downfall of feudalism, there has been going on a struggle between the two classes of which it is composed, i.e., the capitalist or master-class and the wage-slave or working-class. As a result of this struggle, ever increasing in its intensity and ever widening in its scope, there has arisen a certain degree of organisation on the part of both classes. Up to the present the initiative in the struggle has lain with the masters and the efficiency of their organisation is correspondingly greater than that of the workers, whose lot has in the main consisted of a series of defeats resulting in increased poverty and exploitation. There is urgent need for improvement in the workers’ organisation, hence the propaganda of the Socialist Party.

Trade Unions and the State

Trade Unions today are respectable organisations. Their leaders move in lofty circles, both nationally and internationally, and sit on royal commissions and boards of major charities. Unions, too, are to some extent partners with employers in the management of production, and are consulted to varying degrees by governments who need their advice and cooperation. But this situation is fairly recent: less than fifty years ago, union involvement with government was minimal. It is only just over a century since unions achieved any adequate legal status, and fifty years before that they were actually illegal.

Workers' Control ? ?

The Trade Disputes Act is to go. Hurrah! The workers have wrenched from the Capitalists one of their vilest weapons. Just a minute, there's a catch in this. Here it is, in the words of Sir Hartley Shawcross. Opening the debate for the Government in the House of Commons on February 12th, he pointed out that:

    “In any case the pre-1927 law gave ample powers for dealing with strikes."

Speaking of the proposal to allow Civil Servants to belong to Trade Unions to which outside workers belong and to be affiliated to the T.U.C., he said:—

    “I take this opportunity of making it quite clear that this Government, as an employer, would feel itself completely free to take disciplinary action when any strike situation which might develop demanded it."

That’s not all—this “workers’ Government ” has a duty to perform—duty to whom? Could it be to the Employers?

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