1950s >> 1954 >> no-604-december-1954

Reflections on the Dock Strike

With Capitalism the class war is never calm for very long. We started this year with an article on the Railway Workers strike and here we are at the end of it reflecting on yet another outbreak of industrial strife.

Now that things have quietened down a bit and Dockland is back at work, let us soberly take a look at a few of the facts which present themselves.

We are always being told by politicians and Press that the Capitalist class are the “Captains of Industry,” or “The backbone of the Nation,” without whom none of us could survive for long.

A strike such as the October dock strike shows in no uncertain way who the useful people of society really are. When Lord Do-nothing and Lady Do-less, our employers, are yachting on the Mediterranean or roughing it in Monte Carlo their absence goes unnoticed but when the dock- workers walk out on strike, chaos reigns.

Of course “now” is never the time to strike according to the Capitalist Press and they can always find plenty of excuses why pay claims are unfair or a strike to improve conditions is “crazy.” However, they always remain silent on the embarrassing question that if the working class who produce ALL the wealth are not entitled to it, how is the Capitalist Class which produces NOTHING, entitled to any?

One fact is obvious, the strike is the only real weapon the workers have on the industrial field, and while they remain a class of wage slaves the right to withhold the sale of their labour power when the conditions for its sale are repressive must remain.

Compulsory overtime is a repressive condition.

The persuasive powers of the Capitalist Press will always try to divide the rest of the workers against the strikers; this is an old game, but there are signs of workers getting wise to it. The strength of the workers when on strike lies in their solidarity and, looking to the time when they really wake up and organise politically with us for Socialism, a solid, world-wide, Socialist working class would hold every trump in the pack.

According to The Observer for 31st October, 1954, “Some £6 to £7 million worth of imports and £5 to £6 million of exports were held up daily.”

This paper also tells us that industries ranging from toy making to motor cars and from dairy produce to rubber manufactures, in places as far flung as Australia, New Zealand and Malaya, have been hit. Although some workers are said to have had “overtime cuts,” in general the pain comes from the loss of profits and the dread that the employers may “never regain the business loss.”’

It is interesting to note that the troops were not used during this strike, due to the peculiar way the strike developed and it looked as though the dockers were going to return a week before they actually did. All the necessary preparations were made, orders had been sent out to various military headquarters but to avoid jeopardizing the chances of a settlement, the orders were not proceeded with.

No Government hesitates for long to use the armed forces. Tory, Liberal and Labour Governments have done so in the past. Any party running Capitalism has in the name of Capital to keep the system going. In this connection we might cast our minds back to the methods used to smash the strike in East Berlin; we then witnessed the spectacle of the Daily Worker upholding the brutality while the rest of the British Capitalist Press (for their own reasons) showed “sympathy” for the strikers. We find them all out in the end.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has no hidden “motives,” our tongue is not in our cheek; any improvements or gains the workers can obtain under Capitalism they, as the sole producers, are more than entitled to.

However, in conclusion, let us make it clear where we stand. We maintain that the strikes and lockouts, the wars and hardships of Capitalism arise, directly out of the fact that the means of living are owned by the few, the many are therefore a propertyless-class who must work for wages in order to live. The antagonism between employers and workers will know no end while the wealth of the one is derived from the exploitation of the other.

THE VERY EXISTENCE OF WAGES AT ALL shows the economic enslavement of the working class to be a fact.

All the dairy produce of New Zealand, the car factories of Australia, the rubber plantations of Malaya, together with the rest of the land, mills, mines, factories and means of transport constitute what belongs to the Capitalist class and through our work keeps them wealthy and us poor. Only when these things are held in common by all mankind, when the wages system is abolished and things produced solely for use instead of profit, will the need to strike be gone for ever.

Harry Baldwin