1990s >> 1999 >> no-1140-august-1999

50 Years Ago: The Dispute At The London Docks

The trouble at the London docks is an excellent illustration of the capitalist outlook of the Labour Government. The dockers are willing to unload all ships except the Beaverbrae and Argomont, the two Canadian ships which are involved in a Canadian trade union dispute. The dockers are also prepared to see troops unload the Canadian ships but are not willing to unload them themselves because they contend that these ships are “black ships”. The Dock Labour Board refuses to allow the dock workers to unload other ships unless they are prepared to unload the two Canadian ships. At the moment of writing the government has threatened to declare a state of emergency unless the Port of London is working fully on Monday, July 11th: thus the Labour Government, like all previous capitalist governments, is taking the side of the employers against the workers.

On July 10th Reynolds News contained the following:

“Mr Sam Watson, chairman of the Labour Party, said at Brandon (Co. Durham) yesterday that the dock strike was the work of foreign agencies, was purely political and could be solved if the members of the unions threw out the anti-British agitators.”

What a familiar ring this statement has. For a hundred years every strike of any size has been put down to the nefarious influence of “agitators” sometimes foreign, sometimes home-grown. Many of the Labour leaders who are fighting the dockers were included in this category long ago; now that they support the Labour administration of capitalism they take up the capitalists’ cudgels and sing his tune.

(From Socialist Standard, August 1949)

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