Considering myself a socialist postal worker, I wish to direct your readers’ attention to an aspect of a recent mail strike.
Re-acting to the Post Office’s “slap across the wrist” disciplining of a manager, guilty of sexually harassing a 16-year-old postwoman, the entire Glasgow mail ground to a halt as postal workers came out on wildcat strikes.
Now, what struck me, as a socialist, was the sense of solidarity that has developed, after many years’ experience of industrial action, amongst postal workers. As is the custom, regardless of whether official or unofficial, all mail from Glasgow was blacked, a tactic to foil any Royal Mail attempt to move mail around the country to isolate and defeat a strike-bound office. It is illegal secondary action under the statutes, but the Post Office rarely challenges the refusal to handle blacked mail. On this occasion, however, and no doubt, as a result of their success in forcing through the “way forward” productivity deal, Royal Mail tried to divert letters to Edinburgh who subsequently went out on strike too.
Once again, postal workers have demonstrated the strength of industrial solidarity and expressed a spirit, nobly cited by Anton Pannekoek in Workers’ Councils:
“Direct action means action of the workers themselves without the intermediary of trade union officers…The first and most important task is to propaganda to expand the strike…Capitalists know or feel this quite well and so the only inducement to concessions is the fear that the strike might spread universally…”
Also in his “Ethics And Socialism” article:
“The workers could not be made to understand what wrong they had committed by stopping work for a day in support of a group of workers at war with their employers. The bourgeois journalists argued along these lines:…to go on strike for others through solidarity! (sheer madness, indeed…).”
Does the Socialist Party applaud the Scottish postal workers, as I do?
Alan Johnstone, Livingston
Reply: Yes, even if we don’t share Pannekoek’s view that unofficial, wildcat strikes are always best. As far as we are concerned, any strike to improve conditions or stop them getting worse, official or unofficial, legal or illegal, is all right as long as it is democratically decided and run by those involved. Full-time trade union officials should be the servants of their members, not their bosses as is so often the case today – Editors.