50 Years Ago – The London Bus Strike (by a busman)
On October 18th, London was in the grip of an ever spreading bus strike. As each issue of daily and evening newspapers reported more and more garages affected and more services withdrawn, so the streets of London became increasingly crowded with motor cars and other vehicles and extra police had to be detailed for traffic control. The strike, which by October 18th embraced 43 out of 84 Central London bus garages was the boiling over of a feeling of resentment that has been simmering amongst busmen for a long time ( . . . )
As with every other commodity, the price of labour power fluctuates with variations in supply and demand, but the fluctuations are not automatic. They are brought about by the efforts of employers to obtain cheap labour power when the supply is plentiful and by the struggles of workers to get more when the demand exceeds the supply. London busmen are working on sound lines in using the present high demand for their particular brand of labour power to force up its price ( . . .)
It may seem to busmen and all other workers that the position is impossible of improvement. Not so. There may be improvements for some of the workers for a long time and for all the workers for a short time, but the range of improvements is very limited within capitalist society. Not a reduction in the amount of interest paid on investments but the abolition of investment; not struggles for higher wages but the end of the wages system; not joint consultation between employers and employees, but the elimination of employment and unemployment, a world wherein everyone produces to his best ability and has access to the wealth produced, in a word – Socialism. That is the only alternative to an indefinite continuation of the struggle to get enough to live on for those millions who constitute the working class.
Busmen have always had one weakness in their struggles – inter-garage rivalries, inter-section suspicions, inter-service jealousies and a lack of close communication to allow of concerted action. The overtime ban did much to overcome those difficulties and give it a common purpose. The strike, as it was not complete, has recreated the difficulties. To achieve Socialism there must be a breaking down of the rivalries and antagonisms between all workers in all industries and a unification, on the political field, on the basis of a clear understanding and awareness of their interests – AS A CLASS.
(From front page article by W. Waters,
Socialist Standard, November 1954)