50 Years Ago – May News Review: At Home

The railway wages dispute continued during the merry month of May, providing the government with evidence that their anti-union laws have little hope of working differently from similar laws in America, where it was found that “cooling off” periods, compulsory ballots and the rest only made the strikers more solidly determined than ever. Railway workers are struggling to win back some of the standard of living they have lost over recent years. This is a pretty typical affair, since the class divided nature of capitalism must throw up class disputes about the division of wealth. No law will ever change that; governments, as well as unions, have to make the best of it they can. Meanwhile, the current dispute in the docks, which is costing the Transport Workers’ union £55,000 in fines up to now, showed up the confusions and limitations of trade union action. The dockers have been refusing to handle lorries carrying containers which had been packed in inland depots by non-dock labour. This arrangement was precisely one of the main motives behind the massive capital investment in container ships, docks and traffic—to reduce the loading time of ships in the docks, where the dockers were so powerful. But the dockers’ efforts to keep up their position of strength has met with opposition from the workers who do the loading at the depots and from the drivers who deliver the containers—members, in fact, of the same union as the dockers. All the workers involved in this dispute would do well to realise that there is no advantage in struggling against other workers. The only worthwhile battle is against the capitalist class, over not a share of the wealth the workers produce but all of it.

(Socialist Standard, June 1972)

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