Organized Resistance to UnemploymentCategory: Politics
The effects of the crisis in the sphere of employment cannot, of course, be fought by the unemployed alone. There is a need for active participation in the struggle by the overwhelming majority of the working class. It is easier to win satisfaction of individual concrete demands if the unemployed committees act together with all the other workers, with the trade unions and the left-wing political forces. Consider the Greater London Council area, where such cooperation is effective. A special committee has been set up there to preserve and create jobs in the city. Whenever an enterprise is threatened with closure, while the committee believes that it is fully viable, funds are allocated from the municipal budget to keep it going. It becomes a kind of workers’ cooperative, with specialist consultants guided by the committee helping in the management of production. Something similar is also being done in Sheffield, another industrial city, where efforts by the progressive municipal council have helped to save several enterprises. We find, therefore, that the problem can sometimes be eased by means of democratic methods.
The fight against the curtailment of production does not always yield the desired results. Thus, a six-week strike by steel workers in 1983 to prevent the closure of steel mills was not successful. By contrast, the transnational Timex had to reverse its decision to transfer its electronics factory from Scotland to France. It was compelled to do so by the resistance of the workers who occupied the plant. Similar examples will be found in the coal, shipbuilding, and clothing industries.
Most industrial companies in Britain have several enterprises and their owners close down some of them and frequently switch production elsewhere. This makes acts of solidarity most crucial, with workers refusing to operate equipment transferred from other factories or to perform operations withdrawn from their workmates. Fearful of this kind of action, the Government has banned solidarity action by special legislation. The most recent examples of the use of this anti-trade union legislation were the fining of the National Graphic Association for solidarity action with print workers who lost their jobs, and last March, the injunction obtained by the Coal Board under this legislation against Yorkshire miners picketing other pits seeking solidarity action against the Coal Board’s plans to close down pits and dismiss their employees. We intend to do everything to get it rescinded as a challenge to democracy emasculating the trade unions and a blow at the working class movement.
The CP Great Britain welcomes and supports in every way the positive shifts in trade union positions. Not long ago trade unions used to withdraw membership from those who lost their jobs. The situation is now a different one. Some trade unions even recruit unemployed and open up special centres for them. Of equal importance is the fact that the Communists’ alternative economic strategy has been largely adopted as official policy by the trade union movement.
From: World Marxist Review, 1984