The cost of caving in

18 November 2013

Ever since the dispute at Grangemouth, Cameron has been attacking union tactics in just about every speech he makes, whatever the subject, while insisting hypocritically that he has no intention of questioning workers' right to take "legitimate industrial action".

As if it should be up to the likes of him to decide whether our strikes are "legitimate" or not, in the first place! Etonian toffs like Cameron and his ministers have only ever experienced the cushy life which they inherited. They belong to the very same class as the bosses that we have to fight, day in and day out, to defend our wages and conditions. And they want to tell us what we can and cannot do, to defend our interests?

In fact Cameron has gone a step further - and ordered an "enquiry" into "inappropriate or intimidatory actions" in trade disputes!

The bosses' "intimidation and terrorism"

In other words, whatever he might say, it is the right to strike, that Cameron wants to restrict even further - as if it's not badly curtailed already.

The starting point for his campaign is both farcical and hypocritical - as illustrated by the Daily Mail headline: "Terrorised by union bullies: how Labour's Unite paymasters intimidated managers and their children in bitter oil refinery battle". And the reason for the Daily Mail's "outrage"? Among other things, a protest outside the house of a Grangemouth director where, according to this newspaper, "25 Unite members... protested on his driveway with flags, banners and an inflatable rat for about 90 minutes" (the rat apparently representing John Ratcliffe, the billionaire CEO of Ineos).

Was this "terrorism" or "intimidation"? What a joke! In fact, the worst that can be said about this protest is that it was silly - and a waste of time. An inflatable rat, even backed by a few dozen workers, couldn't force a company like Ineos to back down. The Ratcliffes of this world are concerned with only one thing - their profits. And it is only a real threat to these profits which could have forced Ratcliffe's hand - not symbolic protests.

Cameron's use of such a protest to accuse union members of "terrorism and intimidation" is just idiotic - and a red-herring. But what about the very real "terrorism and intimidation" used by the bosses against workers and their families at Grangemouth? What was the blackmail over jobs which was perpetrated by Ineos, if not "intimidation"? And what was the impact of the threat of wage and job cuts on these workers' families, if not that they were "terrorised" by the prospect of hard times to come?

Isn't it time to talk about the "terrorism and intimidation" of the capitalist class against the working class? And not just in Grangemouth, but across the whole of society. Wasn't it the capitalists' profiteering and speculation which caused the present crisis - causing misery for millions of working class families? If this isn't "terrorism", what is?

The way forward, standing up to them!

Of course, there's a good deal of politicking behind Cameron's "enquiry". It's a banana skin for Miliband, trapping him in a dilemma: either displease the bosses and well-off voters by refusing to back Cameron, or lose some working class votes.

But the real issue is not the game of chair- swopping which will take place in government at the next general election - because whatever the outcome, it will change nothing for the working class. The real issue is that the capitalist class and their politicians across the political spectrum have been allowed to tell us, workers what we can and cannot do to defend our interests, for far too long - and this is what needs to be stopped.

In this respect, what the working class just cannot afford, is policies such as those of the union leaders during recent disputes - whether it be their capitulation to Ineos at Grangemouth itself or, for instance, their failure to organise any serious opposition to the privatisation of Royal Mail.

No doubt, this was because union leaders feared the perspective of a head-on confrontation and hoped to maintain their working "partnership" with the bosses anyway. But, in the end, their failure to offer workers a fighting perspective has only resulted in them sawing off the branch on which they were sitting: today the likes of Cameron, Ratcliffe at Ineos and Moya Greene, at Royal Mail, are pushing their luck, to take advantage of the weakness displayed by the union leaderships.

Ultimately, however, it is not union leaders, but the entire working class which is the real target of the bosses and their politicians. And whether their attacks are derailed or not, will not depend on union leaders who've already proved their spinelessness, but on the rest of us, workers. We produce all the wealth in this society and this gives us the collective strength to bring about real change. Using it is the only way forward!