Dave Lyddon

Dockers and the TUC

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The springing of five dockers from Pentonville in July 1972 was class struggle in the raw. Sabby Sagall (Feedback, November 2019) suggests that the unofficial strike movement “was certainly crucial but, arguably, the dockers’ release would not have happened without the TUC’s intervention”. Ralph Darlington and I detailed the sequence of events in Glorious Summer (Bookmarks, 2001), building on Fred Lindop’s account. All three of us challenged the mainstream opinion that the TUC’s general strike call was key.

Courting controversy

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Shaun Doherty (October SR) raises important questions concerning the Supreme Court judgement that the government (the executive) acted unlawfully in proroguing (suspending) parliament (the legislature) for five weeks.

First, he claims the ruling “plays into [Boris] Johnson’s narrative”. Would we rather then that the Supreme Court had found for the government instead? Wouldn’t that have further convinced Johnson that he was untouchable?

London dockers

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I agree with Sabby Sagall’s sentiment that the “greater the confidence among workers, the greater the potential for unity against racism” (July/August SR). But his account of the highs and lows of London dockers is wrong in important respects.

As Fred Lindop has clearly shown (in a 2001 article), the main concern of those dockers who demonstrated their racist sentiments in April 1968 was over housing, not employment opportunities (the left has missed a trick in not organising more around housing).

A history of holding back Equal Pay

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Jane Hardy’s opening article on equal pay (March SR) makes fascinating reading. The following points supplement her account.

The 1918 War Cabinet inquiry that Jane mentions includes Beatrice Webb’s devastating minority report, that still repays reading. She argued that “the popular formula of ‘Equal Pay for Equal Work’…is so ambiguous and so easily evaded as not to constitute any principle”.

Health unions’ history

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The report on the RCN (November SR) breaks new ground. But we have to understand its history better.

Most health unions, including the RCN, have both professional and trade union functions. Historically, the professional side came first: particularly the demand for a statutory register of practitioners (now regulated through, for example, the Health and Care Professions Council). For most, the professional side predominates.

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