political trade unionism

Get ready to break the Trade Union Act

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“Strike to win”, “Unity is strength”, “Workers’ solidarity”. Old fashioned? Yes, but these trade union slogans have never been more relevant than today.

All of the above is enshrined in the ethos of the Grangemouth trade unions hub — where various unions across different sectors have joined forces. The hub was founded just after the Ineos dispute in 2013, in order to bring together refinery workers, dockers, rail workers and tanker drivers to give us more leverage during any future disputes.

Bringing politics into the union movement

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The low level of industrial struggle in Britain today is frustratingly at odds with the political radicalisation represented by the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Michael Bradley sets out a strategy to rebuild workers' confidence using our strengths to overcome our weaknesses

Bitterness against years of Tory austerity and the failure of the Labour Party to lead any effective opposition has laid the ground for the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. This political earthquake has opened up exciting possibilities for the left.

For Corbyn to join a mass protest in defence of refugees within minutes of being elected and to make his first visit abroad as leader to refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk is pretty incredible by previous standards.

The minority movement

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As major industrial struggle seems set to make a return to Britain, Dave Sherry looks at the strategy and tactics of the revolutionary left during the period of intense class conflict which gripped Britain between the end of the First World War and the General Strike of 1926

In 1920 the best parts of the revolutionary left came together to form the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). It was soon put to the test.

Its first big challenge was the relationship between the "official" and "unofficial" wings of the trade union movement and how to work both with and against a newly emerging group of leftwing officials in the face of a deep recession and a vicious state offensive.

Trade unions - the need for unity and fightback

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The scale of the crisis, and the avalanche of job losses, underlines the need for the working class to fight. This is why it was so disappointing to see two unions that have led the resistance, the teachers' NUT and the civil service's PCS, turn away from strikes earlier this month.

The immediate issue at stake was a response to Gordon Brown's pay curbs in the public sector. The NUT executive decided that a 52 percent vote for action was not enough. Within hours, the government had authorised talks with the PCS over the pay issues which led to a strike planned for 10 November. Again, the executive decided to suspend action.

In both cases Socialist Workers Party members on the executives voted for strikes, against the majority.

Finding our voice

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On occasion I get mail (some of it signed) telling me to stick to union issues and stay out of politics.

But what a hospital cleaner, tanker driver or civil servant gets paid compared to, say, a commodities trader or chief executive of a bank is political. And the government's policy of holding down public sector wages in a time of rampant inflation has made it doubly so.

The TUC Congress this year was characterised by a sense of crisis, with many thinking Labour would lose the next election. This raised questions about how to respond and whether alternatives to Labour were possible.

Pay Freeze: Learn from the past to shape the future

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As increasing numbers of workers take action over pay Charlie Kimber examines the political dimension of the strikes and looks at the lessons we can learn from the past.

Class struggle is on the rise. In the first 11 months of Gordon Brown's premiership there were over 900,000 strike days, almost three times the number in the same period in the previous year. These figures do not include the big local government action in July.

Make your vote count

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No doubt readers of Socialist Review are aware of the PCS dispute with the civil service and associated employers with the latest national strike which took place on 1 May.

We have been taking action over industrial matters - pay offers below inflation, job cuts, compulsory redundancies, attacks on conditions, the damaging effects of privatisation and outsourcing. But the problems public servants face (and not just PCS members, by any means) are the industrial relations consequences of decisions made by politicians.

They have decided that there must be a business case for everything. They consider that the pursuit of social benefit no longer justifies policy. There has to be a potential for profit to make any activity worthwhile to them.

Brown, bosses and workers after May Day

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These may be Tony Blair's last days, but Gordon Brown has made it clear that Blairism - war, privatisation and cuts - will remain. Charlie Kimber looks at the issues which are bringing workers into confrontation with the government and how trade unions are organising

At its best 1 May, May Day, is about the unity of socialist politics and the power of the working class. A hundred years ago the Second International grouping of socialist parties called on all socialists and trade unionists in every country to "demonstrate energetically" each 1 May "for the legal establishment of the eight-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace." The greatest May Day moments have reflected the merging of immediate class demands and a vision of a better world free of capitalism and imperialism.

Putting the Pressure On

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Battle lines are being drawn between Labour and the unions. But how will the awkward squad deal with the issues?

Gordon Brown has declared war on the PCS civil servants' union. If this Labour government gets its way over 104,000 workers will lose their jobs. But this attack on a key public sector union has much wider implications. Brown also wants to rip up the civil service pension scheme. Across the public sector workers will be nervously wondering if they will be next. Behind the scenes the government is clearing its 'industrial problems' from the decks.

The Heat is On

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Strikes and pickets are now back in the news. Pay heads a list of grievances that express growing frustration with New Labour. Peter Morgan explains why workers are getting more awkward.

There is clearly something going on with workers in the offices, factories and workplaces of Britain. It can best be summed up in a single word: confidence. Today our side seems to be winning more disputes than it loses and sometimes this happens without a strike taking place. Often it is simply the case that a resounding yes vote for action in a ballot is enough to win.

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