Rank and file

Unions: The Only Way to Win

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The enthusiasm for the awkward squad will be wasted unless the rank and file take centre stage with determined strike action.

A run of recent setbacks in the unions has taken a bit of the gloss off the preceding sequence of election victories for members of the 'awkward squad'. Following the defeat of the firefighters and then the ousting of Mick Rix from the leadership of Aslef, the shock vote against national strike action by postal workers has taken a bit of wind out of the unions' sails and put some unaccustomed backbone into New Labour. It has left many fellow workers wondering when and if the much-heralded revival of union militancy is ever going to materialise.

Proud to be Awkward

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There is a golden opportunity for the trade union movement to revitalise itself, and rebuilding grassroots networks is the key.

On the day of the 2 million strong Stop the War Coalition demonstration, one union general secretary went around his delegation recording the names of the young activists who were marching. These, he claims, are the future of the union - the next generation of reps. There is no doubting the impact the anti-war movement has had on the trade union movement. Millions of trade unionists were inspired and involved in this mass movement. Inspired by the school students' strikes, at least 360 workplaces took part in unofficial action on the day war broke out.

Striking a Bargain

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The role of the trade union leaders is complex and contradictory.

Arguments over reform and revolution are as old as the working class movement. That does not stop people repeatedly confusing the issues at stake. One of the most widespread confusions in Britain is the belief that reformism is embodied in one political formation, the Labour Party, and cannot exist outside it.

Dinosaurs Have Some Backbone

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Trade unionists are beginning to flex their muscles.

Once again trade unions are hitting the headlines. But no longer do journalists write about the death of the British trade union movement. Now all the talk is of the left winning union elections, trade union demonstrations and one-day strikes. Two key issues are fuelling this revival of class struggle at the moment. By far the most important is pay.

1972: A Great Year for the Workers

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Thirty years ago Britain's workers were on the offensive. We reprint an article from 'Socialist Worker' which explains how solidarity and socialist politics can strengthen the workers' movement.

1972 was a tremendous year for Britain's working class. The struggle rose to new heights, both in terms of the number of workers involved, the size of strikes and their length, and above all in the quality of the struggle. There have been far more large-scale and prolonged strikes this year than in the previous ten years. November and December figures have not yet been published, but there is no doubt that the total number of strike days has reached or exceeded 30 million this year.

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