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Submitted by AWL on Mon, 29/08/2016 - 19:59

Thanks for your response. I haven't read through the links you provided so this will just be a response to the points you raise here, rather than anything in those articles.

Firstly, on the question of whether Callum does in fact view the Deliveroo strikes as "social strikes", I'd draw your attention to the recent addition to the article, as follows:

"Callum has since made it clear he does not regard the Deliveroo and UberEats strikes as "social strikes", and believes that my article misrepresents him. My apparent confusion arose from the fact that, in his Novara piece, the line describing the strikes as "new kinds of strike action" was hyperlinked to the interview about social strikes; I therefore assumed that this is partially what he meant when he referred to their "novelty". As my reference to his Novara article was merely a jumping off point for a wider discussion of the "social strike" concept, responding primarily to his interview with Al, I do not believe that this renders the rest of the article invalid."

Hope that clears things up, at my end at least.

You say that it's okay to call something "new" even if what you actually mean is "it hasn't been seen for a long time". I don't agree. Two absolutely elementary duties of any socialist organisation worth its salt are 1) to strive for clarity, and 2) to attempt to be "the memory of the class", bringing before our fellow workers experiences that the movement has had in the past, and attempting to draw out any lessons for our current period. That's what we're trying to do by banging on about New Unionism.

Saying that something is a new development when it manifestly isn't might be forgivable on a journalistic level but if you're trying to raise the level of consciousness and understanding of the class around you (presumably this is also a goal Plan C sets for itself), then you have to be clear.

I find the accusation that, for me (or perhaps AWL more widely) "the working class is folded into the minority of workers who're employed in workplaces with a recognised TUC union" rather hoary, and not supported either by what I actually wrote in the article nor our wider writing or practise. We have written reams and reams of stuff about strategies for organising the unorganised, and been involved in plenty of campaigns around this (including, often, working with non-TUC affiliated unions). We were the first group on the UK left, to my knowledge, to promote the campaigns of Unite New Zealand in the fast food industry as a model (some of whose strategies are now beginning to be taken up by BFAWU), and we have a long record of engagement with migrant workers' struggles, etc. Given all of this it seems especially ludicrous to accuse me of arguing that workers in unorganised workplaces should "sit on [their] hands and wait for the 'actually existing labour movement' to rescue us".

If your view is that the Deliveroo and UberEATS strikes will result in the construction of a "new, better, labour movement from scratch", you are inverting the error you accuse me of. Is the IWGB/UVW going to "rescue" the six or seven million workers who are currently members of "traditional" trade unions? How? Will it replace them? Will members of a GMB branch in, say, Rotherham, read about the UberEATS strike on the Internet, realise how much better the IWGB is than the GMB, and leave their GMB branch to found a branch of the IWGB?

Would that be desirable, even if it were less fantastical? I don't believe it would. To do so would mean abandoning a terrain of struggle.

There will certainly be mass strikes, of the 2011 type, again, perhaps soon. "Build the IWGB" is not a strategy for developing an alternative, grassroots leadership and political direction for those strikes (or for "socialising" them, if you think that term has strategic value). Without an insurgent, independently-organised rank-and-file with a clear industrial and political strategy, we won't be able to do much more than "sit on our hands" and wait to be marched up and down by the bureaucracy.

I agree that, in certain situations, "minority union"-type projects can play an important role and might be the most effective strategy. But if one's aspiration is not merely for the sparking of small pockets of struggle here and there, but the revolutionisation of the entire labour movement, one can hardly ignore the 99.9% of it currently comprised by TUC-affiliated unions. If you want to transform it (and I mean genuinely transform, and probably organisationally recompose in some way; I'm not talking about an SP-style strategy, which dresses up leftists capturing bureaucratic positions as rank-and-fileism), it has to be gone through, not around.

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DR

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