Scargill and the Polish Scargills

Submitted by martin on 17 June, 2018 - 6:46 Author: Editorial, Socialist Organiser 15 September 1983

It's as if a giant reversing lens has been placed across Europe. Arthur Scargill denounces the Polish Arthur Scargills. At the same time, the time-servers and bureaucrats of the British labour movement support, in Poland, the same working class militancy that they detest in Britain.

Solidarnosc's programme includes: works managers to be subject to recall by elected workers’ councils; ‘opening the books’ of state economic planning; abolition of the privileges of the bureaucracy; free trade unions and the right to strike. That is not anti-socialist.

Solidarnosc was and is about the working class organising itself to speak for itself and fight for its own interests. It represents the same spirit of working class rebellion that Arthur Scargill is associated with in Britain.

Frank Chapple, David Basnett, Kate Losinska and the rest differ from the official Polish 'union' leaders in that even the most right-wing TUC union is a genuine workers’ organisation, whereas the official Polish 'unions’ are state-controlled fronts. But in spirit they are infinitely closer to the fake union leaders leaders nominated by General Jaruzelski than to Lech Walesa. The narrow—minded devotion to their own careers, the hostility to what disrupts their bureaucratic security and comfort, is the same.

Not all is topsy-turvy, though. For most of the TUC right-wingers were blatant hypocrites in their pious outcry against Scargill's denunciation of Solidarnosc. They themselves continued relations with the official Polish ’unions’ as Solidarnosc struggled for life in 1980-1. Bill Sirs, now so loud against Scargill, spoke understandingly of the 'problems’ faced by his ‘colleagues’ in Poland.

The timing showed up their hypocrisy. It's no news that Scargill has a scandalous attitude to Solidarnosc. It's not a new revelation to be gleaned from the cynically-timed publication of a six week old letter in the columns of a small-circulation paper. The TUC right-wingers chose to denounce him last week, not in order to help the Polish workers, but In order to help themselves at the TUC congress.

The name of the reversing lens is nationalism. The working class is a world class. The motto, 'An injury to one is an injury to all’, applies world-wide. Yet Arthur Scargill clearly sees class struggle as just British workers versus British bosses.

That's why he can write one third of the world’s workers — those who live in the Stalinist states — out of the class struggle, allotting them no role but to support their ‘socialist’ rulers.

Perhaps he is motivated by the principle, ’My enemy's enemy is my friend’: if the Stalinist bureaucrats arouse the hostility of Britain's bosses, then they must be on our side. But working class politics demands more than just blindly kicking against the bosses, saying yes when they say no and no when they say yes.

Perhaps he is concerned to defend the principle of a nationalised economy. So are we. 80 is Solidarnosc. But military defence of nationalised property relations against an imperialist assault is one thing. Political defence of the bureaucrats who sit astride that nationalised economy against the living, struggling, angry working class is another.

The same nationalism explains why Arthur Scargill, alongside his industrial militancy, supports a not-at-all-militant programme of import controls, withdrawal from the EEC, and siege economy. He is looking for 'socialism in one country', and since that is impossible he ends up with a recipe of ’capitalism in one country’.

Arthur Scargill’s nationalism should help us understand the nationalism of the Polish Scargills. Theirs has more justification, in that Poland is an oppressed nation while Britain is still a big imperialist power. And none of them have carried it as far as Scargill: none of the Solidarnosc leaders has come out in favour of Tebbit's laws or Reagan’s union-busting. But some of the Solidarnosc leaders undoubtedly have had illusions in Western, capitalist democracy. And part of the reason must’ be the same ‘my enemy ’s enemy is my friend’ principle that appears in Arthur Scargill's argument.

TUC right-wingers like Chapple cynically try to use the same revulsion against Stalinism in order to argue that the unions must collaborate with the Tory ‘elected government'. What we need instead is the spirit of class struggle applied consistently - for the unions to break links with the Tories; and for solidarity with Solidarnosc.

Socialist Organiser 146, 15 September 1983

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