The dispute at Dover is potentially a totemic one for the Unite union.
Dover Harbour Board boss Bob Goldfield’s plans, coupled with his highly organised operation to break the strike, threatens to destroy the security and prospects of nearly 200 families.
On the other side, we have seen the bonds of solidarity that led the remaining dockers to vote overwhelmingly to defend their workmates’ futures.
All this is playing out during the biggest capitalist crisis for three quarters of a century.
This dispute can be won by solidarity. Goldfield has prepared the ground for this dispute carefully. He is confident that his scabs, together with a complicit management, can provide a constant level of service for the ferry companies.
The ferry companies may also hedge their bets by offering soft words in private to the dockers, but they will not publicly oppose Goldfield – unless their profits are hit.
Unless the dockers’ picket lines are respected – and effective – Goldfield is likely to win any war of attrition.
So far, the police enforcement of the anti-union laws has ensured the pickets are only a moral presence.
The job of every Unite and other trade union activist in the south and east of England should be to mobilise practical solidarity – collections at work and donations from branch funds.
But above all, we must get delegations to the picket lines to help make them effective.
If this fight wins it will send a signal to every worker facing the bosses’ attempts to make us pay the cost of their crisis.
We have to decide which is more important – the democratic mandate of workers’ decisions or the anti-union laws that Labour has left in place.
Let’s make the next strikes days when solidarity shines. Let’s block the dock!