Socialist Worker

What we think: Politics crucial in every dispute

Issue No. 2146

Sacked workers from Visteon’s Enfield factory, who are occupying against the closure, have received an outpouring of solidarity	 (Pic:» Guy Smallman )

Sacked workers from Visteon’s Enfield factory, who are occupying against the closure, have received an outpouring of solidarity (Pic: » Guy Smallman)

Workers’ action at Visteon has shown how every struggle is bound up with political questions.

One central issue that faces the dispute is the question of the law.

Since occupying their factories, Visteon workers at all three of the company’s plants have faced the threat of arrest, eviction and court action.

There have been arguments over when it is justified to break the law and whether collective strength can beat legal threats.

At the Enfield plant, for example, some workers were initially nervous about the possibility of bailiffs being used against them, but they grew increasingly defiant.

At Basildon, workers ended their occupation after police threatened to arrest them – but later some workers said they regretted this.

It is not just Visteon workers who come up against the law. Workers in dispute are often confronted by attempts to use the courts against them.

This is what broke the momentum of last year’s London bus workers’ campaign, where full-time union officials called off strikes in the face of threats of legal action by the company.


Many bus workers now feel that they should have defied the legal threats and taken unofficial action if necessary.

Every dispute also creates tensions over who should make the decisions about the way forward – rank and file union members and their elected reps, or union officials.

Socialists have something specific to say about these questions. We want to build up up the tradition of grassroots solidarity.

This means encouraging the biggest possible involvement of rank and file members in the struggle and making links between different workplaces and industries.

Disputes also raise political questions over whether to rely on the Labour Party and whether the unions should continue funding a government that allows bosses to attack workers.

There are also arguments over who is to blame for the recession and for job losses.

In the recent construction strikes for example, Socialist Worker argued hard against blaming “foreign workers” for job losses.

In the Visteon dispute, as in other struggles, we have seen that workers are capable of great strength and bravery.

We have seen workers learning in the process of fighting back.

But every dispute, however solid and well supported, throws up questions about the way forward and the nature of the forces involved.

Socialists can play a key role in these discussions, both by providing practical support, and also by engaging in the debate.

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