Socialist Worker

Learn the lessons from this great strike

Issue No. 1876

REMEMBER THE postal workers! That should be the response whenever someone says it is impossible to beat the employers or the anti-union laws. We can all learn from the way the strike won.

It was based on militant action involving as many people as possible, not confined to a small section.

The strikes were unofficial and might have been deemed illegal. But neither the union nor its activists were prosecuted.

The strike was also more effective because Royal Mail did not have time to prepare for them. Management would have had weeks to prepare their scabbing operations if workers had followed the government's balloting laws. It demonstrated that open-ended strikes are much more effective than one-day or similar strikes.

If management had known the post strikes would end after a set period they could have waited for the return to work. Open-ended strikes can achieve results much quicker than one-day actions. Some 2,000 postal workers were out for two weeks but the rest of the 35,000 who took action were out for less than a week.

A series of one-day strikes could have seen just as much action but it would have had far less impact.

The strike showed the bosses are much weaker than they pretend. The threat that other companies would take over postal services was a bluff. The strike was not held back by the desire to keep in with Labour. Far too often union leaders have cancelled action because of their links with the Labour Party.

In the post many of the activists who led the strike rightly saw no reason to be loyal to a party that has betrayed working people.

The government's strategy of stamping on any sign of a fightback in order to prevent the example spreading has suffered a severe setback. The postal workers' victory will further weaken New Labour and boost trade unionists everywhere. You can already sense a more confident mood in the civil servants' union and parts of the firefighters' union.

If, as many expect, postal workers now get an improved offer over London weighting it will lift that campaign in other unions. We need many more victories like the one in the post. That means building networks of rank and file activists and strengthening the attempts to create a viable left alternative to Labour.

We saw our rulers' ugly face

WE GOT a glimpse of what the ruling class looks like this week. In a process looking very like hereditary succession, James Murdoch has been given the position of chief executive of BSkyB, the company his father, Rupert Murdoch, is chairman of.

The fix was carried out by BSkyB non-executive director Allan Leighton,-yes, the same one who is chairman of Royal Mail (among many other appointments).

For his loyal service Leighton has been made chairman of BSkyB's audit committee. Leighton was assisted by Lord St John of Fawsley, a former Tory minister and royal insider. In an effort to head off a revolt by big shareholders, BSkyB's board is to appoint new 'independent' directors,

The first of these is Lord Jacob Rothschild-Eton, Oxford, Life Guard cavalry, and succession of top banking jobs.

This is the ruling class with their interlocking directorships, their family ties, their political influence and their fat salaries.

It gives added spice to the post workers' victory to know that in humbling Leighton they smacked down one of the leading figures of British capitalism.

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What We Think
Sat 8 Nov 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1876
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