Another pointer is pay. Not since the 1970s have we seen the kind of strike activity breaking out among journalists as we have today. Four local newspaper chapels have now voted for strike ballots. This comes just two weeks after the pay victory at the Bradford Telegraph and Argus Group after only one half-day strike, and one of these chapels is not even recognised. The fight is being led by young, and in many cases trainee, journalists–just as it was in the 1970s when NUJ members were forced onto the picket lines. This dispute comes only a few weeks after the victory at West Ferry printers in London–the first victory since Wapping. One managing director was heard to say, ‘People think that going on strike is fun.’
On top of this radicalisation is the issue of the war. This is not isolated from other issues facing Blair. The rise of the anti-capitalist movement has meant that links are being made between different issues. The support for the rail strikes has given a renewed confidence to all those fighting privatisation. The opportunities for building among the rank and file are also strengthened by the election of left wing candidates to the leadership of major unions.
We do have a way to go but confidence among the working class is returning. When that happens the question of where the unions’ political money goes is crucial. More than a few workers now agree that if Labour’s not going to do anything for us then we’ll have to do it ourselves. The forthcoming Socialist Alliance conference fits this mood perfectly. This could be the biggest rank and file conference since the 1970s. Socialists have to move quickly to build on the growing discontent with New Labour.
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