Take what you’re given and be grateful - reply to Sociality Unity on Visteon dispute
14 May 2009
The recent article by John McAnulty on the Visteon occupation has provoked a number of critical responses on left blogs. Here John replies to a post by Andy Newman that appeared on Socialist Unity. (http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=4020)
Andy Newman distorts the discussion with dishonesty. He claims that the threats of courts, police and bailiffs, were what ended the English Visteon occupations. When I point out that it was the bureaucracy who ended the occupation he immediately changes tack: “So what of the union advising workers to discontinue the occupations? “ Having conceded the bureaucracy’s role he then amends his definition of victory. In his first post it was the gain in morale and the network of support that will encourage further workers action. Now that he has conceded that the only force still standing after the jobs were lost and the campaigns wound down is the bureaucracy itself that argument falls flat. The settlement becomes a victory in itself and his tone becomes bombastic: “some long term workers got up to a £60000 payout”. Just what do these people want? We negotiated our fingers to the bone and a few got 2 years severance pay.
Instead of correction or retreat we get more slurs. He claims that my position is that “workers would be better of without the unions”. “McNulty’s (he can’t get my name right) idea that the workers should have turned down a great severance package in order to take on Fords over their company organisational structure is utopian”.
For the record I do not believe that workers
would be better off without unions. I hold to the completely unremarkable
Marxist idea that the union bureaucracy has interests as a bureaucracy
that are frequency at variance with those of the workers and the greater
I did not suggest anywhere that the workers should have turned down a severance pay in order to take on Fords. As anyone can see by reading the original piece at: http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentAVisteonVictory.html I was arguing that the wider the demands and the broader the struggle the greater the gains at the end. It is only in the eyes of the bureaucracy and their sycophants that a broader struggle and gains for the workers are in contradiction.
What Andy’s comments make clear is that
the division between us is ideological. He believes that the workers must
support the bureaucrats. I believe that the union must support the workers.
The fact that Andy comments patronisingly about workers getting 26 weeks
severance pay fills me with rage. The only person who has the right to
call that a good deal is the person who ended up with the payment. In fact
Newman’s comments abound with all the sins of the bureaucracy, conservatism
about what can be achieved, the union stands above the workers, solutions
are long-term and reformist involving a friendly government that will use
the law in the workers interest, the workers are patronised and, when not
suitably grateful, the tone becomes
Newman quotes Bob Crowe: “he saw nothing wrong with unofficial action, but if you start an unofficial dispute you have to be able to go on and win it as an unofficial dispute. The anti-trade union laws mean that the unions need to be very circumspect about being seen to endorse unofficial or illegal acts”. So we get to the nub of the matter. We have an unrestrained attack on workers. The workers react in the only way that could offer them any protection. The action remains unofficial for the duration of the dispute – the negotiations, and the settlement are conducted primarily to protect the bureaucracy rather than widen the struggle and it is followed by endless bombast – in part because the bureaucrats have surprised themselves by getting any kind of settlement.
By the way Andy, my name is John McAnulty.
It represents many generations of very stubborn people who refused to allow
their name to be anglicised. I would be grateful if you would get it right.