Electricians: solidarity across industries is key

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baboon
Electricians: solidarity across industries is key
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Electricians: solidarity across industries is key. The discussion was initiated by baboon.
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baboon
electrians strike

Despite being written off, this movement is taking on some weight and momentum - in fact it's being doing so for weeks now. There's been clear expressions of solidarity from other building workers (including Polish construction workers), delivery drivers and postal workers, among others. Reports on libcom show the movement today involving the biggest numbers so far in walking out and some of these look unofficial to me (?). There is a clear anti-union and pro-self organisation bent to this movement that has not abated but  got stronger. If not the numbers around Lindsey, then there is a similar militancy, a similar contempt for the police but there is also a clearer distrust of the unions - and, of course, this is embryonic.

Alf
Agree this is very important

I agree this is very important. We are producing a new article and hope it can be given out at next week's demos/pickets. All observations on this movement are welcome.  

Alf
We have done an

We have done an article/leaflet which can be printed out in PDF for distribution at any related events

 

https://en.internationalism.org/files/en/6.sparks_dec.pdf

 

Alf
electricians' protest, 14 December

 There was a demonstration outside Kings Cross station this morning. About 200 people, but the initial impression was that there were more leftists than electricians, although more of the sparks appeared later on. There were also people from Occupy London, and the electricians specifically thanked them for the support they have been giving.The protest gathered outside the building site area. Some of the building workers inside or going in looked on interested but none joined in - this was more of a protest than what happened last week at Blackfriars, which had become a genuine mass picket. A good short speech by a guy who has recently joined the rank and file committee, saying that last week's action proved that we don't need ballots to go on strike, we can just walk out. They said it was the biggest unofficial strike action in the country for decades.  

It was also pointed out that the attack on the electricians is an issue of deskilling and safety as well as wages, because the bosses' aim is to replace skilled sparks with unskilled people. Such practices had caused disasters on the railways in the past, and Network Rail is going to be one of the main 'beneficiaries' of the Balfour Beattie wage cut. Thus it had been decided to march to their HQ in Euston where a second rally was held.

There was less of a feel of an 'open mic' session than a previous one I had attended, rather the speeches seemed prearranged and followed a certain ideological approach. The speakers made some good points about the need for soldarity across private and public sectors, but there was a heavy dose of leftist and radical trade unionist stuff. It didn't seem a fruitful moment to try and speak. 

The electricans have been doing these weekly actions since August and while I don't think they are demoralised they feel the need for a break. So Friday night there will be a 6pm gathering at the same place in Kings Cross, followed by a visit to the pub to which all were invited. After that there is due to be some kind of national action on January 9th. 

There were lots of leftist papers and leaflets to 'compete' with. Although our leaflet/article is rather long and not agitational, I think it was suitable for a moment when the sparks need time to reflect on where the struggle is going. You got the impression that those who took the leaflet would actually be reading it later on. 

Alf
Some impressions of today's protest at Blackfriars

  

 

There were a lot less people here than on previous protests, and in contrast to previous occasions, no action like a march, blockade or call-out of other building workers was proposed. There were a few speeches and a short open mic session, then after an hour and a half or so everyone dispersed. The main speakers pushed the SWPish line that pressure from the rank and file is beginning to make the leadership stand up and fight – that a combination of rank and file action and official backing can win this struggle They referred to a recent meeting where the Rank and File Group was present along with Mcluskey and other Unite national officials. The latter assured the sparks that they supported them and would be re-balloting for national action.

 

There were some questions posed about where the officials were this morning, since none could be seen, but perhaps more to the point, where were the other workers? With one or two exceptions the speeches were relentlessly upbeat – the movement is gaining strength, it’s spreading throughout the country, and so on. It is perhaps too early to tell but experience tells us that it is very difficult to sustain a struggle over a long period, even when the actions are spaced out on a weekly basis. It looked more like a struggle that is stagnating and maybe even declining.

 

When the mic got passed around I took the opportunity to speak. I said that the effectiveness of this struggle had been based on the actions from below and that there had to be a very serious discussion about this whole idea of making the officials fight. Normally when they gave their ‘support’ it was the kiss of death. I cited the example of the 9 November demonstration, when the arrival of the officials silenced discussion and when there was a clear split between the officials who wanted to go to lobby MPs and the workers who wanted to join up with the students and broke away, only to get kettled. It was symbolic that the officials were going one way and the workers the other.   This immediately prompted a couple of replies from the organisers. One reiterated the argument that unofficial actions can indeed be strengthened when the national apparatus backs it up and widens the struggle. Another said it’s OK to criticise your own union leaders, but you shouldn’t criticise leaders of other unions (I think).   

 

I didn’t follow any of the speakers that came after that because I was too absorbed with the smaller discussions I got involved in: several people came up to me and said that they agreed with me and were glad I had raised the issue. One was an American living in Glasgow who said he was part of the ‘Republican Communist’ group (which has or had links with the Commune I think). He was a friend of Loren Goldner and we found ourselves in agreement on some points, especially the criticism of the Trotskyists, although I don’t know whether he was representative of the group (he didn’t seem to take seriously their argument about why they call themselves ‘Republicans’, for example). But others I spoke to were building workers or former building workers who had been involved in the sparks’ struggle for a long time, had been kettled on the 9 November, and did not share the current enthusiasm for pressurising the union  leaders. I had a long discussion with one of them about the problem of workplace organisation.

 

Comrades from AF, Solfed and the Commune were also present and it seemed normal that we stood together discussing, since whatever disagreements we might have, we share the same distrust of the leftist approach that appears to be dominant in the ‘rank and file’ leadership.