Friday, 2 April 2010

As the courts back the bosses, workers must stand against the law

Yet again, the bosses have used the courts to suppress the rights of workers.* Network Rail has been succesful in attempts to get a high court injunction banning planned strike action by the RMY. As with the Christmas BA strike, the reason given was once again "discrepancies in the ballot." But make no mistake, the court decision was an entirely political and partisan one.

The words of the judge, Mrs Justice Sharp, are instructive in this case. That the "unlawful" strike would cause "immense damage to the economy" is neither here nor there. The question brought to the court, allegedly, was the legitimacy of the ballot. The effect of the strike has no bearing on this whatsoever. As Bob Crow said, the "court judgment was a highly political decision which ratchets up the power of employers to undermine legitimate trade union activity."

The appropriate response to this turn of events is difficult to fathom. It is clear that we may be heading the way of Germany, where the mainstream unions are openly in league with the state against genuine working class action. Certainly, legal recourse outlawing strikes at a time when workers can utilise the most economic leverage will go a long way towards that state of affairs, with Thatcher's anti-union laws having already brought us halfway there. But how do we respond?

Some might argue that a legal challenge is the best course of action. But the answer to that is simple: what good will running to the courts do when the courts serve the bosses against the workers? It will only protract the issue and keep it out of public consciousness.

But if pursuing this matter through the correct legal channels is pointless, as I believe it is, what do we do? It is clear that we need to raise public awareness of the state repression of worker organisation. We need to get masses of people involved in the campaign. And we need to offer a direct challenge to anti-union legislation laid before us by the government. With that in mind, there is only one credible way to mobilise people in opposition to the repressive laws against the working class.

We need to break them.

It is illegal to engage in solidarity action with the picket of another group of workers, and so we must never cease to do exactly that. It is illegal to engage in industrial action without a ballot of members which ties up industrial disputes in bureaucratic red tape, and so we must revive the spirit of the wildcat. There are many other provisions of the Employment Acts passed between 1980 and 1993 which are of untold damage to the wider labour movement and the class struggle. They must be resisted through direct action - especially that action which the anti-union laws specifically seek to curtail.

If the working class do not do this, we surrender our fate to politicians whose interests are in opposition to our own, and lame-duck trade unions wherein the privilege and prestige of the leaders has enamoured them to cooperation and compromise.

*This incident has also shown up the "libertarian" right as self-serving hypocrites. They will exercise their indignation when rich people are prevented from using hounds to tear foxes to shreds. But when workers are denied the ability to withdraw their labour in an industrial dispute all they can offer is "fucking have that you commie gimps." It seems that economic freedom, including that to combine in order to pursue and defend your own interests, only applies to the bosses and the state.