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The Socialist Party of Great Britain Polemic - Trade Unions and the Socialist Party of Great Britain

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has only given support to Trade Unions in line with the general interest of the working class. During the miner's strike of 1984 the Party was divided over the issue of support for a strike which had the backing of the capitalist left. A group within the Party wanted to support the miner's strike and tried to distort the Party's history to this end. Camden Branch and North West London Branches repudiated this opportunist attempt to get the party to support a strike that was undemocratic, misguided, and bound to fail.

In August 1984, Camden Branch circulated to central Branch members the position of the Party in respect to the miner's strike. The circular is a record of what we said at the time and a confirmation that political principle is the watchword of the Party not political opportunism.

The 1984 Miner's Strike


The Socialist Party of Great Britain, the TRADE UNIONS and the

1. At its formation the Party thrashed out a considered statement on the trade Unions which was endorsed by Conference and Party Poll and was published in the 1905 Party Manifesto.

It stated that the basis of the trade Unions must be a clear recognition of the position of the workers under capitalism and the class struggle necessarily arising therefrom, and that all action by the Unions tending to sidetrack the workers from the only path that can lead to their emancipation, should be strongly opposed. Only action on sound lines should be supported.

2. In conformity with the Party's opposition to leadership, workers in the unions were urged to keep control of union affairs in their own hands; including the need for a ballot to decide on strikes and a ballot to call strikes off. Apart from the democratic principle here involved, there is an elementary need for such ballots in order to ensure that the workers go out on strike together and go back together. The holding of a pre-strike ballot deprives an anti-strike minority of the excuse to go on working. The holding of a ballot on ending the strike obviates the bitter internal dissension which accompanies a gradual, unorganised drift back to work and which in the miners' 6 month strike in 1926 crippled the Miners Federation for years through the formation of rival, breakaway, unions.

The Party has also consistently warned against the dangerous illusion that unions can defeat the State-power of those in effective control of the machinery of government, including the armed forces, when those in control decide that victory on a particular issue is vital to their class interests.

3. The major issue in the present miners' strike is the effort of the National Union of Mineworkers to prevent the closure of uneconomic pits and thus to maintain the number of men working in the mines.

Being organised, like other unions, on the basis of serving the interests of its own members, this policy not only ignores the realities of capitalism, but takes no regard to the conflicting interests of other workers.

Directly, and through support of Labour Party policy, the N.U.M. has long been committed to stopping the import of coal. How does replacing foreign coal by coal produced by British miners preserve jobs for Miners? It simply means more jobs for British miners and fewer jobs for miners in other countries.

Likewise the N.U.M's policy is to convert power stations from oil to coal and to expand the coal industry while cutting back on nuclear energy.

Other unions, on the same plea of saving the jobs of their members, have other claims. Unions in the electricity industry and the steel industry cross miners' picket lines on the excuse that they are saving the jobs of their members.

4. The N.U.M. claims that in fighting to preserve jobs for British miners it is serving the interest of the working class in respect of creating or preserving jobs for all workers. This means supporting the policy of the Labour Party. Mr Scargill has gone on record with the claim that the return of a Labour government would "get rid of unemployment and create meaningful jobs".

This betrays a total ignorance of the workings of capitalism. The varying number of jobs available to the working class here and in the rest of the world, depends on variations from time to time in the market demand for commodities at profitable prices.

There is nothing such strikes can do to increase the number of jobs or rid capitalism of unemployment.

5. In accordance with the Party's commitment to bring the unions to a clear recognition of the position of the workers under capitalism, the Party has a continuous obligation to explain the facts of capitalism and the need for Socialism to miners and all other workers.


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