Frat Cain


[The coming wage freeze]

(January 1965)

From Labour Worker, 1 January 1965, p. 3.
Transcribed by Ian Birchall, Nina Kidron & Richard Kuper.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

It’s coming. Slowly, nosing carefully, Labour’s wage freeze is on the way. A letter of intent here, a three-year wage contract in engineering there, fanfares, publicity, propaganda everywhere. The Establishment – in business, in Government, and in the trade unions – is trumpeting in harmony as never before: wage freeze is good for you. And if it isn’t, there’s nothing you can do about it. So bow to the inevitable. And if you can’t bow – cringe.

The advice has been followed in strange quarters. The old Left around Tribune has lain so low as to be trodden into the ground. True, they raised a little dust over the way the old-age pensioners have been treated. There was a minor remonstrance about Verwoerd’s Buccaneers and a warning shot about MLF. But on the major issue, the one on which millions of workers could be roused to organized action, not a word has been spoken.

The silence has not gone unexplained. Hugh Jenkins put it baldly enough (Tribune, 11 December): “Left-wing leaders ... hold a licence to rock because it is known that they will stop far short of sinking the craft.” What he didn’t say – perhaps it goes without saying – is that HMS Wilson will be sunk the moment business and its Tories see that she can’t negotiate Wage Freeze. And so the subject isn’t raised in Tribune.

Beyond that explanation lies another. For Tribune, politics is what happens in Parliament and only in Parliament. What happens in City or Zurich boardrooms, what happens on the shop floor or in the streets are important only in so far as they affect the parliamentary scene. In their view, defence of the parliamentary position overrides all other considerations. So if Wilson’s Ship of State rams and splinters every working class interest, if it pegs wages, deflates, creates unemployment under the guise of mobility of labour, eggs on trade-union leaders to police shop organisations, goes slow on housing, to name a few, it must still be supported until the majority improves.

It’s a sad decline. That weekly once justified the name Tribune, meaning champion of the people. Now it might as well be renamed The Weekly Whisper.

As for me, I would hate to see the Government topple meaninglessly or because business becomes restive. But if it falls because workers organize against wage-freeze and refuse the business-backed policies Labour is handing out, I should welcome it. What is lost in Parliament will be gained a millionfold in working class consciousness and strength.

Last updated on 18 February 2017