Frat Cain


Counting Out the Bouncers

(May 1965)

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

The following leaflet was produced by Labour Worker, and distributed at the March and Public Meeting at the Conway Hall, organised by the London Joint Sites Committee, on April 8th.

Brown’s White Paper on incomes shows a government, aching to displace bargaining in the market with wages by decree. As the Times summarized it, “wages and salaries ... are determined by many factors, including changes in supply and demand for different kinds of labour, productivity trends, profit trends, comparison with other industries and changes in the cost of living. But less weight will have to be given to these factors and more to the incomes norm.” (9 April)

So far organized labour hasn’t taken much notice of the Government’s aches. The market continues to echo to the auctioneering of hours, rates, bonuses; we still see quarrels and occasional fights. But Brown’s bouncers are closing in and the free-for-all is due for a battering. After all, if wages can be restrained by only one per cent for as little as twelve months, it could lead to an increase of as much as one-third in resources for investment. The economic stakes are high.

The socialist stakes are even higher. To win on wages, workers will need to wallop not only their individual managements but Brown’s “norm” and his trade-union bouncers as well. That means politics.

Take another issue, political from its inception – Vietnam. Even the Times’ Own Correspondent has shown increasing embarrassment at Wilson’s spreadeagled debasement before Johnson’s hunting pack. “The United States,” he reported on 9 April, “was isolating itself from its many friends, except, oddly enough, the British Labour Government.” He continued, on 13 April, “some senior members of the (United States) Administration, all well-disposed Anglophiles, have suggested that Britain’s interests are not best served by the Prime Minister’s constant support of American policies.” Delicate language this. Translated into Labour Movement English, “this Branch/Party is appalled ...”

Here are two capital political issues, potentially involving larger numbers and more intense feelings than any we’ve had for many years. Yet, given the mood of the Labour Party ranks – proud in power, confused and frustrated in policy – and given its growing isolation from seemingly non-political movements outside, there’s a danger that the political crises will pass with nothing gained, i.e. without heightened clarity of aims in the labour movement generally and without any organization to uphold it.

We can’t let it go at that. There’s a cluster of trade-union branches affiliated to every Labour Party. Through them there is often an indirect link with local trades councils. Together they are in a position to initiate representative meetings in which local shop-stewards’ committees, tenants’ committees, political and other groupings could be invited to participate. Such meetings – on the Labour Government and the Labour Movement – might not add up to much, but 1 plus 1 make 2, 2 plus 2 make 4 ... until, very quickly, you lose count.

Last updated on 18 February 2017