J. T. Murphy
Source: The Communist, May 6, 1922
Publisher: The Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
AT last! After seven long weeks of weary isolation the locked out engineering and shipbuilding workers are reinforced by the workers of the 47 unions. All the revolutionary workers of these unions, along with the Communist Party, have worked unceasingly to break down the isolation from the beginning of the struggle until now. The move has come at last not through the fighting efforts of the leaders of the Unions, not even as a direct consequence of the efforts we have made, but in spite of every possible effort of the union leaders to avoid the struggle. It has come because the engineering and shipbuilding employers are determined to smash the unions.
Nothing could be clearer than the manifestations they have made of their deliberate purpose to destroy the power of unionism. After seven weeks’ manuvring of the union forces the notices of lock-out were posted. And immediately they are up, the final card of the open shop is thrown upon the table.
Gentlemen of the Federation, you have moved too quickly. You are not good tacticians after all You should have waited a little longer until the labour leaders who have your interests at heart had demoralised the new forces you have thrown into the streets. Now your actions have given an impetus to those who are willing to fight against you, and even the labour leaders have become nasty tempered.
On May 2 the lockout extended. Since May 3rd the open shop waits for the scabs. We are convinced they will not be forthcoming from the ranks of the unemployed. We are convinced they will not be forthcoming from the ranks of the unions involved. From district after district come demands, not for a slackening of effort, but for a greater unity in action. A more determined leadership and a wider and wider front.
The demands are healthy demands and we wish that the same healthy spirit and purpose animated the leaders. For the unity which is coming into the movement is coming in spite of them and not because of them.
Let us face the situation in all its realities. Not a single person in the labour movement to-day can dispute the fact that the employers are union smashing. That is obvious. There are very few indeed who will attempt to make a case to the effect that the engineering unions can defend their position alone.
None can deny that the non-federated firms are allies of the federated firms receiving orders from them and intensifying production whilst the other firms are idle.
It follows as night the day that so long as the employers operate in this way the union’s resources are being depleted with very little inconvenience to the employers. The logic of the situation is clear—without unions pull their full weight, and stop production in all the engineering and shipbuilding industry at the very least, their efforts are valueless.
At the moment there is no indication that the union leaders are prepared to give the lead in this direction. They claim they have no quarrel with the non-federated firms, just as the 47 unions claimed they had no quarrel with the employers about managerial functions.
They were compelled to have a quarrel. And it is now high time the non-federated employers were compelled to have an interest in this situation, and if they are opposed to the demands of the Employers’ Federation to state their position openly.
Up to now they have simply played the policy of waiting, knowing quite well that they are helping the Federation to smash the unions, and will be prepared to impose the conditions which arise with the termination of the present lockout if the terms are detrimental to the workers.
To allow the non federated firms to prosecute this policy with impunity is nothing short of the blackest treachery to the masses. There is not a union organiser who does not curse the interminable separate struggles which have to take place to settle with non-federated firms. Why then this futile policy of consideration for the non-federated firms and the futile talk of “no quarrel with them?” We have a quarrel with them. So long as they area running their factories they are aiding and abetting the federated employers in their efforts to smash the unions.
Stop them! The call has come from the rank and file everywhere. And the Sheffield D.C. of the A E.U. has gone one better. Now there can be no excuse.
They have given the call for all the engineering workers in the non-federated firms to cease work on May 2nd.
That is the way they propose to celebrate May Day. Who will follow their lead? All the leading industrial centres were represented at the unofficial conference in Sheffield three weeks ago and passed a resolution for general action. Will they translate their resolutions in practice? Resolutions which are not acted upon are of no avail. Now is the time to act. Stop the wheels and stop the work in federated and non-federated shops alike. That is the way to translate the fraternity of May Day. Along this path we can save the unions from destruction.
Separate action is futile. That has been demonstrated over and over again. But the leaders will not learn. They have not only failed to attack the non-federated firms. The 47 have again made recommendations contrary to the mandate of the rank and file. Even during the week the employers are posting the lock-out notices for their rejection of the memorandum on managerial functions. They jointly recommend a compromise on wage reductions. A compromise which may prove no compromise at all, so far as the employers are concerned.
The full 16s. 6d. will be off by June 7th. The lock-out begins May 2nd. The compromise spreads the reduction over the period up to June 7, 10s. 6d. from March 29, 3s. in the middle of May, and a further 3s. June 7.
What if the lock-out continues until June on the memorandum? Then the whole of the 16s. 6d. comes down at once, with the immediate possibility of a further reduction.
To recommend these terms at this stage of the fight is the height of imbecility. It is even worse than the action of the A.E.U. leaders who have refused to discuss wages, etc., at this juncture. Liverpool has already rejected the compromise. The London workers have shown their resentment against local settlements and compromises of this character. We urge the shipbuilding workers to turn down the proposals with the same spirit and purpose with which they rejected the first proposals. More. We urge the unions of the engineering and shipbuilding industry to get together at once and formulate uniform national wage rates for the whole industry and determine to stand together for a united settlement. Driven together by the force of circumstances, now is the time for a united effort on a united programme.
The Court of Inquiry has come. It has entered the arena ignobly. It will go out achieving little indeed. The most it can do is to give publicity to what we already know. It cannot take away the need for the development of our power. It will not be the publicity campaign which will determine the result of this struggle. Everything depends upon the magnitude of the forces we can muster and the determination we display to inconvenience the forces opposed to us.
Let them talk and enquire. The task of the union leaders is to marshal the big battalions of labour into the arena, to create the united front in action. That task they cannot escape without betraying the masses.
The task before the masses is as clear as that which lies before the leaders. Pious resolutions are as useless to one as to the other. Unity in action is the slogan of the hour, and its immediate application is summed up as follows:—
Stop the non-federated firms. Tie up the industry, whether the employers are federated or non-federated.
One and all they are out to keep us under their rule. Divided we are defeated. Together we can lay down the terms of settlement.