J. T. Murphy

Trade Unionism and the Co-operatives

Need for United Action

Source: Workers’ Weekly, January 9, 1925
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). 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 Frankfort-on-Main on January 30 and 31 the International Co-op Alliance will again be faced with the issue which dominated the Ghent Congress discussions of 1924.

It was then decided to suspend for the time being the constitution of organic relations with the International Federation of Trade Unions. This was due as much as anything to the fear that arose in the minds of the I.C.A. leaders concerning the position of the R.I.L.U. They knew full well that any other decision would make it extremely awkward to refuse to work with the R.I.L.U. Seizing upon the discussions now taking place between the two Internationals as a pretext, they proposed a state of suspended animation.

The Problem Remains

But the problem remains. The Co-operatives cannot develop and become a real power without winning the trade unions.

At the very same moment that this problem faces them internationally it faces them here. Five years ago the Co-operative directors were instructed to clear the staff of non-union employees. They never attempted to do anything in this direction. Animated with the politics of petty shopkeepers, utterly remote from any appreciation of the struggles of the workers, they have simply ignored the decision until the slump in trade union agitation. Then, in the midst of reaction they permitted the question to be debated again and again until they get a decision which will leave them free to weaken the trade unions still further.

The C.W.S. Directors

It is one of the scandals of Labour history that a body of directors professedly desirous of eliminating capitalism should permit hundreds of non-unionists around them in Manchester without lifting a finger to end such an anomalous situation. Besides such wretched anti-Labour action in this centre, they help to maintain in other centres a large proportion of non-trade union and anti-trade union labour. Permitting the issue to be raised again it is now decided that there shall be a referendum on the question.

An Opportunity

It is fortunate that under these circumstances that the Unity Conference of the National Minority Movement is being held on January 25. Here is an opportunity for the active trade unionists and co-operators to stimulate and rouse the workers to the realities of the situation. The Conference will declare its views both on the Frankfort Conference, and the question of trade unionism among Co-op employees. Its declarations must be, and can only be, declarations in favour of united working-class action in both fields of endeavour, and that it is a crime against the working-class movement that co-operators should entertain for a moment the idea of employing non-trade union labour.

The Need

Until there is complete accord between the two movements neither can hope to win in their struggles.

How can we tackle food prices without we act together against the capitalists? How can we defeat the capitalists in any fight without united working-class action against them? The Unity Conference will declare with the Communist Party that the Co-operators must become one hundred per cent. trade unionists and the later one hundred per cent. Co-operators; that food profiteers can only be defeated by organised united action of the trade unions and the Co-operatives; that international trade union unity must be supplemented with an alliance of the I.C.A. and the Trade Union Internationals.

Get your delegates to the Conference from the Co-op. Guilds and Societies, from the trade union branches and Councils, and join in the campaign with a will!

J. T. M.