J. T. Murphy

What Next for Cotton?

Fight Against Wage-Cut Not Ended

The Way Ahead

Source: Workers’ Life, September 20, 1929
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.

When the workers in the cotton industry drew their wages on Friday every one knew full well, if they had not known before, the full meaning of the wage-cutting policy of the Labour Government, the employers and the trades union officials.

Even before the wages were drawn resolutions were pouring in to trade union headquarters, protesting against the reductions and demanding the application for an advance. Here and there were incidents showing that there is feeling in favour of strike action. This week workers are so incensed and angry that many are refusing to pay trade union contributions.

This running away from the unions is no good. The unions must he torn out of the hands of the bureaucrats by those who want working-class struggle capturing and using the local branches.

Has the fight finished? We say, no. The cotton workers themselves are saying “No” by their demands on the trades union leaders to go in for an advance.

It is agreed on all sides that the wage cuts will not “settle” the situation. The capitalist papers and trade union leaders are still talking about the fierce American competition (see T.U. Congress Report). The “Manchester Guardian Commercial” (American Special), for example tells in its issue of August 29 of the “weaving mills in South America where one operator works 60 looms; in another place one operates 80 looms and another 100 looms.” Other articles tell of the cheapness of Japanese production and an on. There is thus no prospect whatever of the issue being “settled.”

Why Appeal to Bureaucrats?

On the contrary the prospects are clearly those of further “rationalizing” actions of the employers and the Labour Government “to meet competition.”

What’s the use of appealing to T.U. bureaucrats? What then is the use of the workers appealing to the trades union leaders to take up their demands again? Every one of them believes in helping the boss “to compete against the foreigner.” Every one of them believes in the “better organisation of the industry,” that is, in rationalising the cotton industry for the capitalists to capture the market.

This means also they are helping the capitalists to prepare war. Economic competition inevitably leads to war. It is the foundation of war. When the rival capitalists arrive at a deadlock in their economic struggle for the market then the fight takes on a military character.

What then must be done? Thousands of workers are asking this question. There is but one way and that way lies through the mills and workshops. We workers must take things into our own hands and be prepared to do things. In every mill in Lancashire there should be a mass meeting of the workers to form a mill committee of action, representative of all sections of workers.

The workers should elect no one to such a committee who does not pledge himself or herself ready to lead in strike action for programme of action, the first item of which shall be a demand for an increase of wages to bring them higher than they were before the 1ock-out (say 12½ per cent.) .

But there won’t be any strike pay if we take unofficial action. That is true. The officials will be against strike action and refuse strike pay. What then? Shall we make everything dependent upon winning the consent of the trades union leaders, who have already proven themselves to be the agents of the boss? This means surrender. An impossible position. It means a free hand to them, not only to cut wages but to forge ahead with the war preparations.

Join Up With Others

There is only one way—appeal direct to the whole working-class for support over the heads of the bureaucrats. Once the committee of action is established it should prepare for this through the establishment of a workers’ relief committee connected with the W.I.R., which would not only make appeals and collect resources, but exploit every avenue of relief action.

It should become attached to the National Minority Movement in order to at once bring the cotton workers in direct contact with all other militant workers of other industries.

This is the only way to wrest concessions from the employers. Power counts. It is the real arbiter. The cotton struggle raises into the foreground the question of a new government—the Revolutionary Workers’ Government—through which alone the cotton workers and all other workers can settle the future of industry as their industry. This is how the wages questions, the hours questions, the struggle against rationalisation are part of the fight for the working-class to become the ruling class.

That such a Government alone can settle the questions in the interests of the workers is seen clearly in the history of the first workers’ republics organised in the Soviet Union. It is because the workers are there proving that our class alone can solve the economic and social problems of to-day in the interests of the workers, can not only organise industry, increase production, etc., but raise the standard of life of the masses, that the capitalists regard the Soviet Union as their greatest enemy and plan its destruction.

The New Leadership

For these reasons the fight of the cotton workers can only be led by the Party founded upon the principles of the class struggle, guided by the interests of the working-class, aiming at the conquest of power by the working-class, and that Party is the Communist Party.

With courage, determination, initiative and preparedness to fight the class battle along the above lines it is possible not only to wrest concessions from the bosses, but to rapidly advance the struggle to take all power from the boss class into the hands of our class. Elect your committees of action and prepare the counter-offensive.