Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

British Workers Further Escalate Struggle Against Wage Restraint

First Published:The Workers’ Weekly, Vol. 5, No. 13, January 20, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The upsurge of the entire working class against the reactionary wage restrain policies of the “Labour” government is increasing powerfully. Ever greater sections of the working class are initiating militant strike struggles and fighting back against all attempts to make them pay for the capitalist crisis, including the fraudulent “three-point” program introduced by the “Labour” government with the hope of liquidating the workers’ struggles.


The haulage lorry drivers are intensifying their just strike struggle for a basic weekly rate of £65 and a 35-hour week together with other demands for better holiday and working conditions.

The lorry drivers are courageously defying the vicious threat by the “Labour” government to break their strike with troops. The huge propaganda campaign of abuse and lies against them, launched by the monopoly capitalist class through its newspaper, T.V., radio, etc., has completely failed to intimidate them. Together with this, the lorry drivers are vigorously fighting back against the attempts of the labor aristocrats of the trade unions to betray their struggle from within.


The labor aristocrats of the trade unions are the paid agents of the monopoly capitalist ruling class in the ranks of the working class. This fact has once more been vividly exposed by the events of the lorry drivers’ strike. The trade union aristocrats have declared the strike “official” with a view to seizing control of it, pulling its teeth by banning militant picketing and other militant methods of struggle, and thus creating conditions to wreck the strike and force it to be called off.

The top union aristocrats and the “Labour” government have been meeting daily to plot and implement this treacherous scheme. As soon as the strike was declared “official” the union aristocrats issued orders that militant “secondary” picketing “must” stop and that the workers “must not” picket a whole range of goods. At the same time they issued orders for the workers to dismantle the committees and organization they had built up, and to hand over control of the strike to the union hacks. Further, they attempted to split up the workers. For instance in the West Midlands they attempted to stop the drivers from striking by saying that various sold out deals they had made with the haulage capitalists “must” be upheld and that therefore there would be no “official” support for the strike.

The workers have defied the union aristocrats on all these questions. Resolutely ignoring the union’s ban on militant “secondary” picketing, the drivers have intensified their pickets right across the country. They are deciding for themselves what should and should not be allowed to cross the picket lines. In the West Midlands the drivers have gone right ahead and intensified their strike. On January 16 over 500 drivers militantly demonstrated against the treachery of the union aristocrats, outside the TGWU offices in West Bromwich. The union aristocrats have been complaining to the capitalist press that they are meeting “unexpected resistance” in their attempts to take over the organization of the strike.

All of this shows how the union aristocrats are a kind of transmission belt used by the monopoly capitalists and the government to put brakes on every struggle of the workers. It also shows how the working class is increasingly breaking loose from these brakes and is coming to recognize the union aristocrats for what they are: hired agents and stooges of the rich.

The powerful support given to the lorry drivers by. the rest of the working class is continually on the increase. For instance oil tanker drivers are firmly supporting the strike by respecting all picket lines. Drivers for the state owned National Freight Corporation are stepping up their campaign of solidarity for the striking drivers (who work for the Road Haulage Association). On January 15 they launched a one-day strike in sympathy with the striking workers. The militant support rendered by the dockers in helping to close down the ports continues to have effect.

The spirit of militant class struggle with which the lorry drivers are waging their strike, their resolute defiance of all attacks, intimidation and sabotage by the monopoly capitalists, their state and the reactionary union, and the militant unity of the working class in their support, are powerful conditions contributing to the struggle of the drivers and the struggle of the entire Working class against capitalist exploitation.


The 26,000 train drivers are waging militant struggle against the attempts of the government to considerably diminish their living standards. They have rejected a ten percent “offer” which would have meant an “additional” £6, a meager sum which does nothing to offset the massive cuts in living standards forced on the workers by the capitalist inflation. They have also rejected this “offer” tied to which are conditions that the workers accept massive layoffs (which would total 20,000 among railwaymen as a whole) and also changes in working practice. This would result not only in the impoverishment of the workers thrown out of work but also in a considerable increase in the intensity of labor performed by the remaining men (with a consequent reduction in safety standards for both workers and passengers).

The train drivers have very justly backed up their rejection of this super-exploitative deal by launching one-day national strikes on January 16 and 18 with further one-day strikes in the coming week.


The ancillary hospital workers, the ambulance men and the nurses, who for years have been severely exploited by the monopoly capitalist government, are initiating militant actions.

The 400,000 nurses are demanding a 40 percent increase in their minimum wage to £60 from the present, well below subsistence level of under £43. In support of this entirely just demand they are launching a campaign of selective actions from January 22. The nurses are pointing out that the government propaganda that the nurses are “causing hardship to patients” is a fraud, and that it is the government by its reactionary wage restraint which is causing hardship to the patients and to the entire working class. On January 18 some 2,000 nurses held a militant mass lobby in support of their demands.

The 18,000 ambulance men and 250,000 ancillary workers are also launching a program of actions from January 22. In the North West the ambulance men, who are demanding a basic £74 for qualified drivers and a 35-hour week, are launching an all out strike from the 22nd.


The over one million local authority manual workers are also launching actions from the 22nd, on which day they will hold mass demonstrations against the government’s reactionary wage restraint. Many of them are initiating all out strikes from this time. The workers have overwhelmingly rejected the “choice” offered by the government between a five percent “increase” or a £3.50 “increase” both of which mean a further massive decrease in living standards. In opposition to this the gas industry manual workers are, for instance, demanding 20 percent. Many of the workers have already launched strike action. Six hundred sewage and water workers In North Manchester have been on strike for over a week and are militantly stepping up their picketing activities.


The struggle of the working class against all attempts to make it pay for the crisis is growing stronger every day. More and more sections of the working class are joining in the struggle to defeat “Labour’s” attacks on them.

For example, several thousand construction workers on the North Sea oilfields have launched a militant strike for better shore leave conditions. The strike has spread to the Dunlin, Cormorant, Brent, Piper, Ninian, Heather and Bery oilfields and the workers are carrying out widespread picketing onshore in Scotland.

At Heathrow Airport 2,250 Airport Authority staff and other check-in and clerical staff are preparing 24-hour strike struggles in the coming week.

These mounting struggles of the working class against all attempts to make it pay for the crisis are a part of the overall class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. These struggles are a preparation and a training ground for the workers for the battles against the entire monopoly capitalist order. In the course of these struggles the working class and its Marxist-Leninist Party, the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist), must prepare the conditions for the overthrow of the root cause of all exploitation and oppression, which is the monopoly capitalist system itself, and for the establishment of a socialist society where the working class is the ruling class.