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International Socialism, Autumn 1968


Irish Militant

For the Bog


From International Socialism (1st series), No.34, Autumn 1968, p.37.
Reprinted from Irish Militant
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Industrial Relations: Comparative Aspects with Particular Reference to Ireland
George F. Daly
Mercier Press, Cork, 63s

Well, it seems that a spectre is haunting the Irish Bourgeoisie; it is certainly haunting this particular Representative of theirs. Mr Daly is extremely concerned with the achievement in Ireland of ‘industrial peace, and hence industrial, economic and social progress’. (p.13) So far as he is concerned trade unionists should ‘behave towards society with responsibility, which is their inescapable duty, or they are artine to its detriment, and those who continue deliberately to act in that way seek anarchy’ (p.15): and those who ‘seek anarchy’ are to be rigorously disciplined in the interests of ‘Society.’ And in case there may be ‘archaic’ objections by certain trade unionists to these proposals, ‘they could do worse than study the continental trade union evolution from extreme Marxism to more liberal forms of socialism, and finally, in many countries to a wholehearted acceptance of the private enterprise system ...’ (p.159) And capitalism is the ideal form of economy and society: characterised by the ‘play of supply and demand’ which maximises profits and therefore efficiency, it is controlled by shareholders ‘from all walks of life’ – what breathtaking naiveté!

However Mr Daly seems to be more than a little confused himself: for while he believes that it is ‘totally unreal to suggest that “class war” exists in Ireland today’ (p.19), yet he also believes that ‘the imposition of Rules ... to bring about an ordered system of industrial relations, vital though such a reform is, is complicated by the fact that there seems to be a conflict of interest between the employers on the one hand and the employees on the other.’ (p.59)

Notwithstanding this, however, Mr Daly sets out to provide suggestions for such a list of ‘Rules.’ And his suggestions bear a remarkable resemblance to those proposed by Fianna Fail. Indeed the evolution of Fianna Fail’s proposed Trade Union legislation and of Mr Daly’s career seems to be remarkably close. Was it just by chance that he was appointed to the International Labour Organisation in 1966 and that Mercier can bring out his book just now at 63s? Continually he introduces demands for legislation by the phrase ‘It is suggested that ...’; but suggested by whom? And he talks of ‘the dilemma facing the legislators at present.’ (p.100)

Mr Daly’s method is to conduct a detailed examination of the measures taken by European capitalism to discipline its labour force and halt, as he puts it, ‘industrial chaos,’ in the last twenty years. Thus he ranges from Norway to Western Germany to Italy. Truly we should remember the remark of Connolly, when we read this book, that the internationalism of labour is but a halting follower of the internationalism of capital. Mr Daly sets out to provide a similar blueprint for Irish capitalism, in the context of a comprehensive (and incidentally, very useful) historical examination of the legal framework of Irish Trade Unionism.

To begin with he believes that the present organisation of Irish Trade Unionism should be changed from a ‘horizontal’ to a ‘vertical’ structure, i.e. changed to an industrial union basis which would reduce the number of unions drastically, and consolidate the power of the trade union bureaucracies. These bureaucrats receive a great deal of sympathy from Mr Daly (he quotes liberally and approvingly from John Conroy, though without naming him). They are hamstrung by ‘the Trade Union notion of democracy’ – that is by the need for agreements to be referred back to the rank-and-file – such references in Mr Daly’s opinion should be ‘advisory but not obligatory’. (p.127) Any bureaucratic redundancy resulting from rationalisation should be offset by compensation (just as in the proposed government legislation); and the bureaucrats should lose their distrust of the ‘Establishment’ for they are part of it anyway, and their ‘duty to Society’ is to become even more part of it. Here as always Mr Daly confuses ‘society’ with bourgeois society. Associated is his demand for a strengthening of the ICTU, in giving it greater powers for rationalisation. The Trade Union Bureaucrats should of course be in the forefront of disciplining the rank-and-file, both forcefully and ideologically – Congress should organise regular seminars on ‘the discernment of Agitators in the Trade Union movement’!

But Mr Daly thinks that such rationalisation will need a ‘legislative push’. (p.152) Again his suggestions cover the whole gamut of Fianna Fail proposals. Thus legislation should allow for ballots in twenty-five different industries as to which trade unions should represent the workers in the different industries; and the ‘winners’ of these ballots would be the only union entitled to legal protection in official action – the smaller trade unions would still be legal, but not entitled to take strike action.

A very similar proposal was accepted by the ICTU but rejected by a trade-union delegate conference in December 1966. Ballots for strike action in an individual firm should be secret and such action should onlyfollow a majority vote of all the workers involved. Inter-union disputes which lead to strike action would be illegal. And the Trade Union bureaucracies, in co-operation with the State, should take action to prohibit unofficial strikes, for this is ‘a fundamental priority, if an orderly system of Industrial relations to be established in Ireland’ (p.283), and ‘this type of strike has long been prohibited in Western Democracies’. (p.143) To this end, unofficial picketing should be made illegal; and legislation should be introduced to prohibit a worker who is expelled from his union joining another union for at least six months – again all that Fianna Fail plan to introduce. Finally the Labour Court should be strengthened and its decisions made binding at the civil courts.

The importance of this book is that it provides a rationale for the planned attack on the Irish working-class movement. Irish capitalism must by definition be directly linked with Imperialism – as a system it operates as a client for the latter. But because of the peculiar history of the country, Irish capitalism is a very weak link in the international chain. In particular if Irish capitalism is to survive in the increasing conditions of free trade, it must rigorously discipline its labour force. It is of the utmost importance that Irish Socialists and trade unionists understand this and take immediate action to fight it in the coming months. This applies as much to the Six Counties as to the Twenty-six Counties: for the British Incomes Policy implies very similar Trade Union legislation. Labour Party members must demand that the Council of Labour take up the question, and rank-and-files will find it a great opportunity to build up solidarity action across the border. The proposal to abolish PR cannot be understood except in the context of the proposed Trade Union legislation here, and socialists should link the two proposals in the campaign in the next months. We must confirm Mr Daly’s fears of militancy and thus contribute to the destruction of that capitalist economy and bourgeois society of which he is the spokesman.

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