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International Socialism, Mid-November 1973


Peter Jones

Politics & the Shop Floor

Twelve Months at Chrysler


From International Socialism (1st series), No.64, Mid-November 1973, pp.8-14.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


THE LAST 12 months have seen increasingly bitter struggles at Chrysler’s two main plants in Coventry, involving issues fundamental to the continued existence of the sort of shop floor trade unionism known there in the past. As one embittered militant put it after workers at the Stoke plant had voted to work on machinery that was blacked during the electricians’ strike, ‘This is the end of trade unionism as we know it.’ The statement may sound alarmist, but in a way it is true. If the shop stewards’ movement is to defend itself adequately in the present period, it must respond in new ways to the tactics of the employers and the government. And this is not only true of Coventry and the car industry: it applies to every industry where shop floor strength has grown in the last 30 years.

The shop stewards’ movement in the Coventry car industry developed during the Second World War, when a massive build-up of engineering to produce arms created a shortage of labour and stability in employment. The employers, working on government contracts and paid on a cost plus basis, put up little organised resistance to the rise of shop floor trade unionism. Within a few years the number of trade unionists doubled and doubled again, especially amongst the semi-skilled. Hundreds of shop-stewards were elected and joint shop stewards’ committees became a regular part of factory life.

After the war the car industry was set for almost 20 years of continuous expansion, punctuated only by occasional bouts of instability, and the position of the stewards was further strengthened.

The effect of the long boom in shifting power to the shop-floor was more noticeable in the car industry than elsewhere. The impact on working class organisation and consciousness can be summarised as follows:

The Shop-floor: the motor industry was visibly making money and Coventry workers fought hard for their share. The aggression shown over money spilled over into other areas of factory life, the power of the foreman was drastically reduced, the piece work system enabled well-organised groups to control the way work was done leaving the management very much in the dark, and a strong loyalty to the union was built up.

The shop-steward: For many workers ‘the steward was the union’. On the shop-floor there were regular arguments about wages and conditions, and the steward operated under the close scrutiny of his members. This was what made the relationship a democratic one. However, at a time when employers were willing to make a series of minor concessions rather than halt production, the success of a militant steward often hinged on his individual negotiating skills. This inevitably contained the danger of the good steward substituting his ability for the collective activity of the section. Finally he was a shop steward and as it was here that most improvements could be negotiated, there was little impetus for him to look beyond, to the rest of the factory or the trade union movement outside.

Joint shop-stewards’ committees: The joint shop stewards’ committees were not that important at a time when most negotiations took place at a sectional level. They would probably meet monthly for an hour to discuss factory-wide questions, with most of the active stewards operating more or less independently of the committees. The stewards of the various unions would elect convenors and these, along with the chairman and secretary of the JSSC would constitute the ‘Top Table’. Even under piece work the convenors were liable to become detached from the shop-floor, they would rarely work or wear overalls, and their time would be spent in meetings with management and trying to sort out sectional disputes.

Trade union officialdom: With several full time convenors, a strong shop-stewards’ movement and regular ‘wage drift’, the trade union officials were largely irrelevant. There is only one TGWU and one AUEW official responsible for the car industry in the whole Coventry district. By and large the movement in the factories operated separately from the trade union machine. This had a different effect on the two major unions:

Low participation by militants in the electoral activity of the AUEW enabled the Coventry district to remain a stronghold of the right in AUEW politics. The ‘Broad left’ is more or less non-existent and the right wing, based on the tool room (where the Coventry Toolroom agreement guaranteed pay rises without a struggle for many years) have had little difficulty in maintaining their control.

The conservatism of the AUEW during the war period of mass unionisation enabled the TGWU to become the largest car industry union in Coventry. Its base is more amongst the traditionally militant semi-skilled production workers, its structure is looser and it has a more leftish image.

The local confederation of engineering unions has the power to call engineering shop-stewards’ aggregates and when it uses this power is capable of massive mobilisation on a city-wide basis. This was shown on 12 January 1971, during the TUC’s ‘day of action’ against the Industrial Relations Bill. The Confed organised, under pressure, an aggregate of shop-stewards which called for a mass demonstration during working hours. A hundred thousand on strike and 25,000 packed into the city precinct gave a brief glimpse of Coventry’s potential power. However, given its conservative leadership, the power is used sparingly.


THE MAIN AIM of employers throughout the car industry in the last five or six years has been to emasculate the shop stewards’ movement and use the unions to discipline local militancy. For Chrysler, the urgency of achieving this goal has been heightened by its own particular problem: as the last of the big three US car firms to invest in Europe it was forced to pay highly for the least profitable concerns – Rootes in Britain, Simca in France and Berrieres in Spain.

In Britain its position is particularly unstable, sharing with Vauxhall the bottom place in the British market, but lacking the fantastic resources which General Motors can pour into Vauxhall.

The method all the car employers have turned to in their efforts to crack shop-floor organisation has been the replacement of piece-work by Measured Day Work (MDW). Under piece-work, the shop steward is continually involved in arguments with management over the timing of jobs (and, therefore, over the conditions of work). Measured Day Work is meant to remove decisions over such matters from the stewards, so that wages are determined by negotiations, at plant or combine level, carried on by full time union officials and management. In this way, it is intended to destroy the ability of stewards to affect their members’ wages and conditions, and to weaken the ties binding the steward to the rank and file.

Chrysler was the first of the Coventry car employers to introduce Measured Day Work in 1969 and the victimisation of John Worth stemmed from the four year long struggle to impose the new payment system in its entirety.

The first Measured Day Work agreement of 1969 contained many of the standard features of such deals. But a sticking point in the negotiations, and a question finally left unresolved in the first agreement, was the vital one of mutuality over labour loading (i.e. the ability of stewards to veto changes which management wanted to introduce). In June 1970 this question was resolved in favour of the shop-floor and a mutuality clause was inserted.

The militant stewards, of whom the hard core were those who had opposed the original deal (about 20 out of 80), took advantage of the situation and used the clause to obstruct management’s attempts to implement the substance of the deal. However, the majority of the stewards failed to follow their example and the outcome was a sharp rift on the JSSC, between the militants and the Top Table.

As John Worth has explained [1*], ‘certain sections of the plant were responsible for stopping the escalation of MDW in its sharpest forms. We found out later that management had been committed to reducing the labour force by 15 per cent by 1971. But the company found themselves in the embarrassing position of having exactly 250 people more than in 1968. And they had to give reasons for this and the reasons were that on about six sections, we fought off the losses of men. This was the main form that resistance to MDW took.

‘Take our section. We increased our manning levels every time that production went up. And when it went down we always managed to retain at least 10 per cent more than the company envisaged. And all the stewards from these sections had regular meetings, prior to JSSC meetings, in order to work out how we could maintain this policy of high manning levels and refusing to do overtime until they got more men in ... So the whole of our area became notorious as an area of militancy.’

This threat to the management was matched by a growth in the influence of the militant left in the JSSC. The election of John Worth to AUEW deputy convenorship in January 1972 was followed by a determined campaign around the June 1972 pay claim. This probably represented a high point of the left’s influence on the JSSC but ended in a crucial set-back:

‘Over the previous four years the best stewards in the plant had refused to be nominated for the negotiating team but in 1972, because the right opportunity presented itself and because IS was growing in influence, a number of good stewards were encouraged to stand for election. It was well organised and the top table never really bothered to organise their supporters. The result was in a negotiating team of 14, we had a clear majority.

‘We held area meetings, reported back to sections other than our own and got away with it as we represented our grade and function. Plus we distributed bulletins and passed on information regarding the talks. And we went to two mass meetings to get the backing for a strike if the company stalled. Both were carried. Although the full claim was nowhere near met, we did secure the highest across the board increase ever achieved by a negotiating team. However, we were beaten on the strike vote, although only after two votes followed by a secret ballot.

‘The power of the 1972 team obviously frightened the Top Table and the management with the way it won every vote and issue at the negotiating committee and JSSC stages.’

Losing the strike vote obviously set the left back and made it easier for a re-organised management to counter attack. A variety of strategies were used to isolate the militant sections. Every effort was made to turn section against section by blaming lay-offs on overtime bans by the militant sections.

‘Slowly management policies had an effect. Unfortunately a lot of our actions, although they were successful for the section itself, gained us a lot of notoriety, too much in fact. And the attitude of other sections towards us began to change. Whereas before it had been:"Oh, he’ll defend anybody, they’ll support any action." it became: "Oh, them again. They’re always out. What is it this time?" Unfortunately you have to take this action, you don’t have any choice. But this in turn affects the morale of the more militant sections who begin to feel that they are the only ones prepared to defend trade union principles ... This spread to the stewards’ room as well. We seemed to be a permanent opposition and the Top Table played on this time and time again. It’s a question of throwing mud and bits of it sticking. So we became increasingly out on a limb as a section.’

Finally, the management moved.

‘The next Monday I went to work and the first thing I heard was that I was wanted in the office ... They sent for the senior stewards and I could tell by the set on the manager’s face that something was up. He said, he was very brief, "The company have talked about this long and hard over the weekend and .. you’re sacked." I didn’t say anything. I just walked out. Within an hour or so of the news spreading we were out on the Green.’

There was an immediate mass meeting and an overwhelming vote for a factory-wide stoppage until he was reinstated. However, the conduct of the strike and the negotiations were handled by the Top Table and after a week a return to work formula was agreed between them and the management, under which John Worth was reinstated as a fitter but the management were allowed to withhold his credentials while the issue was discussed with the union. This was presented by the Top Table and seen by the shop-floor as a victory but it conceded a crucial principle: the right of the management to veto shop-floor union elections. As John Worth put it:

‘My ability as a fitter was never in doubt; the issue was always my activity as a shop-steward.’

If the settlement was dubious, subsequent events were disastrous. Management produced and circulated a lengthy document itemising various incidents which ‘proved’ his ‘unsuitability to act as a shop-steward’. Much of the material was trivial and highly debatable but it was a reminder of the extent to which management watch shop-floor militants. However, rather than resist this intrusion by the management into shop-floor democracy, his union (AUEW) completed the process by summoning him to the district committee. There, Duncan Simpson, the Chairman of the JSSC and Chairman of the AUEW stewards, called for the removal of his credentials, and the decision was taken on the casting vote of the District President, Jim Griffin, AUEW convenor at the Triumph factory.

The outcome could only be seen as a victory for the management as it removed from the JSSC one of the leading spokesmen of the left and helped to break the core of the opposition to the implementation of MDW.

Langston and the ‘Shoddy Work’ Strike

THE AVENGER Assembly plant at Ryton is a radically different factory to Stoke. Work at Ryton is restricted to the assembly of the Avenger and is almost all tied to the track. The work is uniformly monotonous and often dangerous. Workers coming to Ryton from other car factories usually leave in disgust within an hour of starting. Management’s recruiting policy has emphasised bringing in youngish workers from areas of weak trade unionism like Rugby (dominated by GEC), Hinckley (hosiery) and Nuneaton (small engineering). The ideal Ryton worker is sufficiently young to be able to keep with the work but sufficiently old to have accumulated financial responsibilities (mortgage plus kids); he should not have a trade union history. The driving nature of the work ensures a regular turnover.

‘They come to Ryton for the high wages but by the time they’ve been there a month, they’re as militant as the next man, because of the nature of the work.’

The result is an explosive, spontaneous militancy-frequently without any organised expression through the JSSC. The opposition to MDW is more informal and anarchic than at Stoke. ‘Unofficial, unofficial’ stoppages (i.e. without the endorsement of the steward) are frequent; the shop-floor simply refuse to operate man-assignments. The most important characteristic of the Ryton workers is their hatred of the work. If an operator feels that he doesn’t have the time to complete his operation, he lets the car continue down the line and the problems pile up. But this is a confidence and a militancy that is often separate and independent from the shop-stewards, who do not work and often feel like personnel officers. Relations between stewards and shop-floor are mostly bad and the JSSC itself is weak, especially when it comes to uniting the different shifts. The result is that with management desperately trying to speed up the track – they have been nowhere near meeting their target – the plant has been constantly faced with fragmented conflicts. The shop-floor retained its confidence through the first six months of this year but no individual victories could be sustained without effective plant wide organisation.

In December 1972 a Ryton worker, Langston, resigned from his union, the AUEW. The management were gravely embarrassed by this but the Birmingham Industrial Tribunal backed his case. Then, just before the New Year, he came into the factory to pick up his pay-packet. When the word got round, the whole shift stopped and crowded into the car park to jeer him off the plant. The demonstration was organised without the participation of the shop-stewards, who came along to see what was happening. The incident only lasted an hour but it showed the potential strength of the Ryton workers and frightened the government. When the case went to the NIRC, the law was changed to prevent individual scabs challenging the closed shop. Such initiatives, in future, were to be left with the management. The flexibility of the Tory lawyers had headed off a dispute which could have spread throughout Coventry and developed into a major confrontation with the Industrial Relations Act.

If the Langston affair was not wanted by Chrysler, the ‘shoddy work’ dispute six months later was certainly their responsibility. The week before Whitsun, Ryton workers were laid off because of a strike at Linwood and then recalled the day before the Whit break. It was widely assumed that they were only recalled because otherwise the management would have to pay lay off pay. When the track started workers were told to use reject panels and panels that had been kept in storage for up to two years. ‘Shoddy work’ was inevitable, but the Body Shop on one shift were taken ‘off the clock’ as a punishment for it. They were naturally furious and sat in, and the rest of the factory plant stopped, demanding that the Body Shop be paid for the hour and a half that they had been taken off the clock. The strike was provoked by management because it wanted to break the confidence of the shop-floor but it underestimated the workers’ response.

The strike began in a traditional Coventry fashion. A strike committee selected itself and everyone went home to decorate the house, get a part-time job or just sit around and follow the strike in the Coventry Evening Telegraph. Although the management may not have planned a factory-wide dispute, they could adapt to this situation. With the factory out, the shortage of panels would be eased, plenty of Avengers were stored in and around Coventry and work could continue at the rest of Chrysler’s UK plants, components coming to Ryton to be stored.

But about two months before the dispute, IS members at Ryton had taken the initiative in forming an action group to campaign for united, militant policies in the plant. The widespread frustration with the ineffectiveness of the JSSC and the fragmentation of the organisation meant that it met a ready response. Weekly meetings were being held and bulletins put into the plant. During this strike the Ryton Action Group looked for management’s weak spots, with the lesson of the miners’, dockers’ and builders’ struggles in mind, a flying picket seemed the obvious answer.

The first picket outside of Ryton was put on the Gosford Railhead – the vital rail link between the Coventry plants and Linwood and was followed by a picket on the Ansty car park where 22,000 Avengers were stored awaiting distribution to dealers. Both these pickets were put on by members of the Ryton Action Group (RAG) and the action was later endorsed by the JSSC and then the strike committee. The same followed with the picket of the Stoke plant which was put on by the Ryton Action Group and subsequently endorsed by the strike committee.

The flying picket bottled up the whole of Chrysler UK and decisively swung the balance of forces in favour of the strikers. Yet the initiative, and much of the manning of the pickets came from a small, unofficial group of workers, only two or three of whom were shop stewards. This showed the strength of a relatively small group operating within a strike situation.

There were, however, also weaknesses which the RAG were aware of but were unable to effectively overcome. First of all there was the extremely small number of strikers actually involved in activity. This is how a Body Shop steward and extremely active picket put it at the time:

‘I for one, along with other shop stewards are to blame for some of the weaknesses in organisation. Our prime motive was to get the men out, we didn’t give much thought to picketing at all. In fact, in eleven years as a steward, this is the first time I’ve ever picketed. The result is that we’re picketing about 15 points on a 24-hour basis and yet only about 2-300 blokes are regularly involved at all. So a small minority of blokes are working an 18 hour day. In future we must have a proper picketing rota drawn up. It’s disgraceful that so many stewards haven’t turned up but I think that many of the blokes would turn up if they knew they were needed.’

Besides the organising of the pickets being inadequate, there were no mass meetings during the course of the strike and no information provided by the strike committee. Furthermore, the strike committee avoided calling on the Stoke workers to strike in sympathy, and instead asked them to remain working and so force the management to lay them off with lay off pay. This avoided putting the conservative Stoke convenors on the spot and led to some disgraceful behaviour at Stoke. No strike was called, for instance, when a Stoke millwright was coshed by scab lorry drivers, or when Ryton pickets were knocked over by management cars, despite moves in some sections for sympathy action. In fact, at one stage Stoke workers were told not to talk to the pickets, as it might endanger the lay-off pay! So although individual sections responded well the company was able to use Stoke against Ryton. But the weakening effects of this ‘use the lay-off agreement’ strategy were only really clear to those closely involved – at a distance it appeared an imaginative and economical idea.

Similarly with the final settlement. During the strike many of the pickets were discussing the necessity of broadening the demands to include (for instance) guarantees against similar incidents recurring, compensation for having to strike and finally the possibility of tying the settlement in with the current wage negotiations. This would have enabled the strikers to have taken advantage of a situationin which Chrysler was on its knees. But the negotiations were conducted entirely by the convenors and Lapworth (TGWU district secretary) on the union side and Lapworth was the only speaker at the mass meeting which endorsed the settlement.

Strikes, especially large ones, are a breath of freedom in a monotonous and controlled life. For once workers gain an experience of controlling their lives and changing them. The Ryton strike was such a case, and as the enormous power at their disposal became clear, new ideas and strategies openly flourished. But to be effective these ideas had to be conveyed to the mass of workers and expressed in a coherent opposition to the strike leadership. Attempts in this direction were made. The Action Committee leafleted the Ryton workers when they collected their dole, and a special issue of the paper Carworker was produced, outlining the cause and progress of the dispute. But overall control of the strike remained in the hands of the strike committee and ideas remained ideas.

It was only after the strike was over that this was really driven home. Management immediately launched into another attack on informal work-shop controls. The 50 odd stewards who had done nothing during the strike remained in office. The Ryton Action Group lost its momentum out of the context of immediate struggle. And the shop-floor, although cheered by the victory, were deep in debt and battle weary, many workers leaving the factory. It was when the electricians came out on strike that the corrosive effects became evident.

The Electricians’ Strike

THE ELECTRICIANS’ strike followed rapidly on the heels of the shoddy work strike. 156 maintenance electricians from both Ryton and Stoke (although represented solely on the Stoke JSSC) came out for full implementation of an agreement made prior to Phase Two, which gave them staff status and a rise of £250 a year. Although the dispute had a craftist flavour to it – the electricians wanted to break away from the plant agreement (thus following the AUEW tool room and the TGWU external drivers) – it was a strike against the freeze and should have been supported by any conscientious trade unionist. The outcome, however, was rather different.

Firstly, the company decided to make a fight out of it. Its reasoning was that sectional claims threatened the plant agreement. If this one succeeded, there were similar ones in the pipeline (for example the millwrights) and it feared a return to the ‘leapfrogging’ that MDW was expressly designed to prevent. It also saw the possibility of using the strike to hammer the shop-floor into line. With workers already weary after the shoddy work dispute, it had an opportunity to further demoralise them.

That it was so successful is almost entirely the responsibility of the trade union leaderships at plant, district and national level. Their failure to defend elementary trade union principles played into the company’s hands and did incalculable harm to trade union organisation in the Coventry Chrysler plants.

When the electricians first came out, the response varied between the two plants. At Ryton the only support came from the millwrights who initially struck in support. Otherwise, weary after the shoddy work dispute and lacking stable trade union traditions, the plant allowed scab labour to do the electricians’ work. This was encouraged by the plant leadership; Jock Gibson, a leading Communist, told Ryton drivers to cross the ETU picket lines and Bill Lapworth (TGWU district secretary) explained why:

‘If our transport workers at Chrysler who have a separate agreement, are never going to cross picket lines – and everyone wants to put up picket lines these days – then they will become involved in everyone’s disputes.’

Ryton militants were isolated and unable to intervene. As the electricians’ dispute dragged on general demoralisation grew, hundreds of workers left the plant and at one point production had dropped to a third of the normal level.

At Stoke, however, the electricians’ work was automatically blacked on the shop-floor, although the Top Table did not make any effort to campaign for blacking. Within a fortnight the plant was laid off almost entirely. With Stoke out a speedy conclusion to the strike seemed on the cards, as the bargaining power of the electricians was enormously strengthened. Then the Stoke Top Table convened a JSSC meeting and produced a letter from Scanlon and Jones, which ‘strongly advised’ the Stoke workers to return to work on the basis that although they would not repair machines themselves, they would work machines that had been repaired by non-ETU labour. Only after a long debate and a close vote (49-41) was this accepted and a mass meeting called. At the mass meeting this line was narrowly carried.

Over the weekend IS convened a meeting of militants anxious to challenge the decision and the result was that several sections and other militants picketed the plant on Monday, along with the electricians. They gave out a leaflet which struck an immediate chord with the many stewards and workers who had been confused at the Friday meeting. The JSSC passed by a 2-1 majority a resolution calling for Friday’s decision to be reversed at another mass meeting the next day, against the united opposition of the Top Table. This was the first time for years that the Top Table had been beaten on an important issue.

The picket and leaflet had enabled the militants to regain the initiative. At this stage however, Eddie McCluskey (Communist secretary of the JSSC) ‘lost’ the loudspeaker system and the meeting was delayed for a day. This day’s delay was crucial as the mood began to swing in the opposite direction and the company counter-attacked. A massive article appeared in the Coventry Evening Telegraph saying that Chrysler were facing a financial crisis and might not even be able to meet a £1 plus 4 per cent pay claim. When the mass meeting did come the resolution to come out was moved half heartedly by the same people who had opposed it at the JSSC. Despite this, the voting looked, at worst, even and many workers were surprised when the chairman announced a decision to return. This time a picket by the militants was ineffectual and after much argument they took a decision to go back and fight inside rather than remain outside, isolated and facing almost certain victimisation. Back in the factories the militants who had remained out from the beginning of the week were harassed by the foremen and the Top Table.

Chrysler UK then turned their fire on the Linwood plant who had refused to work with scab labour after Linwood electricians had come out in support of Coventry. But the plant as a whole remained solid until the electricians there called off their strike.

Now (7 November) the electricians’ strike has ended after 14 weeks. The actual settlement has been claimed as a partial victory by both sides; it certainly wasn’t a defeat for either. However, for the plant as a whole it certainly was. It will take years to erase the bitterness caused by the failure of the factory to support the electricians and it will certainly take months to re-build the morale and strength of the factory organisation to prevent similar debacles in the future.

What Next?

THE EXPERIENCE of these three disputes highlights many of the new problems faced by militants in the shop-stewards’ movement. They also contain some pointers to the way forward.

In the factories MDW has had a shattering effect on relationships within shop-floor trade unionism. The constant pressure from the shop-floor which faced the piece-work steward disappears in the absence of daily sectional bargaining. The danger is that the steward then loses his direction or comes to see himself as the guardian of the MDW agreement and – ultimately – as an extension of the Personnel Department. Power within the JSSC rapidly gravitates towards the Top Table who are responsible for factory-wide issues. Militancy and militants present a threat to this arrangement – hence the attempts of the Stoke Top Table to assert the control of ’authoritative bodies’ over dissident sections and militants, as when they feared jeopardising lay-off pay during the shoddy work dispute and again when some sections stayed out during the electricians’ strike. Solutions from their point of view are shown by the John Worth case. The crucial evidence at the district committee came from the chairman of his own JSSC. But a factory organisation like this cannot defend the factory from concerted managerial attack. When the company tried to split the factory over the ETU dispute, the JSSC looked decidedly ramshackle.

Traditional militancy, based on a fierce sectional independence is no longer sufficient. Militants now have to be prepared to fight on a factory-wide basis and in doing so they need to find ways to restore mass involvement and shop-floor democracy. The initiative needs to be taken, as it was at Chrysler, by politically organised militants, which effectively means IS. For, in the absence of regular shop-floor pressure on a steward, his activity depends to a great extent on his general class attitudes, on how he sees his role. And the task of forming and sustaining militant groups requires, in the volatile atmosphere of the factory, a long term commitment to socialist change. Only then is a real campaign for militants to get stewards cards and form a left caucus on the JSSCs likely.

Outside the factory, the necessity for organised socialist politics is even more evident. The neglect of the official machinery was understandable during the boom. But now it is rapidly becoming a crippling weakness. Thus in the case of John Worth, the district committee, rather than defend a victimised member, completed the management’s hatchet job. Coventry, a bastion of engineering strength, didn’t respond at all last year after the Goad affair, and again this year with Con Mech. The reason – the local AUEW leadership oppose the union national committee’s line on the Industrial Relations Act.

Yet recent events have underlined the inability of the Broad Left to undertake the task of organising against the right wing. Faced with a strike of national importance against a giant multi-national backed by the Tory wage freeze, Jones and Scanlon spearheaded a massive retreat. And this retreat was ably abetted by their local counterparts at convenor level.

The last year at Chrysler suggests that although militants have been forced on the defensive, the opportunities for political organising in the factories have grown considerably. Despite numerical weakness, Chrysler IS was able to exert considerable influence in certain key situations. During the Ryton dispute the flying picket would never have been put on without IS, and IS almost managed to reverse the factory decision on blacking during the ETU strike. But the task ahead means translating these transitory moments of influence into a solidly based focus of alternative policies for the factory, covering the main issues affecting the workers in it.


1*. In discussions with the writer of this article. All subsequent quotes are by John Worth, unless otherwise indicated.

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