The National Minority Movement
Published:1984/85 by the Miners’ Support Group, Camden Nalgo Office, Town Hall Extension, Euston Rd, London NW1
Transcription: By Martin Empson Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2012). 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.
“This pamphlet has been reprinted by militant miners and their supporters who believe the time is ripe for a new National Minority type movement.
Many people spoke about the need for a rank-and-file initiative during the miners’ strike. Undoubtedly it is true that the only times that the ruling class ever looked really rattled was when the rank-and-file showed themselves prepared to respond in kind to the attacks of the state. However, rank-and-file organisation alone is not enough. We must link that independent initiative to clear, unambiguous /revolutionary/ leadership in the tradition of the NMM. If the miners; strike illustrated one thing, it illustrated the limitation of old fashioned industrial militancy. The ruling class has upped the stakes; what worked ten years ago no longer works today. Now is the time to think afresh.”
At the second meeting of the National Executive of the National Minority Movement, which was held in London on November 1st, 1924, the present situation confronting the workers, particularly in relation to the recent General Election and the return of the reactionaries to power, came under review. It was realised that the Tory Government would immeasurably assist the capitalists in their coming offensive on the workers’ wages, working hours and living conditions. Further, it was realised that, for the next few years, the workers will be inevitably driven to their Trade Unions to defend their interests. Under such circumstances, the publications of this little pamphlet was felt to be urgent. At no other time was the need so pressing for the workers to reorganise and re-shape their forces, and to press forward in defence of their standard of living and for improvements in their conditions of employment.
THE PRESENT SITUATION
The result of the General Election is one that compels every active Trade Unionist carefullly to consider what are the next steps to be taken if the working class movement is not to be defeated through the coming capitalist offensive. The return of a Conservative Government to power signifies the consolidation of all the reactionary forces in the coutnry. The policy of stable government means in practice, not only the stabilisation of the present miserable conditions of working class life, but new attacks upon many of the standards which have been won by many years of working class struggle.
The death of the Liberal Party means the growth of Liberalism in the Labour Party, which will constitute a big menace to our fighting spirit.
In anticipation of the return of a Conservative Government, the more important capitalist newspapers have been for many month preparing for this new attack. All these newspapers have had on cry, that is, that if British industry is to revive it can only do so by costs of production being lowered and the workers’ practical experience tells them that costs of production are only meant to apply to the wages, hours and workshop conditions of the workers. The better re-organisation of the factories, the more scientific organisation of production is never called into question, it is always the workers who have to pay. The first steps will be to disrupt the trade union movement, by the repression of the fighting elements, now organised under the banner of the Minority Movement.
Food prices are going up, unemployment is increasing, the danger of new wars grows ever imminent, the imperialist policy of British capitalism is being pursued more relentlessly than ever. In China, India, Egypt, and Africa our struggling colonial workers, striving to free themselves from the tyranny and brutality of British rule, are seeing all their organisations more ruthlessly attacked and suppressed than ever before. The Dawes Plan, now in operation in Germany, and meeting with fierce resistance from many sections of the German working class, has already resulted in a worsening of working class conditions. Low wages, long hours, high prices and increasing unemployment are the order of the day, and the effects of this colonisation of Germany will have its repercussions on the working class of every capitalist country.
It is also clear that a new attack is being prepared on Soviet Russia. The opposition of the reactionary forces of this country to the Russian Loan was not because of the amount of money involved, or the inability of this country to raise the Loan, but because the capitalists are determined not to do anything likely to facilitate the economic recovery of Soviet Russia. Already there is talk of a new boycott of Soviet Russia in order that they can make of the first Workers’ Republic a slave colony along the same lines as they have done with Germany.
In view of this situation it is imperative that the workers inside the trade unions shall immediately redouble their efforts to obtain national and international trade union unity. The working class can only defeat the capitalists when they can fight as a class, and not as a number of sub-divided craft and sectional unions. But are the workers ready? They are not. The six million trade unionists of Britain are still organised in eleven hundred unions, all eaten up with petty jealousies and sectional rivalries. There is no common policy or leadership. Each Union is fighting for its own hand, and this at a time when we are facing the same situation as in 1921, and with all its subsequent experiences to guide us. The first and most important practical steps to achieve a real unification of the workers’ forces is the formation of Factory Committees.
Internationally, the trade unionists are organised in the Amsterdam International and the R.I.L.U. Despite all the efforts of the R.I.L.U to achieve unity of the International Trade Union Movement, the reformist and reactionary leaders still bar the way to unity and everywhere continue their policy of disruption and splits. This cannot be tolerated any longer. The National Minority Movement calls upon all workers to redouble their efforts in preparing the workers for the new struggles. A special Labour Congress is now necessary in Britain. The new situation demands that all our forces should be brought together and at a special congress a new policy and new methods of struggle must be devised, and fought for by the whole working class movement. The decision of the Labour Party Conference to expel the Communists was only the prelude to the capitalists demanding that the minorities now seeking to transform the Trade Unions into real organs of the class struggle shall also be excluded. Yet never was there such a necessity for the workers to consolidate their ranks, and we urge all workers to take steps to get their organisations to demand that the Joint Council of the Labour Party and the Trade Union Congress shall immediately call a special congress to discuss the following Workers’ Charter.
Wages. An increase of £1 per week, and a minimum wage of £4 per week.
Hours. A 44-hour working week, and abolition of over-time.
Nationalisation. Nationalisation of Mines, Minerals, Banks, Land and Railways without compensation, and with Workers’ Control.
Housing. Carrying out of an adequate Housing Scheme and the requisitioning of all empty houses, large and small, and the rationing of available rooms for the workers until the new houses are built.
Unemployment. The application of the demands of the Six-Point Charter as agreed upon by the General Council of the T.U.C, and the National Unemployed Workers’ Committee Movement.
The Executive Committee of the National Minority Movement affirms that such a Workers’ Charter will rally the whole working class to new struggles with the capitalists.
We place on record our willingness to co-operate with any other working class organisation willing to go forward and fight for the realisation of this Workers’ Charter.
The Executive Committee for the National Minority Movement.
WHAT IS THE MINORITY MOVEMENT?
The Minority Movement is a movement of active workers in the working class movement, anxious that the interests of the workers as a class shall come before all other interests, either individual or sectional.
The purpose of the Minority Movement is to gather these active workers together, to organise them, so that they can decide upon common programmes and policies, and to actively agitate and pursue those programmes and policies in their respective organisations.
The Minority Movement aims at giving organised expression to the progressive minorities in all working class organisations. There being such minorities in political and co-operative working class organisations, as well as in the trade unions, it is not necessarily restricted to the purely industrial organisations. But, up to the present, the Minority Movement has confined its activities to the trade union movement.
The Minority Movement in the Trade Unions.
The Minority Movement in the trade unions aims at building up and strengthening and re-organising the existing trade union organisations of the workers, and inducing those organisations to seriously fight for the interests of the workers, and to carry on the class struggle.
It is not a separatist movement. It does not aim at bringing into being new and rival organisations to those already existing. On the contrary it actively opposes any attempts that are made to split the trade unions, and to establish branch new organisations. The Minority Movement is not a splitting organisation, endeavouring to disrupt the trade union movement, and thus to weaken and demoralise it.
The chief object of the Minority Movement is to build up, strengthen, bring together and unify the existing organisations.
How have the Minority Movements been Formed?
There already exist powerful Minority Movements amongst the miners, the transport workers, and in the engineering trades. These movements have been formed by a number of active workers in the respective trade unions getting together in a town or district, establishing a committee, and through this committee getting into contact with the active workers in the other towns and districts. These active workers have come together without regard to their political beliefs or affiliations, being wholly concerned with the problems of strengthening their trade union organisations and making them pursue an aggressive class war policy for the improvement of the workers’ conditions.
In forming these Minority Movements certain ideas of organisation have come to the front. It is recognised that the logical development of trade unionism is industrial unionism. Therefore, active trade unionists have endeavoured to form their committees and develop the Minority Movement so as to include workers from all sections, all trade and craft unions, in the respective industry – thus being able to formulate and pursue a policy for all the workers in the industry. The Miners’ Minority Movement, for instance, carries on propaganda for the purpose of transforming the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain into a great miners’ industrial union having in its ranks all those who work in and about the mines. The Transport Workers’ Minority Movement is endeavouring to bring about the amalgamation of the various trade unions catering for transport workers into one powerful transport workers’ industrial union in which are included all the workers in the transport industry. The Metal Workers’ Minority Movement endeavours to bring about the amalgamation of the various trade unions in the metal trades for the purpose of establishing one great organisation which will include all metal workers. And so on.
The Minority Movement is a natural growth from the working class organisations. It is not something artificially developed from outside the working class movement. For years there has been growing a great volume of discontent and dissatisfaction with the leadership of the Movement – particularly with the leadership of the trade union movement. In all the great trade unions there has developed a central bureaucracy which frequently acts as a barrier to swift and conscious action on the part of the workers. This bureaucracy is often under capitalist influence, and the history of the trade union movement for the past 20 years demonstrates conclusively that this central bureaucracy is more often a check on the efforts of the workers in their forward movements than as a stimulating, organising and fighting leadership. The very fact that the trade union leaders and officials – the trade union bureaucracy – have refused to lead and have consistently opposed the efforts towards amalgamation compels the active workers to band together and to take the initiative in formulating programmes and policies. Hence the formation of the Minority Movement.
The Organisation of the Minority Movement.
Obviously, the beginnings of the Minority Movement have had to depend upon the initiative of individuals. Local committees of individuals have been formed, and contacts have been established with individuals in other towns and districts. But this was only the groundwork. To give the movement a more definite and permanent basis is [sic] was necessary to have local committees of representatives from trade union branches or lodges, and from these local representative committees to establish a National Committee to inform and direct the Minority Movement nationally, and to make it an integral part of the trade union movement. These, roughly, are the lines along which the Minority Movement has been organised in the mining, transport and metal industries.
Finance of the Minority Movement.
The finance of the Minority Movement is derived from contributions from individual supporters, and by affiliation fees of 2d. Per member per annum from trade union branches or lodges. It has not been considered advisable to make a definite levy on the supporters of the Minority Movement, issue contribution cards to them, and so on, because the purpose of the Minority Movement is not to create new organisations, but to aid in the development of those already existing. But means have been devised of attaching individual supporters to the Minority Movement by issuing an Associate membership card for a contribution of one shilling per annum – which money goes into the National Fighting Fund. Trades Councils are affiliated on the basis of one shilling per thousands members per annum.
Aims and Objects of the Minority Movement.
The General Policy of the Minority Movement
The general policy of the Minority Movement, as far as the trade union movement is concerned, may be roughly summarised as follows:
1. The Formation of Factory Committees
The curse of the trade union movement is its sectionalism. The workers instead of fighting for the interests as a class, organise, combine and fight for their interests separately as crafts and trades. In most factories and workshops, and industrial undertakings generally, the organised workers are split up, divided amongst a number of craft unions, and many of the workers, particularly if they be women and boys and girls, have no trade union organising them at all. This state of affairs is not only a barrier to effective working class unity, but it is a fundamental weakness because it enables the bosses to crush the workers piecemeal, taking section by section and by playing one section off against another. The best way to overcome this weakness is for the active workers to concentrate their energies in the factories and workshops, and industrial undertakings generally, by organising workshop, factory, pit, mill, works or garage committees – industrial committees – as the case may determine. These committees are the foundation of all industrial organisation.
2. The Re-Organisation of the Trades Councils
The re-organisation in the towns and districts of the Trades Councils so as to secure the effective support of all the organised workers in those towns and districts. Not only should the Trades Councils, as at present, secure the affiliation of the trade union branches, but their constitutions should be altered as to admit of the affiliation of all bona fide working class organisations – industrial, political, co-operative and social, and special sections should be created to deal with the various wings of the movement. The Factory and Workshop Committees should also be affiliated to the Trades Councils, and the Trades Councils should be active in forming such committees in all the industrial undertakings in their constituencies. These committees should ultimately become the basic organisations units of the Trades Councils. The workmen’s clubs should be subject to Trades Council discipline. In every way – in every phase of working class life – the Trades Councils should be the true, local guardians of all working class interests, pressing forward industrially, politically and co-operatively to the conquest of all local power.
3. Industrial Unionism.
The amalgamation of existing craft unions into powerful industrial unions, based on Factory Committees. Industrial unionism is a proved more effective instrument in the workers’ armoury. Craft unionism hampers the progress of our movement, it fosters divisions, it creates a narrow craft spirit and a sectional outlook. In the building industry, the printing industry the engineering industry and the the transport industry, conditions are over-ripe for the formation of single industrial unions. The loose federations that exist have demonstrated their uselessness, and have weakly crumbled before the onslaughts of our enemies. Every assistance and every encouragement should be given the General Council of the Trades Union Congress in its efforts to bring about amalgamation, and to ensure that amalgamations are established on the right lines.
4. Central Power in the General Council.
The concentration of working class power in the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, so that for common programmes – such as a maximum working week of 44 hours, a minimum wage of £4 a week for adult workers, and a work or full maintenance of the unemployed – and on all matters of vital importance to the workers such as questions of war or peace, the whole of the forces of our movement can be immediately mobilised and set moving. For such programmes, and on such questions the General Council should have the power to call a general strike and to take such other action as is necessary. Nor is it only in regard to dealing with the capitalist enemy that full executive power should be given to the General Council. The work of intelligently re-organising and truly disciplining the trade union movement is a task that requires the assistance of such a body as the General Council, with power to carry through its decisions.
5. International Solidarity.
The creation in this country of an understanding of the international struggle between the capitalist class and the working class, and the fostering of a spirit of international solidarity. The establishment of the closest possible organisational contacts between the trade unions of this country and the workers’ international organisations, and the trade unions of other countries, and to ceaselessly strive for the immediate bringing together of the trade union movement of the world under one trade union international fighting leadership.
Activities of the Minority Movement
The activities of the Minority Movement are generally:
Join the Minority Movement.
We appeal to all workers to join the Minority Movement, to induce their trade union branches and Trades Councils to hold meetings for the purpose of hearing Minority Movement speakers, and then to strive might and main to secure their affiliation. “The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the workers themselves.” Join with us in our struggle to overthrow capitalism and to conquer all power for the working class.