Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Has The Strike As A Weapon Had Its Day?

That certainly seems to be Donald MacIntyre’s conclusion:
Whenever national strikes have been threatened in this century, ears have been pricked to detect the distant echoes of those in the last one – especially now that there is the prospect of industrial struggle against a Conservative government.
‘Industrial’? No, no, Donald, that’s not quite the case here.

None of the threatened strikes are coming from coal miners and the like, are they? They are coming from the public sector.
Some Tory MPs, young enough to have been at primary school during the epic confrontation between Margaret Thatcher and Arthur Scargill's miners 27 years ago, must be asking themselves in irritation: didn't she see off all this for good?
Yes, she did. Many new rules were brought in to halt the sort of chicanery and secondary picketing and intimidation that we saw in the miner's strike.
From Peterloo to the poll tax riots, the resilience of the normally phlegmatic Briton has always had its limits. The territory is uncharted.
Yes, it has. But what 'ordinary Briton' are we talking about here?
European anti-austerity strikes, such as the one called for yesterday in Greece, could catch on.
They could, it's always possible. But I can't quite see it myself. We aren't Greeks. We don't do that sort of thing...
But neither side should assume the unions will be the blunt instrument that forces the Government to change course.
He's hit on something here.
… those of us who covered the big national public sector strikes of the 1970s and 80s can remember only a handful that were unequivocally successful, such as the miners in 1974 and the firemen in the long cold winter of 1977-78.
And the reasons why are obvious:
As both groups relied, in the face of real physical danger, on an unusually high degree of mutual aid and dependence in their working lives, they had no problem finding the same solidarity when on strike – whether in sometimes violent run-ins with the police, picketing in extreme weather, or facing financial hardship. Both groups had the support not only of other trade unionists but – to some extent – of the wider public.
As he points out, that is emphatically not going to be the case this time round:
Whether that last will be as easy to sustain among parents, patients and others hit by the stoppages now being planned by the unions in already hard-pressed services remains to be seen.
I don't think it will. The most successful strikes are those that resonate with the public, that call on that great British sense of 'fairness'. These strikes aren't going to do that.

Because they are emphatically NOT about 'fairness', but rather, its exact opposite:
If the most imminent stoppages are about preserving public service pensions intact, they may not be the most popular cause among those who don't work in the public services. If they are against job cuts, reduced services and the Government's management of the economy, can they stay the distance?
Are those 'job cuts' also going to be as unpopular as he supposes, though?

Did this strike have the public thinking 'Gosh, we can't have this. Such vital services!' or 'Who the hell are these people and why are we employing them in the first place?'..?

Interesting times ahead...


Ross said...

"European anti-austerity strikes"

Well by striking they are forgoing wages, which will save the government money and reduce the need for austerity measures.

That might not be what he means though.

AntiCitizenOne said...

I wonder if now would be a good time to rush through some charter trials in areas where Teachers plan to strike....

English Viking said...

How will we know when they are on strike as opposed to 'working'?

Mick Turatian said...

How will we know when they are on strike as opposed to 'working'?

Easy, they'll be standing around outside with placards where you can see them¹ rather than skiving off somewhere, looking at porn in some office or enjoying an unmonitored sickie at home.

¹subject to weather being nice.

Blunt pen said...

Perhaps writers at the Indy, and with them their fellow strugglers who likewise toil in the grip of luxuries at the Graun and Al-beeb, could go on permanent strike on behalf of us all.

I wonder how many decades would pass before we missed them?

English Viking said...


How dare you insinuate that these guardians of community spirit, these dedicated, highly qualified, selfless heroes are in fact useless, money grubbing retards with a sense of entitlement inversely proportional to the level of their intelligence?

How very dare you?

Anonymous said...

Unions are past their sell by date, but we clearly need something to replace them. Rational decency from management would be good, but I've hardly ever seen that.
Teachers could strike effectively as they are fundamentally child minders and no one want the brats on the streets unsupervised.
I think violence on the streets is the only way forward - because there is no sense in any side of any politics these days.aco

JuliaM said...

"That might not be what he means though."


"I wonder how many decades would pass before we missed them?"

Well, what would I have to blog about?

"I think violence on the streets is the only way forward - because there is no sense in any side of any politics these days."

We're already seeing the start of it in Greece. I fear you're right.