Saturday, January 06, 2007
Policy Statement on Industrial Work
This policy statement was adopted at a conference of IS members active in industrial and trade union work, and endorsed by the National Committee. It gives the general guidelines for revolutionary socialists on the question. Of course a fight for ‘democracy’ in the abstract will not succeed. The democratic demands have to be linked, in every-case, with specific policy demands on wages, conditions, safety and so on. The formulation of realistic revolutionary policies in the various industries and unions is the task IS industrial militants are now tackling. The present statement is a common element in all of them.
Conference recognises that, under modern conditions, the trade union bureaucracy is a special social group which is used in the maintenance of capitalist class rule.
While the bureaucracy reflects in varying degrees at different times, the pressure of the membership, it also serves as an instrument through which the employers and the State try to discipline and control workers, to limit and often sabotage disputes, to check solidarity actions and to prevent the union of political and industrial struggles. This dual role does not depend mainly on the political outlook of the individual official, though this is of some importance. It depends on the actual position of the bureaucracy in capitalist society. The officials are a relatively privileged group organised in hierarchies enjoying better pay, conditions and, usually, job security than the rank and file militant. They are under very strong pressure to conform to the model of the ‘responsible’ trade union officer, responsible not to the membership, but to the standards of the employer and the state machine.
Under pressure from both the workers and the employers, the bureaucracies try all the time to become independent, to change their position from that of servant of the membership to that of master. To the extent that they succeed in this the unions become mainly organisations for controlling the workers and only secondarily organisations of the workers.
Even where this has already happened to a large extent, Conference rejects the idea that the unions can be bypassed or ignored or that breakaway unions should be promoted. The experience of the last sixty years shows that these views lead to a dangerous isolation of militants from the mass of their fellow workers and so to a strengthening of the bureaucracy. The struggle against the bureaucracy requires the needs a combination of rank and file activity and work in the union machine. Unofficial and official organisations must both be used.
In the longer term the struggle against the bureaucracy requires the development of a national rank and file organisation and a program of action which combines immediate and long term demands. Central to this program is the question of control by the membership.
Therefore Conference recognises the urgent need to campaign for rank and file control of the trade unions. We recognise the that no democratic constitution alone guarantees active democracy, that being dependent on the degree of participation by the membership at large. Where rank and file members draw up programmes of demands specific to their individual union, these should (a) be based on the principles outlined below and (b) be related to the immediate experience of trade unionists in struggle and not mere blueprints abstracted from the present level of class activity.
1. All officials should be elected and subject to constant recall.
2. All full-time officials should be paid the average wage in their industry.
3. Union policy-making bodies should be comprised of elected lay officials only.
4. Election addresses to be circulated unaltered for candidates for all elected positions in the union.
5. Any educational qualifications for union office should be abolished.
6. No member to be disqualified from holding office on political grounds.
7. Full minutes and voting records of policy making bodies should be circularised.
8. No political censorship of union journal.
1. National delegate conferences should be held annually.
2. Standing Orders committees should annually comprise of elected lay-officials.
3. No branch block voting.
1. Appeals Committees should be comprised of elected lay-officials.
1. While in principle we support industrial unions and any amalgamations contributing to that end, the priority remains for maximum rank and file unity, for joint shop stewards committees, factory and combine wide.
1. No secret negotiations.
2. Every stage of negotiations should be subject to rank and file ratifications at mass meetings.
3. Mass meetings should never be presented with package deals unless each part of the deal has been voted on separately beforehand.
1. All strikes in support of trade union principle, conditions or wages be made official.
2. Dispute benefit to be raised by levy of entire membership when necessary.
1. Support of 100 per cent trade unionism and the right of trade unionists to enforce closed shops.
2. Opposition to check-off system.
3. Opposition to employer policed ‘agency shops’.
4. Support of the right for trade unionists to discipline fellow workers who flout democratic decisions.
5. Access to job waiting lists by shop stewards committees. Waiting lists to be on the basis, first applied first employed.
1. Opposition to any ‘managerial policing’ by shop stewards. No participation on management committees intended to keep shop stewards off the shop floor for long periods.
2. Shop stewards to hold regular report back meetings: insistence on allocated time for such meetings; especially where there is shift working.
1. Right of members to criticise union policy
2. Right of members to meet unofficially and visit other branches.
3. Right of members to communicate with the press.
4. Right of members to write, circularise and/or sell political literature.
5. Right of appeal direct to Appeals court.
6. Right of all members, irrespective of sex or race, to pay equal contributions, to receive equal benefits and to have equal access to all union delegacies and offices.
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International Socialism Number 48 June/July 1971