Our liberal media commentators are lining up to condemn the strike action of the RMT and others. Last month it was Matthew Syed in The Times. This month it is Simon Jenkins writing in the London Evening Standard 9/1/17. Both papers I should add are owned and tightly controlled by billionaire media barons who always and everywhere side with the global corporate interest. And when we look at the actions of these billionaires, we should never, ever forget that behind every great fortune is a great crime.

Common to the whinging all these liberal commentators is the sheer inconvenience that these strikes cause the ‘common citizen’. If only the Union Barons would sit down and reasonably work out their differences with management, we could all get on with our busy lives in this great city of ours. And therein lies the fundamental error of their argument. To Syed, Jenkins and their cohorts, there are four main parties involved; management, government and unions and of course the ‘ordinary’ hard-pressed citizen. This is patently a nonsense and a Tory corporate fiction.

Since the neo-liberal corporate counter- revolution that was first rolled out in the developed capitalist nations under the Reagan/Thatcher administrations in the 1980’s, the share of GDP has shifted decisively, without exception, in favour of the owners of capital and against the vast majority of the working class. Wages have stagnated whilst corporate profits have soared. The growing division in wealth between these two classes has been, since the 1980’s, relentless. And since the global financial collapse in 2008 the division of the economic spoils in favour of capital has excelarated even further. Strange how our learned liberal commentators choose to totally ignore these indisputable facts.

 Organised labour has ever only had one effective weapon to use against the bullying, rapacious actions of Capital and that is the temporary withdrawal of its labour power. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The ideological weakness of its so-called political representatives in parliament, and the short-sighted sectional interests of the individual unions makes the struggle against capital an uneven one. If ever the entire union movement would come out in support of each other, the battle against capital would be a little more even handed. But they don’t. Still, we are where we are, and when the more militant and organised sections of labour take on the vested interests of capital, we should all rally around them and give whatever support we can. The ‘ordinary’ citizens that Jenkins refers to are in fact an integral part of the working class and so a victory for the RMT is really a victory for all working people be they unionised, self-employed, casually employed or unemployed. It even includes those workers better situated, like Jenkins, Syed and other relatively well paid media workers.

Of course, a strike by transport workers is going to be a little inconvenient. That is the whole point of a strike – to temporarily disrupt the normal patterns of capitalism. But no one is likely to die from a little inconvenience. Use some imagination and one can still get about one’s business. And it is also true that the transport unions may be fighting a losing battle against automation. It is not unlikely that very soon we can expect an entirely automated transport system totally devoid of personnel. But will this be a step forward or a massive step back? I would argue that any transport system that moves millions of people every day must have human personnel to cater for both the routine challenges of mass public transport and for the unexpected.

Even from a business point of view, a friendly humanised public transport system will bolster tourism and bring in more money to the capital. But more than that, we must start to ask ourselves what sort of society do we want to create in the coming age of automation. If we want a society where we humans are largely redundant and relegated to second class citizens beholden to intelligent machines, then the RMT are nothing but Luddites. But if we imagine a society where humans coexist and benefit from the new wave of automation, then the RMT is actually leading the way.

 

So, my message to Mr Jenkins is to stop vilifying the unions and start supporting them as the advanced guard against the total corporatized control of society. And realise too that there are only two principle actors in this coming drama that we are all caught up in; the corporate conglomerates on the one hand, and the rest of society on the other. The one percent against the ninety-nine percent in the words of the Occupy movement. Or, the big bourgeoisie against the proletariat, in the words of the much vilified nineteenth century German professor. Whichever way you wish to phrase it, the RMT and the other organised workers taking strike action, are very much on the side of the ‘ordinary citizen’ In fact they are, at the moment, its vanguard. Any win for organised labour, no matter how partial and sectional it may seem, is a small but significant win for the whole of society in its historic battle against the relentless corporatisation of our public utilities and resources.  Stop the knee-jerk union bashing Jenkins and take a consistent stand against the corporate elite. You have already taken a principled stand against the corporate machine advocating Heathrow expansion, now join the battle for a safe, nationally run, public transport system.   

End JPK Copyright, 10/1/17

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 12 January 2017 17:29 )