Wednesday, November 25, 2015


The Media Committee is currently sending out the following media release to national media, trade unions & etc.

Restrictions on Trade Unions are ‘act of class war against working people’

As UK government plans to clamp down on trade union rights wait for a second reading in the House of Lords, the Socialist Party yesterday warned they are “an act of class war by the forces of organised capital, aimed against the ability of working people to defend or extend the standards of living of themselves and their families.”

Media spokesperson Robert Cox said: “Workers cannot rely on the House of Lords to stop this legislation. They need to stand together and fight to defeat it themselves. The strike vote by 98% of junior doctors on a 76% turnout shows the way forward.”

In a statement agreed by their Executive Committee, Socialists pointed out that “by seeking to impose minimum turn-out requirements beyond anything required of elected politicians,” this  “exposes the truth” that the governments job is “to work for and on behalf of the British capitalist class” using the law to aim “to prevent workers from organising, democratically and peacefully”.

While the Socialist Party made clear that it “stands in absolute solidarity with the workers”, it warned that industrial action can only win limited benefits which are “under constant threat of being taken back.” 

“The only hope of establishing for all time a good standard of living for all mankind depends on bringing an end to the political and economic control of society by the “one-percent” and in its place the establishment of a world in which all wealth is owned and shared in common by all its people. We call upon all workers to unite to bring this about as soon as possible”, the statement concluded.

For more information about the policies and activities of the Socialist Party visit the website: or specifically about the Trade Union Bill there is a recent article from our journal at:

The Statement in full:
The Trade Union Bill 2015 - Statement of the Executive Committee of the SPGB:
“The Trade Union Bill currently before Parliament represents an act of class war by the forces of organised capital, aimed against the ability of working people to defend or extend the standards of living of themselves and their families.

By seeking to impose minimum turn-out requirements beyond anything required of elected politicians, and forcing agency workers to become strike breakers, this bill exposes the truth of the nature of the state. Far from being an institution representative of the people, the clear purpose of Government is to work for and on behalf of the British capitalist class. In this case by taking further legal measures to prevent workers from organising, democratically and peacefully, to restrain the efforts of their employers to reduce employment costs to an absolute minimum, thereby increasing the profits of their shareholders directly or, by cuts to government spending, indirectly through the reduction of tax on their profits.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain stands in absolute solidarity with the workers of all countries in their efforts to achieve better conditions of employment. However workers should realise that, under the market system for their bosses increasing profits must come before all other considerations. Any material gains made through workers day-to-day struggle will therefore be limited and under constant threat of being taken back. The only hope of establishing for all time a good standard of living for all mankind depends on bringing an end to the political and economic control of society by the “one-percent” and in its place the establishment of a world in which all wealth is owned and shared in common by all its people. We call upon all workers to unite to bring this about as soon as possible.”


Anonymous said...

'The SPGB stands in absolute solidarity with the workers of all countries in their efforts to achieve better conditions of employment'. What if the actions of one section of workers means the undermining of other workers. During the Miners Strike back in the 80's the actions of the NUM would have harmed the conditions of those workers in the nuclear industry. At the time the SPGB understood this and was sound on trade unionism, but today is all over the place.

ajohnstone said...

Not really sure what you mean. Perhaps you mean the NUM's energy policy of ending nuclear power. But capitalism thrives on division and competition within the working class.

If anything the nuclear industry undermined the miners struggle, particularly since energy was imported from the French nuclear power stations, if i remember correctly. I also believe that Polish coal imports were used too. The class war is not local but international and the interests of workers in one part of the world are the common interest of all workers.

In an anniversary article we wrote "Socialists, as class-conscious workers ourselves, are on the side of our fellow workers involved in industrial disputes with employers, but this does not mean that this is unconditional. Strikes should not be aimed at other groups of workers"

Perhaps you can give some evidence that miners purposefully aimed their strike at the nuclear industry's workers.

Certainly there was attempted secondary picketing of the steel industry and railways to make the strike more effective as earlier miners strikes had been with similar tactics.

Our pamphlet on the lessons of the miners strike reiterates our commitment to solidarity.
"It is our job as socialists, then, to stand with our fellow workers in their necessary battles to defend themselves, but to point out at all times that the real victory to be achieved is the abolition of the wages system."

During the strike we made our position plain "In any strike between robbers and robbed (with the exception of political strikes, such as when the dockers opposed immigration or the Labourites ran their phoney day of action) the Socialist Party is unequivocally on the side of the robbed. In the class war no worker and no political party can be neutral."

Also during the miners strike we published an open letter to them where we said "How dare the unelected editors of Fleet Street preach to the miners about democracy. And as for the NCB: who elected MacGregor to receive his fat salary for doing the dirty work of the profit system? A fact which is undeniable is that the vast majority of miners have supported the strike."

We said in a book review of the strike "The true heroes and victims, however, are the striking miners and their families. In the face of dreadful financial hardship, media lies, state violence, the threat of blacklisting and the inevitable petty quarrels of people under stress, they struggle to maintain solidarity and to keep the fight going. As families and friendships fall apart, they still remain committed."

While again during the strike we observed "Let any miserable little cynic who says that workers are incapable of self-organised co-operation take a look at the tremendous achievements in communal self-help which strikers have set up."

The NUM members could also just as easy point the finger at their fellow trade unionists in NACODS who wanted the NCB to withdraw the pit closure plan and a ballot on strike action was 82 percent in favour. Strike action was called off when the NCB and Government promised a modified colliery review procedure which was reneged on. If NACODS had gone on strike perhaps the miners could have won the strike.

Perhaps you can elaborate your criticisms on trade unions because as i said i am not really clear on what message you wish to convey.

Anonymous said...

Many of the sentiments expressed in the open letter were not supported by some members of the SPGB. The Miners strike was just an illustration of how trade union activity can lead to conflict between workers, I am not arguing that the NUM were targeting the nuclear industry.I know nothing about it. The plain fact is that at one time the statement that the SPGB supported workers absolutely in their day to day struggles would not have been issued as Party policy. It is a position the Left take.

ajohnstone said...

In 1911 we stated our "attitude cannot be one of hostility, though it devolves upon Socialists to combat the unsound action of trade unions and trade unionists, as also the ignorance from which these unsound actions spring. But when trade unions take action on sound lines it becomes Socialists to remember their class allegiance and give them support."

We have never offered unconditional support to trade unions but on sound lines.
in 1912 we support only trade unionism when it is on sound lines :-

"Sound lines" mean that while fighting the daily battles the toilers must adopt a policy of "No Compromise". They must have no regard for the master’s interests or property. "Conciliation" and "Arbitration" schemes and long notices must be strenuously opposed. They have got to teach their members that the interests of workers and employers are in direct opposition. Above all, the trade unions must use all their powers to increase the solidarity of the revolting working class and show the need for the toilers acting as a class. There must be no blacklegging of one section upon another, and the grievance of one part must become the interest of all. Thus only can the unions be moulded into a body capable of assisting in the revolutionary change." -1912

It is often overlooked by the critics of the SPGB that many in its companion party, the Socialist Party of Canada, were instrumental in the founding of the One Big Union.)
What we have stated is that: "The particular form of economic organisation through which the struggle is conducted is one which the circumstances of the struggle must mainly determine. The chief thing is to maintain the struggle whilst capitalism lasts.The spirit of the craft form of Trade Union is generally one which tends to cramp the activity and outlook of the workers, each craft thinking itself something apart from all others, particularly from the non-skilled workers. But capitalist society itself tends to break down the barriers artificially set up between sections of the working class, as many of the so-called "aristocrats of labour" have been made painfully aware. The industrial form of union should tend to bring the various sections of workers in an industry together, and thus help level the identity of interests between all workers so organised."

The SPGB attitude is one recognising that: -
" The Socialist Party, in aiming for the control of the State, is a political party in the immediate sense, but we have an economic purpose in view, namely, the conversion of the means of living into the common property of society. Therefore, the question necessarily arises whether an economic organisation acting in conjunction with the political is vital to our task. We have on more than one occasion pronounced ourselves in agreement with the need for such an organisation, and in so doing have flatly denied the charge that the Socialist Party of Great Britain is "nothing but a pure and simple political party of Socialism ".

We cautioned in 1926 General Strike:-
"The outlook before the workers is black, indeed, but not hopeless, if they will but learn the lessons of this greatest of all disasters. "Trust your leaders!" we were adjured in the Press and from the platforms of the Labour Party, and the folly of such sheeplike trust is now glaring. The workers must learn to trust only in themselves. They must themselves realise their position and decide the line of action to be taken. They must elect their officials to take orders, not to give them!...Socialism won't come about through SPGB propaganda (as if revolutionary minorities can outcompete the bourgeois media in times of social peace today), nor will it come about if the real struggles aren't consolidated until a majority of SPGB "delegates" take parliament."

This may also make useful reading

Anonymous said...

The Socialist Party of Great Britain IS 'nothing but a pure and simple political party of socialism'. Or at least it was. That can be seen from the 1911, 1912 and 1926 quotes. You have slipped in a quote 'The SPGB attitude is one of..' which is at variance with these quotes and I would guess is from the 1980's. How do you reconcile 'We have never offered unconditional support to trade unions but on sound lines...' with 'The SPBG stands in absolute solidarity with their efforts to achieve better conditions of employment.'
I am well aware that many socialists have been prominent in trade unions. Their industrial and political activities were separate. Some might argue that the rot set in when these trade unionists were succeeded by academics in the Party.

ajohnstone said...

Our history has been one that has had us having to distinguish ourselves from other socialists who argued a different route to achieve socialism from us. We rightly said that the economic organisation of the working class should not subordinate itself to the political organisation and vice versa.

In my own personal opinion there exists a symbiotic relationship.

If you detect a shift of emphasis on trade unionism over time i suggest it is because these political rivals no longer remain the force they once were and a more nuanced position from the SPGB can be put forward in the battle of ideas.

Once more i am not sure what you are trying to explain when you claim there exists some sort of intellectual/psychological division among members based on their individual backgrounds. Certainly, many more members have been through higher education these days than in its earlier days, but that applies to all workers with wider access to further education and not just those who took up occupations in academia.

Anonymous said...

'Other socialists'? Name them. Again I never said anything about an 'intellectual/psychological division'. The dire result of higher education can be seen in your use of 'symbiotic'. Don't know wot it means don't wanta.

ajohnstone said...

Oh, my apologies. Ex-posties shouldn't know such words as symbiotic, should we? Us proles should stick to our street-slang and patois. Perhaps you should cast your mind back to the extensive formal vocabulary of early members' writings before dismissing the usage of words by current members. As Dietzgen said " If a worker wants to take part in the self-emancipation of his class , the basic requirement is that he should cease allowing others to teach him and should set about teaching himself." I think the SPGB reflects this very desirable tradition of autodidactism.

I think you know many political activists and organisations at one time supported the socialist objective that was very clear in its description but disagreed upon the means and methods of achieving them, something present-day "socialist" fail to understand. The Socialist Party's position on how we can achieve and establish socialism was fairly unique and we have argued that it is the best and most efficious way to reach our goal. However, let us be clear, it is still speculative and does not exclude other tactics and strategies which may be adopted by the working class facing different circumstances and conditions. It will may well not necessarily be the Socialist Party that will be the eventual organ of emancipation that is used by our class because it is they who rightly will determine the approach to be used when sufficient consciousness in the majority of them has grown.

Three individuals who were not members of the SPGB or companion parties and disagree with some of our ideas that i still consider to be socialists are Paul Mattick, Anton Pannekoek and Murray Bookchin, two of whom were sufficiently viewed as socialists to write for the WSPUS "Western Socialist". John Keracher although to be lost in a side-track of dead-end Bolshevism and his own interpretation of what that is another to be cited as someone who fully appreciated what we are aiming for but mistaken about the means. Organisations that strive for socialism was the SLP but again they opted for a plan of industrial unionism that the SPGB recognised as flawed not only as a way to get to socialism but even as a policy for conducting the class struggle within capitalism and rejected.

I personally always tried to maintain an overview that what we do when we are such a tiny minute propagandist educationalist Party as we are now and what we do when we have grown substantially into a mass political organisation will be very different. While principles remain the same, the application of them will not be.

But from your comments i have a sense that you are with-holding much of your own opinions particularly in regards to your relationship with the SPGB.