This article, written by Gerry Healy in the Workers Press issue dated 1 April 1972, entitled The Sword is Drawn, shows how simple it is to bring the sharpest revolutionary theory to the spontaneous class struggle.
The occasion is the £5000 fine imposed on the T&GWU under the newly established Industrial Relations Court in 1972. (£61,720.52 in today’s money)
There is absolutely no difficulty in giving revolutionary leadership to workers in struggle, since such truth, both logical and historical, is self- evident to all workers and cannot be refuted. Further, the absence of such truth spells certain defeat. Of course it can only be done in a consistent way through the building of a revolutionary party based on such theory. [Ed.]
The Sword is Drawn
Behind the T&GWU £5000 Fine
By G. Healy
Front page of Workers Press, daily paper of the Socialist Labour League, 1st April 1972
“It is a great shock”, say the revisionists, reformists and Stalinists when referring to the £5000 fine imposed on the Transport and General Workers Union by the Industrial Relations Court. [£61,720.52 in today’s money – Ed.]
Here we see the underlying bankruptcy of the traditional forms of class collaborationist leadership which has been continuously back-peddling the political fight against the Tory government since it came to power.
“Men make their own history”, said Marx, “but they do not make it just as they please, they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past.”
No matter how much the reformists and their allies may cringe and crawl before the Tory government the ghost of the 1901 Taff Vale judgment against trade unionism has reappeared from the past.
And how could it have been otherwise. The historical implications of great change between the major class forces have always been most deceptive in Britain.
For the slow movement in the appearances or form of relations between them has always been, in dialectical essence, the contradictory opposite of the deep-going molecular process going on underneath, which formed the content. This is why in times of great crisis matters of law, which have hitherto been confined to the obscurity of courts, suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, become great national issues.
Both Tory and Labour politicians may juggle how they like with parliamentary phrases. Their ancient ancestors did it in the debates between the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament in 1640.
Nobody, as Trotsky quoting the French Historian Guizot remarked, wanted to draw the sword, but eventually they were forced to draw it.
The long drawn out yearning for compromise was smashed by revolutionary events which finally led to the execution of Charles I in 1648.
All the learned bourgeois of the NIRC have done is “drawn the sword”. From the point of view capitalist law they are of course justified. Contempt of their courts is one of the most serious acts that can be committed.
Now we can see the enormous crimes of those trade union leaders and Stalinists who evaded the real struggle against the Tories in the months before the Industrial Relations Bill became law.
Forget all about the reformist clap-trap that the Tories dare not use the Act. Maybe if it were left to individual Tory MP’s they would have acted in a more reserved way, but we repeat after Marx, men do not make history “under circumstances chosen by themselves”.
The representatives of the ruling class have drawn the sword because they face an insoluble economic crisis. Nothing can be the same again.
Five years after the Taff Vale judgment in 1901, the Labour Representation Committee which founded the Labour Party was launched in 1906.
Today, the perspectives before trade unionists are entirely different. With its back to the wall the Tory government has hit out at the working class, whilst the reformists stand aside paralysed.
Trade unionism can only be defended today by revolutionary means through a revolutionary party.
Those who refuse to create the conditions which would make the Tory government resign are in fact betraying trade unionism and the working class.
The Socialist Labour League is the only organisation with a revolutionary policy which can politically prepare the working class to meet the present crisis.