"Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many - they are few"
These lines are from Shelley’s “The Mask of Anarchy” written as a condemnation of Govt. and it’s actions at the “Peterloo Fields Massacre” where demonstrators were attacked by mounted officers who cut them down with sabres; very topical right? The great radical poet wrote this epic poem which has gone on to inspire millions, including me, my favourite line is “ye are many they are few” that always puts me back on my feet. The heading is from American Woodie Githrie some 150 years later.
Sometimes when things are going bad and politics seems to be dealing me and other socialists a losing hand I read some of these poignant words produced by Shelley and others it helps and serves to remind me why I am involved. Sometimes I draw inspiration from other sources, more modern and more close to home.
All these years after the evil time of Thatcherism and her tyrannical treatment of the unions we see that we trade unionists are still standing; the hand that reaches out to help our brothers and sisters for no self gain is still there; still strong; still brave & willing. Two weeks ago union workers went on strike at the Lindsey Oil Refinery in Lincolnshire when 51 workers were made redundant while 61 workers were simultaneously hired at poorer rates and conditions. Hundreds “hit the cobbles” as we used to say resulting in 647 being sacked; the 51 made redundant; publicly and in a blaze (pardon the pun) of publicity burned their redundancy notices, we watched in wonder on TV, what was going on?
Management demanded that they had to reapply for their jobs; result? The number of strikers grew; result? Management's bottle crashed, the strikers won for the second time, these were the same strikers who won the battle against management in February when they brought in foreign workers with less skills and paid them less. Ever eager to undermine the unions the right wing press tried to label this as an anti foreigner action which it was not; these actions were taken to fight exploitation of every and any worker on these sites that’s why hundreds of Polish trade unionists joined the walk outs.
I am often accused by SNP goons of hating Scotland and never saying anything good about the place; C**p of course for too many reasons to quote but; here is a statement which is unequivocal. I am proud of the workers at Grangemouth Oil Refinery in Scotland and not for the first time, here again they came to stand beside their brothers and sisters from England, Poland and other places who had gone on strike, all Scotland should be proud of them. These are the same Grangemouth union members who went on strike last year; not for more money; not for a shorter week; not for more holidays; what’s left to strike for? I hear you ask; well the next time you hear the unions being described as greedy bullies tell them this.
The strikers last week took action to protect the wages and conditions of all the workers at these plants no matter their origin and ; the Grangemouth workers took action last year because the bosses were going to draw a line under the wages and conditions enjoyed by the Grangemouth work force meaning that anyone employed in the future would be paid less and would not be entitled to the same conditions; these workers; going against every tenet of Capitalism and Thatcherism said no we will not allow that, this needs looking at closely. Their wages and conditions were safe; there was no impact on them, no effect , what happened to “I’m all right Jack”? the truth is that “I’m all right Jack” was never the union philosophy despite right wing press attempts to label them as such, the real union spirit shone through, they were prepared to fight for people whom they had never even met, future workers and fellow trade unionists, greedy? bullies? you decide; Scotland has every right to be proud of the Grangemouth union members and the UK has every right to be proud of all the British strikers who took part.
As an ex striker and enthusiastic picket I was interested in how and why they managed to score such a quick decisive victory and I have come to the conclusion that one of the reasons was the development in modern communication since my days on the picket line. Gaining sympathy and help from other workers took time and great effort, organising across the country was difficult when speed was required now we can all do this with great speed and great ease so I would like to say thank you to comrades: - Blackberry – Text Message – voicemail and the rest of the communications revolutionaries, we are still standing. Remember “striker” is not a dirty word it’s something to be proud of.
I’m off on Hols tomorrow on a big boat which I will try to blog from but; whatever; the smile is back on my face because of the Trade Union Movement.