|Issue 2 - February 1972|
|Et Tu Brute|
the fight for liberty we will strengthen the belief that what people want
and need is oppression". This was the idea that seemed to pervade
the sorry spectacle of the Institute of Workers' Control national conference
on unemployment in Newcastle on Jan 8th and 9th.
The theme of almost all the speakers centred around the bitter slogan 'The Right to Work'. In terms of this society - and they were talking about now and not the future, this means the right to oppression, exploitation and alienation - not a right I want. But Michael Barratt-Brown, the first speaker, went one stage further. He came out with the authoritarian cry of "no-one should be allowed to be unemployed by law". So much for freedom. The rest of his speech was not so startling - just very naïve. Although an economist, it was obvious, when he said that "more government intervention" was needed "to ensure jobs" that he had failed to grasp a rational view of why there's unemployment. Unemployment exists because of government policy.
Ernie Roberts, well known engineering union leader, appeared next, sporting a red shirt under his trendy jacket. His speech was bad. At one point he said "if the unemployed were allowed to work we'd get rid of social problems". Doesn't he realise that the evil which causes social problems, and is, therefore, the daddy of them all, is the state? and that healthy employment levels are signs that the state is strong?
Steve Bodington from the IWC, the next orator, said with some conviction, "we should make capitalism function to get our immediate aims and then destroy it". Ever heard of the guy who gave the thug attacking him a gun to make him more certain of victory, Steve? The thug killed him.
Discussion was thrown open to the floor at this stage and 'The Right to Work' was endlessly lauded by almost everyone but myself. I told them my opinions of the work situation and how I, for one, didn't like being oppressed. I also mentioned the political importance of Claimants' Unions (a phenomenon some had obviously never heard of) outside of the work situation. But all to no avail, the "Right" was mentioned again with much praise.
Many months later it was dinner time; we went to a pub while the rest had the arranged meal which cost 50p (they obviously weren't catering for the unemployed).
The afternoon was equally depressing as we heard shop stewards from UCS, Plessey's and Don River describe the work-ins. They told how the workers had kicked the managements out, how the shop stewards had taken control, and finally how the shop stewards had given the control back to the new managements picked by the government or parent firm. So much for workers' control.
Halfway through the afternoon we left and didn't return on Sunday. There was no point.
From now on for Institute of Workers' Control read Institute for Controlling Workers.