This is the long version of the pamphlet, it contains "Good Old-fashioned Trade Unionism" as well as "Outside and Against the Unions".
The pamphlet contains two articles written in the early 1990s by the now defunct British communist group Wildcat. “Outside and Against the Unions” is about the sabotage of the massive coalminers strike in the UK in 1984-5 by the National Union of Mineworkers and thus might seem irrelevant in Australia twenty years later. However as well as much that is specific to the Miners strike there is an excellent exposition of the critique of unions as pacifiers of workers struggles that revolutionaries have been propagating for at least ninety years. “Good Old-fashioned Trade Unionism” is about the origin of the modern trade union movement in 1840s Britain and how these early unions controlled the massive workers struggles of the time.
A similar critique of the unions could be written with reference to recent Australian history. The best example would be the Maritime Union of Australia accepting job losses and lower pay in the settlement of Patrick’s lockout of the wharfies in 1998. They did this despite the struggle being easily winnable with the mass pickets holding firm and the NSW and Victorian police forces very reluctant to smash them. There are of course many other examples such as the blockade of the NSW state parliament in 2001 that was called by the unions to give the pretence of doing something against the proposed changes to workers compensation laws that they had no intention of seriously opposing. And in September 2002 there was the disgusting spectacle of CFMEU bureaucrats grassing up six undocumented Korean workers to the Department of Immigration with the excuse that it was to protect the wages of Australian workers. The Koreans were deported. As always unions help to divide the working class; citizens from ‘illegals’; employed from unemployed; skilled from unskilled…
And now there is the Howard government’s Industrial Relations reform agenda. The unions organised but didn’t really promote the demonstrations that took place all around Australia at the end of June. They were surprised and scared by the large number of workers that showed up. At those and the handful of smaller demonstrations union and ALP hacks have shouted at us that they are going to keep on fighting until the reforms are defeated yet never say anything specific about how they could be defeated. The unions are genuinely concerned about these reforms but only to the extent that the move to individual contracts would leave no room for unions as the sellers of labour. They care nothing about the pay-cuts, longer hours, loss of holidays and sick leave that we workers will have to endure if the reforms go through.
With the opposition to the reforms we now have the best opportunity for years for mass working class action outside of the unions and also the most need for it. If there is no large-scale autonomous action against the IR reforms they will be implemented. Other texts by Wildcat can be found at: http://www.againstsleepandnightmare.com/wildcat/ SUBSPAGE.html#_ftn1
Canberra, Australia August 2005