Sunday, March 15, 2009

1951 lockout; a "glorious defeat"?

We see that Irish Bill on The Standard is exposing the Labourites hatred of strike action. He accuses Chris Trotter of celebrating the “glorious defeat” of the 1951 lockout. He’s wrong Trotter doesn’t “glorify” a defeat. Trotter thinks ’51 was a victory for workers. It’s the Labourites who see ’51 as a defeat. That’s why Irish Bill says if you see it as a victory you are in fact “glorifying” a defeat. The Labourites are proud of that defeat since they wouldn’t want their betrayal of the lockout to be seen as having failed.

The Labour Party was conceived out of the defeat of 1913 to steer workers into parliament. In 51 Nash said neither for not against. A bob each way. You see, having used anti-strike laws against the workers during the war, and attacked the Carpenters strike in 1949, strike action was seen as a vote of no confidence in Labour’s reformist road to what…?

Nowadays according to Michael Cullen its called “democratic socialism” when it’s neither. There was nothing democratic or socialist when in ‘84 Labour stabbed the unions in the back. In ‘91 Labour’s bedfellow Ken Douglas and the leadership of some of the unions like the PPTA sold out the majority membership vote for a general strike to smash the Employment Contracts Act. That’s why Labourites are against industrial disputes. For them unions mobilize members as voting fodder. The conveyer belt is blatant. The EPMU leader Andrew Little has just been appointed Labour Party President.

We have no brief for Chris Trotter. He is a reformist. But he is right to reject the pathetic line that Irish Bill runs about “glorious defeats”. Of course it was better to fight and lose than to crawl away like licked dogs as Jock Barnes said. There are Labour Party defeats and there are proletarian defeats, and in our view this was a “glorious defeat”.

‘51 was a defeat since the bosses succeeded in smashing the Watersiders’ union. The militant leadership of the unions were persecuted, blacklisted or dispersed around the country. But it was less of a defeat than if they had not fought. That would have proved that there was no union movement in NZ other than a tame Labourite bureaucracy. That would have been the sort of defeat you get when you don’t even fight.

We don’t celebrate the defeat of ‘51. But we do celebrate the militant workers who had split with the Labour Party and the right wing mafia bureaucracy of the “rat” Fintan Patrick Walsh who owned the biggest dairy farm in the country. Against the odds and Labour Party treachery they stood up and fought for their rights. That’s the same militant minority that will stand up to Key as the crisis dumps its shit on workers in NZ, and standup and fight against Labour to throw the CTU leadership out of bed with the bosses in their “partnership”.

The only reason that we are getting the show of some fight against the 90 Day Fire at Will Act from the CTU is because they know that the ‘left’ in the unions is already fighting it and they don’t want to lose control of the unions.

So Irish Bill comes in on cue, to shit on the militants and try to sow demoralisation in their ranks blaming workers for being unable or unwilling to fight. This is accompanied by a thinly veiled economic nationalism that calls on workers to identify with their kiwi bosses, naturally by voting for the Labour Party.

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