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Clarence Darrow: Trade unions have done more for humanity than any other organisation of men that ever existed.
Margaret Thatcher: I can’t help but spit nails when just thinking about trade unions.
RARELY does there come along an individual who captures the imagination of working-class people in the process of stripping away all of the accumulated verbal detritus and obfuscation that we have come to expect in our political discourse.
In the course of the current rail strikes, organised by the RMT Union, the union’s general secretary Mick Lynch has made verbal mincemeat of assorted Tory MPs, mainstream commentators and representatives of the rail companies with a combination of sarcasm, plain speaking, grasp of detail, intelligence, but most of all defiance.
He has, this man who left school at 16 and is a former blacklisted worker, been impeccable in the way he has used the national media to highlight the thin gruel that passes for political journalism and politics in British society today, smashing through the Overton Window to embarrass current Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and place back into its proper place the fundamental role of class as the key driver of politics.
The Tories, with the help of their enablers at the BBC, Sky News, LBC et al, have of course gone out of their way to smear him, paint him as a latter day Scargill trying to hold the country to ransom. We’ve even had Tobias Ellwood MP descending so low as to insinuate that the rail strikes are playing into Putin’s hands.
It’s clear that when it comes to the RMT and its membership the Johnson regime has adopted Thatcher’s stance vis-a-vis the miners and Argentina in the early 1980s — namely attacking both as the enemy within, with Russia the enemy without.
There is nothing more politically expedient than a war for an embattled Tory government struggling to contain a cost-of-living crisis at home which is largely of its own making. Jingoism has long been the currency of false consciousness and the anathema of class consciousness.
The miners were depicted as the enemy of the general public during their strike in the 1980s, and the rail workers have been depicted as such in our time.
Lynch has thrown a spanner into the works though. He is eminently relatable, and in deploying the judicious use of humour to go along with his impressive grasp of detail, has succeeded in maintaining public support for the kind of strike action that has been long overdue.
Indeed the nurses and teachers are now talking up taking their own industrial action, which if they do could inspire the kind of working-class militancy which has been absent from the British workplace for far too long.
The result of the lack of union/class militancy in recent years has been, as Lynch makes the point, responsible for millions of workers being forced to depend on foodbanks and benefits despite working full-time hours.
At the other end of the class spectrum there are now 117 billionaires in Britain, a disgrace in itself but even more so when working people are being urged by the head of the Bank of England, the 600-grand-a-year Andrew Bailey, to embrace wage restraint in order to keep down inflation, which is currently up over 9 per cent and sitting at a 40-year high.
It begs the questions of why no rent restraint for landlords, dividend restraint for shareholders, pay cuts for the likes of Andrew Bailey and Andrew Haines, CEO of Network Rail who took home last year an obscene £585,000?
These questions answer themselves, of course, and further confirm that the rich have never had it so good in Britain and that working people have never had it so bad.
Lynch is a chip off the old block that was Bob Crow, a man who never flinched in his adamantine stance on the side of not only his own members but the working class in general.
We need more not less of this brand of in your face working-class pride, confidence and militancy — and we need it now.
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