Fighting For Socialism and “Conversations with a Working Man”

For the majority of people in Britain today, Tory rule can be strongly equated with social chaos, increasing levels of poverty, and an increasingly unstable job market.

Over recent decades many things have changed for the worse; fewer people are in trade unions, and the Labour Party’s leadership was seized by councillors and MPs who preferred to look after big business rather than the rest of us.

Before New Labour finally joined the Tories in bedding down with the ruling-class under Tony Blair’s leadership, many things were different. Some of these differences were borne out in an episode of World in Action, which was aired on mainstream television in 1971. Directed by John Pilger “Conversations with a Working Man” (June 7, 1971) followed one working class man (John Walker) through the struggles of his average day, to show how the forgotten majority are living in Britain.

One of the major issues that comes to a fore in this powerful testament to working-class history is how normal it was for workers to be members of trade unions, and how normal it was for big business to undermine workers’ attempts to have a collective voice in their workplaces (then as now).

John Walker recounts his horrific experience of working for Denby’s dyeworks in Baildon, when his Tory boss, Philip Wright, decided to sack all his staff – who, notably, were all members of a trade union — and only agree to re-employ them if they renounced membership of their union.

Of course, at the time of the ensuing strike, Denby’s bosses plead to the national media that they were not anti-union at all! Philip Wright just wanted the freedom to choose who he could employ. What utter nonsense.

Since then, power has increasingly accumulated in the hands of business leaders at the expense of workers. Workers of course resisted these attacks on their ability to earn a living wage, but the Labour movement suffered serious defeats following the Labour Party’s rightward turn under Neil Kinnock’s mis-leadership during the 1980s.

Thankfully with the Jeremy Corbyn now at the helm of the Labour Party this rightwing slide can begin to be reversed if Labour win the current general election on a fighting socialist program.

To show that real change is possible, Labour has just announced that they were “pledging not to raise income tax for those earning less than £80,000 a year as part of an election ‘personal tax guarantee’ for 95% of taxpayers.” This pledge is all the more important because income inequality is increasing all the time. According to the Office of National Statistics, the poorest fifth of British workers already pay a bigger proportion of their total income then the top fifth of earners (which includes the super-rich).

Labour’s socialist pledge to reverse tax inequality couldn’t come a day sooner, as the just-released Sunday Times Rich List has shown how Britain’s wealthiest 1,000 individuals and families have actually increased their wealth by 14% – from £575billion to £658billion. Here in Leicestershire a big winner among this super-rich elite are Tory supporters, Sir David Samworth and his family, whose collective wealth sky-rocketed by just short of 25% over the last year from £465million to £575million!

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Mr Samworth’s wealth is derived from his hardworking employees at his food manufacturing enterprise, Samworth Brothers. But sadly, earlier this year, this company succeeded in utilising Tory anti-union scaremongering to defeat a ballot at a local factory where workers (with the help of the Baker’s Union) were seeking to obtain a collective bargaining agreement with their employer.

That workers can still face such open bullying from greedy bosses in the workplace goes to show that this country needs a socialist Labour government that is willing to reveal all the existing anti-trade union legislation in this country and will able to provide a strong leadership to the working-class.

Now is the time for Corbyn to break with the Blairite traitors within his own ranks and fight hard to show to ordinary working people that a vote for Labour is a vote for genuine socialism.

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