Saturday, February 09, 2008

According to the Irish Platformist publication 'Workers Solidarity' # 99 (see the Workers' Solidarity website for access to the original article in their magazine) an occupation of the workplace by Irish workers at the Reilly Bookbinders in Wicklow paid off for the workers involved. Last summer the boss, Richard Geraghty, told the workers at the plant that the lease was up on August 1, and that the work was to be moved to the Czech Republic. He also announced that the firm was bankrupt anhd counldn't pay them their redundancy payments as rfequired by law. All but one of the workers had 15 years service, and some had over 20 years. In previous bankruptcy manoevers Garaghty had always managed to come off in the black.

The 14 workers at Reilly Bookbinders responded with a workplace occupation on July 18th, an occupation that lasted a month. They refused to allow any equipment or customers' orders to leave the building. The workers refused some rather pathetic offers from management, and in the end they received the payments that Garaghty calimed there was no money for. the company in question had been the recipient of 900,000 in previous government largesse. It may be that the government gave one final bail-out to their dear friend by paying the workers what was owed them.

Molly has blogged on the subject of workplace occuptions her in Canada previously(see our archives for Jan 28, 2008), and she sees no reason to change her opinions. This sort of tactic is to be encouraged for many reasons, both short term and long term. In the short term it is a very effective way of putting pressure on the employer and safeguarding the bargaining position of the workers involved. In the long term it acts to draw out the idea that workers have property rights in their jobs, just as local communities have property rights in the workplaces situated in them. While individual occupations may succeed to one degree or another (understanding that it is an more effective tactic at some times rather than others) the long term effect of people adopting such tactics is beneficial for society as a whole. This is in contrast to the underhanded proposals of certain Leninists who use such events to promote the idea that such failing enterprises should be "nationalized under workers' control" (as if ANY Communist regime has EVER acceded to the sort of "workers' control" present in many so-called "capitalist" enterprises today). The Leninists who offer such things are FULLY aware of the unrealistic nature of their proposals, but they think that raising unrealistic demands (they DEMAND everything from the social-democrats and union leaders that they hope to replace) will somehow "educate" the workers involved. and thereby bring them to the sort of "radicalism" that their favoured party espouses. This is called a "Transitional Program", and its fundamental dishonesty flounders on the rocks of one simple fact. The people that such parties hope to propagandize are at least as intelligent as their would-be manipulators (often much more so), and they recognize the unrealistic nature of such "demands" from the get-go. It would be far better to be totally upfront and honest from the very beginning, and not try to turn each and every labour struggle into a recruiting drive. Yeah, the gains that can be made by certain tactics may indeed be limited, but in the long run it is better to be honest about this fact and not engage in leftist bullshit. But honesty is hardly the strong suit of communists.

In any case see the original reference for an example of how such tactics have been effective in one instance. May they be repeated to the extent that they become "normal" not just when plants are closing down but in other labour disputes.

No comments: