Temporary climbdown

John Keys reports on the latest of the postal dispute

It is clear from the joint statement issued by the Communication Workers Union and Royal Mail that management have been forced to back down big time.

A section of workers stirred from their slumbers, and the ‘new breed’ of aggressive managers have been shocked into suing for peace. They set out to humiliate and cow the CWU, in order to transform it into an anodyne staff association. This attempt failed, not because of any major efforts by the union bureaucracy, but as a result of the resurrection of rank and file militancy.

However, a note of caution must be added. After the backlog of mail has been cleared, the daggers will be out. The government (the major shareholder) will be determined to prevent workers from other industries following suit. So it is not all over yet - far from it. It is only by following this militancy through to increased rank and file organisation that it will be possible to counter the inevitable next round of attacks.

Arriving at my delivery office the other day, I was met by a little band of cheering Socialist Workers Party members, hailing the “great victory”, as they see management’s temporary climbdown. We have forced a retreat, but the war is far from over. We know that management still aims to destroy the union so as to force through their programme of breaking up the Post Office - which is in turn part of a strategy to intensify exploitation of the workforce.

Yet the impression these comrades give is that all that is required is the waving of a few banners and the chanting of a few slogans - victory is assured. The response to the SWP ‘picket’ varied from bemusement to hostility. A colleague returning to work with me gestured to them angrily: “This has got nothing to do with you. We are the ones who are risking our jobs and livelihood.”

This illustrates the gulf that exists between the revolutionary left and the working class. The movement should develop out of the class - it cannot be a separate entity grafted onto it. Yet without our own combat organisation we remain vulnerable to renewed attacks.