We are indeed facing a deliberate political attack by Britain’s ruling class. A war of attrition is being waged as capitalism, in a condition of acute crisis, lashes out with increasing ferocity to protect itself. The existence of this crisis is now clear for all to see. It has been exposed by the recent collapse of stock markets throughout the capitalist world, triggered off by the slide on Wall Street (which according to experts is the worst slump since 1929). This collapse will in my view lead inevitably to more hardship for the British people, with a massive increase in unemployment and reduced living standards as capitalism seeks once again to make working people pay for its pursuit of profit and power. The Tories have based their savage policies on an ideology called monetarism – it is this philosophy which has led to the virtual destruction of our manufacturing industries and in particular to the devastation of our coal, rail and steel industries.
The steel industry has lost over 150,000 jobs, and the coal and rail industries have lost approximately 100,000 each within a period of eight years. Parts of our nation such as South Wales have been reduced to a lunar landscape as the Tories have systematically butchered our manufacturing and industrial infrastructure… In seeking to win that absolute control which it must have for even limited survival, the State through the Tory Government has introduced twin measures to destroy or render ineffective all those who oppose it.
On the one hand, it has deliberately increased unemployment from just over one million to four and a half million in eight years creating as in the 1930s a situation where thirty to forty people pursue each job vacancy, driven by this emotional blackmail to increasing fear. At the same time it has introduced vicious legal measures designed to render the British trade-union movement completely ineffective. Indeed Margaret Thatcher has made it absolutely clear that she wants to wipe socialism off the agenda of British politics; to achieve this aim the Tories are determined also to wipe effective trade unionism off the industrial agenda. Since 1979, we have seen a whole range of anti-trade-union legislation – all of it designed to dismantle the gains achieved by trade unionists in more than a century of struggle.
Today, the extent of this legislation is such that Britain’s trade-union movement must now be regarded as one of the most oppressed in the world! Tory legislation has removed trade-union immunity, made secondary action including secondary picketing and mass picketing illegal, and rendered all trade unions vulnerable to legal actions which could result in their bankruptcy. Britain’s trade unions have found themselves no longer free to determine their own policies in relation to industrial solidarity action.