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(en) Freedom 6318 21st Sep. 2002 - What we say ...

From FreedomCopy@aol.com
Date Tue, 1 Oct 2002 00:41:39 -0400 (EDT)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Feelings are running high among Britain's firefighters.
By the end of next month they might well be on strike,
in what would be the first national action since 1977.
Last week, delegates at a special conference of the Fire
Brigades Union in Manchester voted unanimously for
stoppages to begin.
Any fire strike would be a serious blow to New Labour.
Twenty-five years ago, the firefighters beat the (Labour)
government of the day after staying out for nine long
weeks. The sight of military Green Goddesses
lumbering off to fires remains an abiding memory of
Callaghan's dying administration.
For Blair, already reeling from a renewed confidence
among trade unionists (though they're not nearly as
confident as the mainstream media would have us
believe), a fire strike would be trouble indeed.
Making it worse for the government is the canniness of
activists in the transport industry. Unions such as the
RMT have pointed out that, in the absence of a proper
fire service, it would be irresponsible to run services like
the London Underground or the Channel Tunnel.
They're right, of course, and responsible to point this
out. But it can't be denied that this also gives them the
chance to resurrect Thatcher's long-buried bugbear,
secondary picketing.
What's a strike? At great cost to themselves (through
lost wages if nothing else), workers refuse to follow
instructions. A strike is an act of rebellion against an
abusive condition - employment - either to leaven its
burden or (as in this case) to stop the abuse growing
The FBU is demanding a 40% increase on the £21,531
a year its members earn. Sympathisers argue that
firefighters deserve the rise, because of the dangerous
job they do. For us, this is missing the point. The
firefighters don't 'deserve' a penny more, we contend,
any more than they 'deserve' a penny less. Deserving
don't come into it. The basis of capitalist labour
relations is that employers pay as little as they can get
away with. A strike sets the price on our heads a little
Of course anarchists support the firefighters. But why?
It's not for the reasons many on the left would give.
There's a strain of liberalism in the labour movement
which shows through in this lazy old argument: if we
support others on strike, it's said, they'll support us
when it's our turn. As if somebody, somewhere, writes
a million acts of solidarity on a comradely IOU!
The shopworkers support the firefighters today so the
firefighters will support the shopworkers tomorrow.
That's how the argument goes. It's a nice idea, but it's
no good as an explanation of what solidarity is or of
why it's needed.
We don't support the firefighters through a regard for
justice and fairness. We do it because all of us who
belong to the working class suffer the same oppression.
While we do the work our employers cream off the
profits. This leaves us poor and not in a position to
argue. It makes the employers our enemies. This is
what class struggle means.
We don't support our fellow workers because we feel
sorry for them. That's a patronising position that
liberals take. We don't support them in order to earn
their support later on.
We support the firefighters for the same reason we
support any group of workers fighting for higher wages
or improved conditions at work. Direct action for better
conditions - by any section of the working class - is an
assault on all bossdom and its presumption of power.
Whether it succeeds or not, in the end, is irrelevant to
the support we give. By challenging the bosses' power,
the strikers improve the chances for the rest of us too.

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