National Sections of the L5I:

Against the capitalist offensive: the political strategy for a rank and file movement

Printer-friendly versionPDF version


A new period of crisis has opened for world capitalism. The period of expansion and relative stability which characterised the '50s and '60s has ended. It has given way to a new period of chronic instability affecting all the major capitalist countries. This period, marked by high rates of inflation, declining rates of profit, sharpening competition between the major capitalist economies for investment and markets, the collapse of major companies employing thousands of workers, propels the capitalist class everywhere to devise new-methods to increase the exploitation of the working class. The capitalist class, internationally, is seeking to solve its crisis by attacking workers-rights and organisations, by driving down living standards, by increasing the size of the army of unemployed, by fostering and exploiting divisions in the ranks of the working class. In order to carry through this offensive, to break working class resistance, the capitalists everywhere are forced to rely more and more on legal and physical attacks on the working class, its rights and organisation.

The crisis is international. The stronger capitalisms - Japan and West Germany - may suffer less than the weakest economies from the effects of international stagnation and instability, but no economy is free from the effects of capitalism's crisis.

The new period of crisis is accompanied by an increase in the tempo of the class struggle internationally. The massive French General Strike of 1968, the overthrow of fascism in Spain and Portugal bear witness to the potential strength of the working class. Internationally the working class is faced with the struggle to prevent a capitalist solution to the crisis - a solution that would mean the loss of most of its post war gains in terms of real wages and social services, and the weakening and possible destruction of its organisations. Anti-imperialist movements of national liberation increasingly challenge the traditional methods by which capitalism has enslaved and exploited the under-developed world. Conflict between these movements and the agents of imperialism contains an ever present potential for setting off a third world war - a war whose barbarism would dwarf those of the first half of the century. The working class is faced with the task of wresting political and economic power from the hands of the bourgeoisie if it is to avoid this fate.

Against these attacks the traditional leadership of the workers' movement is shown increasingly to be bankrupt. The Social Democratic and Labour Parties are committed to the hilt to maintaining the capitalist order. The leaders of European Social Democracy consciously seek to protect the capitalist order at the expense of the working class. The so-called 'Communist Parties' in those countries where their strength puts them to the sharpest test, have shown themselves prepared to support anti-working class governments in exchange for consultation and vague hopes of ministerial office.


Britain, although still a major link in the chain of world capitalism, is a particularly weak one suffering chronic decline. The major representatives of British capitalism are unanimous in their verdict that British capitalism stands no chance of regaining competitiveness with its major rivals without a major restructuring of the British economy. Such a restructuring, the capitalists argue, can only be possible if the working class can be forced to pay. Wage controls - to hold down real wages, redundancies and the pillaging of the social services - to make available funds to underwrite huge handouts to private industry: these are the central props of the employers of forcing the workers to pay for their crisis.

A permanent incomes policy, drastically reduced social and welfare services - the indiscriminate sacking of thousands in such industries as steel and motors - that is the immediate programme of the British Capitalists.

The employing class is divided on tactics. There are those who argue that only government spending and direction can doctor British capitalism. Such views are presented with a ‘left-face' by Mr Benn. Others look to the ravages of the "free market" jungle to perform the operation. This is the predominant view of the Tory party. But all are agreed that the trade union strength of the British workers must be drastically weakened through a policy of both direct confrontation and incorporation of them as docile agencies of the state.

British capitalism is trying to conduct this offensive at the same time as it is committed to a war to maintain its direct political hold over one part of Ireland. The maintenance of the artificial sectarian statelet of 'Northern Ireland' not only constitutes an enormous drain on the resources of British capitalism, it is a training ground for new techniques in repression and confrontation. The perfection of crowd control practice - adopted and learnt from Ireland by the Special Patrol Groups - the perfection of techniques of torture and interrogation show not only the measures that the capitalists and their state forces will adopt to maintain their power but also that they are in an advanced state of preparation to defend their property: to confront the organisations of the working class.

In Britain the first thrusts of the ruling class attacks on the labour movement - in 1969, In Place of Strife in 1972, the Industrial Relations Act and in 1974 the Phase 3 of the Incomes Policy - were beaten off and a Tory Government driven from office by rank and file militancy. From 1974 it has been the Labour Government that has set out to systematically drive down living standards. In alliance with the TUC the Labour Government has gone on the offensive against the conquests of the past 25 years of workers' struggle. The working class movement which smashed the Tories' freeze, freed the Pentonville Five and finally sent Heath packing in 1974, has suffered years of reverses inflicted by the Labour Government/TUC alliance.


Against these attacks, administered by the Labour Government and connived in by the leadership of the trade unions, the workers' movement faces a crisis not simply of organisation. The crisis facing us is one of strategy and tactics - of political direction.

This crisis of leadership is above all a political crisis - it is one which will not be resolved until the working class settles accounts with the trade union leadership, left and right, and constructs a mass revolutionary communist party, capable of leading the working class to the seizure of state power. This conclusion is however not simply or even principally a question of proclamation via propaganda - but convincing those militants who wish to fight attacks on the workers' living standards and organisation, that only revolutionary communist tactics, strategy and leadership are adequate to even these immediate tasks, as well as the historic goal of the class and that the trade union bureaucracy is a mortal foe.

The framework for proving this in struggle is a democratic rank and file movement within which revolutionary communists fight to demonstrate this to militants.


The tasks with which a general period of capitalist crisis faces the working class, both of a political and an economic nature, both defensive and offensive requires organisations, methods of struggle, strategic goals and immediate tactics which present-day reformist (or 'a-political'), trade unionism is completely unable to provide. The old Social-Democratic programme of piecemeal trade union improvement of living standards allied to parliamentary reforms, which received a powerful support from the post-war expansion of capitalism, becomes in the coming period a terrible straitjacket for the working class. Thus no programme, no strategy can be adequate to these needs except one which calls for the direct militant action of the workers themselves at all levels and in every phase of the class struggle from the strike over a wage claim up to and including the taking of state power by the working class and the exercise of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The trade unions, essential mass organs for the defence of the economic interests of the working class, cannot limit themselves to this task alone. In the epoch of Imperialism unions which, do not take up the task of political struggle against the bourgeoisie, which do not actively train and prepare the workers for socialism become, via the medium of the trade union bureaucracy, agencies of the bourgeoisie in the workers' movement, crippling even the elementary struggle of economic self defence and educating the masses in passivity and self-sacrifice to the continuation of bourgeois society.

To win the unions from the grasp of their bureaucratic leaders, who collaborate in tying them ever more closely into the bourgeois state in return for privileges and positions in the lower echelons of this machinery means to transform them from their present narrow, stultified form as organisations of at most half the working class into real fighting organs of the great mass of the working population. This necessitates transforming them politically, breaking down the rules and regulations and the attitudes which sustain them – which excludes politics. It means taking into the unions and making the unions take up the question of women's rights such as abortion, of the British oppression of Ireland, of action in support of the struggles of the African masses against apartheid. Not least it means taking up the struggle against racism in the unions and in the streets.

To achieve these aims the rank and file militants of the unions must be rallied into a movement which has a definite fighting policy on the key issues facing the class; which is committed to thoroughly transforming the unions into democratic fighting organs; which recognises the necessity of winning the mass of the membership to the struggle for socialism; which trains and puts forward an alternative leadership to that of the bureaucrats.


Every aspect of the ruling class offensive - closures, speedups, cuts, inflation poses the question of who controls production, and, for whom shall it be organised. Against the continuation of capitalist control of production - rationalisation for profit disorganises production for need - we must organise the struggle for workers' control of production.

The elementary defence of working conditions, jobs and trade union organisation demands breaking down the sacred 'right of management to manage'. The capitalist class permits the working class not even a shadow of control over economic administration. It conducts its affairs, makes decisions affecting the livelihoods of millions of workers behind a cloud of secrecy and confidentiality.

The defence of jobs and conditions therefore demands a struggle to break open the world of business secrecy to workers' inspection. We must organise to open the books, committees and offices of management to unfettered inspection by shop floor delegates and any 'experts' they may appoint to assist them.

Against the employers' drive for shake-out, speed-up and productivity we must fight for workers' control over the speed of work, over manning levels, over the length and intensity of the working day, over production schedules and hiring and firing. Armed with knowledge of the amount of work available, of the order books and accounts of the employers we must institute workers' control in all these spheres.

But workers' control by its very nature can only be a temporary stage in the struggle for workers' management. As Trotsky puts it:

"Control lies in the hands of the workers. This means: ownership and the right of the disposition remain in the hands of the capitalists. Thus the regime has a contradictory character, presenting a sort of economic interregnum. If workers' control were to take on a stable, i.e. permanent character it could only be on the basis of class collaboration and not class struggle."

Such is the nature of the phoney 'participation' proposals of Ryder and Bullock. Against real workers' control the employers offer instead 'participation' - involvement of workers' representatives, union officials and shop stewards in the decisions of certain committees. This is an attempt to make shop floor representatives co-responsible for decisions dictated by the laws of the capitalist market and the decisions and plans of the bosses themselves. Its effect can only be to weaken trade union and shop floor organisation and demoralise resistance to the bosses' plans. We demand instead the right to inspect all books, records etc and to sand workers' inspectors into all meetings - not to co-operate under promises of secrecy, but to report management’s requests to the shop floor for decision by mass meeting. Thus the workers' democratically elected representatives and the shop floor itself can exercise a veto on actions which are against their interests.

Management will not concede the right of workers' control without a life and death struggle. Likewise it cannot be won gradually without management noticing. It can only be won by mass direct action, by solidarity between workers in different branches of industry, by the support of power and transport workers, by the mass strike and factory occupations.

The capitalist class will fight back tooth and nail. They will attempt to move production and resources. Their allies in the banks and financial institutions will use all their power to shift resources and sabotage production itself in order to defeat the workers. Workers' control of the plant is not a stable condition that can continue in isolation - either it can develop into a broadening class offensive including workers' control of the banks and finance houses (the centre of the planning and regulative functions of capitalism) or it will fall back into isolated utopian schemes like workers' co-operatives or into the outright class collaboration of participation schemes. Workers' co-operatives under capitalism are subject to all the laws of the market, can raise capital only out of the profits of the enterprise and the savings of the workers and have in every way to act like a capitalist firm. The workers and their representatives 'manage' their own exploitation and via wage cutting, speed-up etc are forced to produce under conditions worse than those of a normal enterprise. The result is eventual demoralisation and the collapse of the co-operative. Against this utopian scheme which makes workers responsible for maintaining the jobs a particular set of capitalists are unable to provide we demand that the capitalist class as a whole, via the state, continue production or maintain the workforce at full rates of pay; we continue the fight for workers' control, demanding its recognition by the bourgeois state.

The strength and ability of workers to effectively check the capitalists' power to direct industry against the interests of the workers to obstruct every move detrimental to working people – a situation where the capitalist no longer master in 'his' own house is possible even for a short period only whilst the capitalist is unable to use the forces of the state to restore his prerogatives. That is it must correspond to a period in which workers' councils, factory committees and the trade unions have the support and sympathy of the rank and file of the armed forces (as in Portugal in 1975) and workers are organised to physically defend their gains. This situation - workers' contro1 in the factories and in the• banks etc - dual power in society as a whole - is an unstable situation which must be resolved by one or other class seizing political power. Either the bourgeoisie restores its power in the state and economy or the workers use a workers' state to expropriate the bosses. Under the political power of the working class, workers' control can step by step give way to a centralised, planned economy with workers' management of the factories.

The demand for nationalisation is a source of endless confusion in the Labour Movement. After the seizure of political power the concentration of the ownership of the means of production and exchange in the hands of the workers' state constitutes the expropriation of the bourgeoisie and lays the basis for a planned economy, for workers' management and the construction of socialism. Under capitalism the demand for nationalisation of particular firms or whole industries is of a different order. It is the demand that, to secure essential production and the continued livelihood of the workforce, both of which are disrupted or put at risk by the anarchy of production for profit, the Capitalist Class as a whole takes responsibility for this via the State. In addition we oppose the bailing out of the bankrupt exploiters at State expense (which via taxes falls partially on the shoulders of the workers) - we demand no compensation. However, State ownership under capitalism does not signify an end to exploitation, nor is the state sector some sort of island of socialism. It is in fact State Capitalism and the struggle for workers' control is as central here as in privately owned industries. Such firms or industries will belong to the workers only when the property of the capitalist state passes into the hands of the workers' state. Then and only then will the struggle for workers' control (against the management appointed by the capitalist state) be transformed into workers' management. To talk about workers' management in the nationalised industries of today is to advocate participation by workers' representatives alongside a capitalist management and is as drastic a form of class collaboration as participation schemes in private industry.


Our unions and workplace organisation are woefully inadequate to the tasks facing us - riven by trade and craft divisions, organised so as to stifle initiative, delay action and promote apathy. They organise scarcely half the working class and the great majority of them in the most minimal and passive fashion. To transform these bodies, integrated via their leaders into all sorts of collaboration with the bosses and their state, into fighting bodies, to put the unions on a war footing we must start from the workplace.

For the closed Shop: for 100% Trade Unionism: for the right of Trade Unionists to discipline fellow workers who flout democratic decisions taken in the interests of the workforce.
Factory Committees: existing shop stewards committees must be transformed, overcoming all bureaucratic, craft and trade divisions, into real representatives of the whole workforce.

They must:
i) regularly report back to shop and mass meetings held in work time.
ii) publish a regular and democratically controlled workers' bulletin for the workplace.

Their central task must be the struggle for workers' control to abolish all forms of business secrecy.

Trade Union branches: where possible they should be organised on a factory or workplace basis. They must fight to meet in work-time with no loss of pay. This is doubly important in involving the entire workforce and, more specifically, women in the workforce.

Combine committees: we must fight to build combine committees in every combine. They must be made up of accountable delegates from all the factories and offices in the combine.

Such workplace based combine committees can lay the basis for the building of genuine democratic fighting industrial unions.

Industrial Unions: we must put an end to all craft divisions and jealousies. We need one union for every major industry and must support all genuine amalgamations that contribute to that end. We must oppose however all state and employers' plans for enforced union amalgamation on their terms and ensure that amalgamation does not simply mean welding together the undemocratic bureaucratic apparatus of the unions - that amalgamation should take place on the basis of rank and file control of the unions.

Democratise the Unions: kick out the bureaucrats, take the unions into the hands of the rank and file.

All officials and representatives in the Trade Unions, and in the Labour Party must be subject to regular election and instant recall. They should receive no more than the average wage of those they represent.

Union policy must be determined by annual democratic conferences of lay delegates - their decisions must be binding on all officials. All disputes in support of trade union principle, improved conditions and wages, the defence of jobs, conditions and wages should automatically be declared official and receive the full backing of the unions' funds and officers.

All union elections to be by show of hands at branch meetings in work time. Opposition to the postal ballot system.

Trades Councils: at present Trades Councils have no official power and little ability to mobilise workers in struggle.

They must be strengthened by the admission of delegates from workplace organisations and the local Labour Party. Only in this way can the Trades Councils claim to represent and lead the workers in a given locality; only in this way can they lay the basis for Councils of Action to organise solidarity action, mass picketing and demonstrations in a given locality.

The General Strike, the TUC and the Rank and file: whilst in all conditions we advocate solidarity action with workers in struggle, whilst we advocate alliances between the unions (i.e. a Public Sector Alliance, alliances between Power Workers, Miners and Transport workers etc) any generalised period of class struggle such as occurred in 1925-26 and in 1971-74 poses the question of a class wide direct action response to the attacks of the bosses and their state. In such circumstances we fight for mass strike action striving to clarify the necessarily political nature of such action. The General Strike is the most powerful challenge to the bourgeois state short of the armed insurrection. Even if called on a limited economic demand (support for the miners against wage reductions in 1926) or as a political protest strike (as the TUC threatened in 1972) it is objectively a challenge to the state power of the bourgeoisie. It can either succeed in winning these limited aims as a threat, if the bourgeoisie is weak and/or divided (1925 and1972), or it must take up the full logic of a struggle for power with the class enemy, the fight for a workers' government directly responsible to the organisations at struggle of the working class. In either case it necessitates the building of councils of action, a workers' defence guard, the taking into the control of the workers' organisations of transport, communications, the distribution of food etc. This necessitates a dual struggle to force the Trade Union leaders, most particularly the General Council of the TUC to mobilise all the forces of the separate unions and at the same time to place all these forces under the control of democratically elected and controllable delegates of rank and file workers, we fight for the TUC’s power over all affiliated unions to call a general strike and at the same time call for a democratic national strike committee/congress to co-ordinate the struggle and to ward off the danger of sell-outs and betrayals from the TU officialdom. We fight for a democratic Trade Union Congress with lay delegates alone voting and a General Council similarly composed and elected by the Congress.


Break the TUC/Government shackles. An immediate and unconditional return to free collective bargaining. Active support for all workers whose claims breach the Incomes Policy.

For a workers' cost of living index: the official retail price index deliberately obscures the real rise in the cost of living as it affects workers and their families. Committees of Trade Unionists and housewives must be formed to calculate a workers' cost of living index. Such an index will provide the basis for an ongoing struggle to ensure that the working class does not pay for inflation.

Immediate Catch up Claims: we must fight for lump sum increases now to compensate for the last three years of cuts in real wages.

For the Sliding Scale of Wages: shop committees, national unions and the TUC must struggle to ensure automatic, full compensation for every rise in the cost of living of the workers and their families. Guaranteed monthly rises equivalent to the rise in the workers' cost of living index - 1% for 1%.

Fight for Minimum wage: the employers must not be allowed to divide the ranks of the workers, must not be allowed to set the “low-paid" against the rest of the working class. We must fight on an all-Trade Union basis for a national minimum wage adequate to protect the cultural level of the working class and automatically protected against inflation.

For Equal Pay for Women now;

For Layoff pay: guaranteed full lay off pay for all workers laid off by disputes. The employers are seeking to drive down real wage levels through undermining the bargaining strength of the factory organisations. Where possible they are seeking to impose national wage contracts negotiated between the Trade Union officials and the employers. They are seeking to tie wages more and more to the increased output of each worker through productivity and measured day schemes. We must oppose the employers' drive to centralise bargaining out of the control of the Trade Union rank and file.

We must oppose all attempts to make workers pay for higher wages through productivity dealing, measured day work and the selling of Trade Union rights:

A wages policy built on these demands lays the basis for uniting all workers to prevent the employers opening up divisions between stronger and weaker groups of workers. While we demand that this policy be adopted at a national level, by the TUC and by the Labour leaders we must not wait for them to act. These demands must be fought for at a plant and local level by direct action whatever the position of the Trade Union and Labour leaders.

For the sliding scale of hours: in response to the employers' offensive against jobs, we put forward the demand for a sliding scale of hours to be under the control of the trade unions and fought for on a class wide basis. As the immediate steps in fighting for the implementation of the sliding scale of hours we argue the following:

a) for worksharing under Trade Union control with no loss of pay.

In response to all employers who attempt to reduce existing work forces we fight for a programme to cut the hours not the jobs. Under trade union control, faced with rundowns in production, we fight for the work to be shared out through reducing the hours worked, with no loss of pay. In this way we challenge the employers' right to deploy labour in their class interests. This necessarily involves an immediate fight against so-called 'natural wastage' and against the non-filling of vacancies. We also fight for trade union control over recruitment. Hiring and firing should be subject to trade union control;

b) no to productivity deals.

We oppose all productivity bargains. They are a means by which the employers seek to extract as much as possible out of as small a labour force as possible. Productivity deals inevitably mean speed-up, the erosion of shop floor organisation and strength. At the same time there should be trade union inspection of production speeds with the right of veto;

c) open the books to workers' inspection.

For direct action to abolish the business secrecy behind which the employers launch their attacks. For the formation of factory based trade union committees to inspect the books, records, boards and committees of the employers;

d) for work or full pay.

Force the employers to guarantee full pay for all workers for whom they can provide no work. We must ensure that all employed workers take up the struggle to force the employers and Government to provide alternative work or full maintenance at equivalent take home pay rates for all the unemployed;

e) for the Trade Union Organisation of the unemployed.

All unions to register the unemployed and grant full membership rights. Particular attention has to be paid to trade union organisation among the unemployed youth. If the labour movement fails to mobilise the anger of unemployed young people and to give a lead in a real fight on their behalf, then the racists and fascists stand to make gains among this section of the working class;

f) cut the working week.

For the 35 hour week now with no loss of pay; for an immediate campaign to ban overtime working in conjunction with the organisations of the unemployed,


The employers wish to make the working class pay for their crisis with declining standards of health, welfare, housing and education. Already these services are woefully inadequate. The employers will be ever ready to seize on any opportunity to open up divisions in the working class between workers in the public and private sectors. While the cuts mean sackings, speed-up, unfilled vacancies and deteriorating conditions for workers employed in the public sector they mean deteriorating standards of welfare for all workers.

Direct action to stop the Cuts: we must organise direct action to oppose the implementation of the cuts. There must be no covering for unfilled vacancies, no Trade Union acceptance of deteriorating conditions or increased workloads. Direct Action of this sort challenges the right of the employers and Labour Government to cut the welfare and social services on which workers depend.

Build local trade union delegate based committees against the cuts. Such committees must draw industrial unions into solidarity action (e.g. stoppages and mass pickets) with all workers fighting the cuts. They must draw in women's organisations, trade unions from the manufacturing industries, immigrant organisations, Labour Party and Young Socialists branches.

Such committees must build support to force Labour Councils to refuse to implement cuts, to deliberately overspend. We must demand this course of action from all Labour Councils. We must insist that they refuse to pay the crippling interest and loan servicing payments which starve the social services while filling the coffers of the banks and finance houses.

The struggle against cuts must be more than a series of local and isolated protest campaigns. We must campaign to demand:

i) the immediate nationalisation of the banks and finance houses with no compensation ;
ii) that the Government cancels immediately the crippling debts of the local authorities to the banks and finance houses without compensation. Only this action can free the local authorities to immediately expand the social services;
iii) stop Labour Government handouts to private capitalists. That the government immediately makes available the funds to restore all cuts in social spending;
iv) for a programme of socially useful public works - schools, homes, nurseries and hospitals - under Trade Union control;
v) social spending must be protected against inflation - FOR A SLIDING SCALE OF SOCIAL EXPENDITURE.


The Trade Union and Labour leaders have stood passively by while the employers have created an army of unemployed numbering over 1½ million. The employers will attempt to use the threat of the dole queue to discipline those still at work. They will try to use the unemployed against the Trade Union movement. The fight against redundancy is a fight to challenge the employer's right to deploy labour and organise production as they choose. We must, therefore, fight for:

Direct action to stop redundancies and plant closures:

The most effective and proven tactic in the struggle against closures is the factory occupation - the seizure of the plant and equipment of all firms declaring redundancies.

The successful factory occupation depends on the seizure of the plant, on the organisation of workers' self-defence against inevitable attack and provocation on the picket line, on solidarity action to stop the transportation and exchange of the products of the given company.

Occupations must demand the nationalisation under workers' control of all firms announcing sackings - that the government carries this through with no compensation to the former owners.


The employers are increasing, and will continue to increase, their use of the courts and legal system against the working class. New anti-union legislation, the reactionary corps of anti-working class judges, new forms of police and military intervention in trade union disputes are all central weapons in the armoury of the capitalist class.

To fight them we must:

1) Defend the picket lines, meetings and organisations of the workers' movement - FOR WORKERS' SELF-DEFENCE;
2) Support the right of the police and troops to form trade unions - while not accepting them into the ranks of the Trades Union Congress;
3) Demand the disbandment of the Special Patrol Group and the SAS;
4) Demand the disbandment of the Police Force: for the carrying out of its duties by a Workers' Militia;
5) Demand the abolition of the class courts: for the democratic election of all judges;
6) For mass industrial action to oppose anti-working class legislation and legal judgements.


"In every society the degree of female emancipation (freedom) is the natural measure of emancipation in general". (Fourier). Under capitalism women remain condemned to the role of domestic labourer and child bearer within the confines of the family. They are shunted in and out of work by the employers as a source of expendable, cheap labour and used to foster divisions in the working class. Oppressed as women, super-exploited as workers the struggle by women for their emancipation must be the goal of the organised labour movement.

The struggle for the emancipation of women is inextricably tied to the struggle for socialism. Only a socialist society, where the productive forces are planned and democratically controlled, can release women from their centuries-old oppression, laying the basis for them to achieve full equality with men. Only a socialist society can socialise housework and child-rearing thus freeing women from domestic drudgery and oppression.

On a world scale the employing class is organising to force women to pay for their crisis, to attack those reforms and social provisions won by women and the labour movement in the last period. Incomes Policy and inflation cut real wages. Cuts in public spending injure women as workers through the loss of jobs in the social services and as "consumers" for whom the shrinking of these services means heavier and heavier burdens in the home caring for the young, the sick and the elderly.

Unemployment strikes particularly sharply at women often unorganised or weakly organised. Even in strong unions the "first in last out" principle works to women's disadvantage - given their child rearing breaks in employment. All too often the attitude of male trade unionists - "women out first", "women only work for pin money" blocks the use of the full strength of the union to fight women's unemployment.

Everywhere the extremely limited and circumscribed right to abortion is under constant attack as a focus of the ideological campaign to drive women back into the home - most notably the "Woman as Mother" campaign spearheaded by the Catholic Church.

The Trade Union movement must take up the struggle against these attacks. But in order to do so, in order to draw women into the class struggle they must put their own house in order. They must be organised to lead a determined struggle against women's exploitation and to open their ranks to the fullest participation by women workers. The Trade Union's record of support for women's struggles is lamentable. Here as in the general class struggle, the bureaucracy has made its peace with capitalism. It is thus the entrenched enemy of women within the labour movement. Yet women have fought back against the attacks. They have struck, occupied, marched to defend their jobs and social service provisions. This gives the lie to the claim that women are 'naturally' passive or indifferent to trade 'union and political struggle.

Open the Unions to women workers.

Through their particular oppression as wives, mothers and workers women face problems of confidence in raising demands in the Trade Unions and practical difficulties in attending meetings outside work time. They often face the hostility of male trade unionists and trade union bureaucrats.

We must fight for:
1) Union meetings in work time and on full pay,
2) for women's right to caucus in the unions,
3) For democratic women's sections in the unions, while in no way restricting the right of women to participate in the unions as a whole, in no way allowing the women's sections to become a means for ghettoising women workers,
4) Trade Union membership rights for housewives and unemployed women;
5) For the right of gay people to caucus in the unions.

For Equality at work.

We must fight for the opening of all skills, trades and professions to women. Only such measures will allow women to play a full role in the working class movement and will prevent the employers using women as a source of cheap and insecure labour against the working class as a whole.

1) For positive discrimination in favour of women in training schemes and education ... under Trade Union Control,
2) Equal Pay for Equal Work NOW: The 'Equality' legislation produced by the Labour Government has proved to be completely inadequate. Only direct industrial action by women workers themselves - rather than reliance on government tribunals - can secure equal pay;
3) Against discrimination and victimisation on the grounds of sexual orientation;
4) For the defence of protective legislation and for its extension where appropriate to cover men ... under Trade Union Control. No dismissal during pregnancy - adequate paid paternity, maternity and child care leave with no loss of benefits.

Women and unemployment.

In the struggle against unemployment the workers' movement must oppose all attempts by employers to force women out of the workforce. We must therefore fight for:

Opposition to all 'women out first' solutions,
For a Woman's Right to Work,

Only by taking up these demands can we prevent the employers using women to divide the workforce, stop them exploiting the prejudices of sections of the male workforce to their own advantage.

Public Works Programme under Trade Union Control.

We must ensure that the trade unions take up the fight for massive government spending on a programme of social services that enable women to play an ever greater role in social and political life.

For free 24-hour nursery and crèche facilities under trade union control;
For free laundry and canteen facilities under trade union control,
For a Woman's Right to Choose: Free-Abortion on Demand;
For the provision of day care centres.
For a working class women's movement.

The whole working class movement must take up and struggle for these demands, but we must recognise the backwardness of male workers on the question and struggle to overcome it. This backwardness of male workers makes it necessary for women to organise together at the workplace and on the housing estates to lay the foundation 'for a fighting women's movement. For full time housewives the possibilities of organising together are made more difficult through their isolation from one another within the home and their isolation from the collective potential of the organised trade union movement. If these women are to be won they must be drawn into the structures and organisations of the working class including all rank and file bodies of struggle, e.g. anti-fascist committees, cuts committees, from which as individuals they may at present be excluded. The building of committees of trade unionists and housewives to monitor prices is an important immediate step in raising workers' control and drawing women into struggle. Equally important is the drawing of women into shop stewards committees. Full time housewives must be drawn by women workers into the building of a working class women's movement.

Such a working class women's movement, though independent of the rank and file movement will fight alongside it to achieve its aims.


It is vital that youth be won to the side of the workers' movement. Only decisive action by the working class to fight unemployment, deteriorating social services and racism can prevent the forces of the fascists gaining credibility with a section of youth.

We must therefore fight for:

1) The unionisation of the unemployed: offer a fighting lead to unemployed youth;
2) Wages for young people to be equal to those of adults; Equal pay for equal work.
3) Extension of study and apprenticeship facilities. For a Government financed opening of the colleges and• apprenticeship schemes to all youth: for the provision of adequate leisure and study centres for youth through the programme of public works under trade union control,
4) The provision of confidential contraception and medical facilities for youth,
5) Full union membership rights for young workers - remove all restrictions on the rights of apprentices, young workers and school students to join the appropriate union and to strike,
6) For democratic youth sections in the unions, which in no way restrict the rights of young workers to participate in the union as a whole.


From the fascists of the National Front to the 'respectable' racists of the Labour and Tory Parties, comes the threat to turn white workers against black, blaming the latter for unemployment, shortage of housing and all other symptoms of capitalist crisis.

Whilst the Tories wish to use racism to divide the working class, the Fascists - the National Front, National Party, British Movement etc - have the project of destroying the unions altogether. A united front of all working class organisations is necessary to smash the fascist threat, to deny them the 'democratic right' to intimidate black people, to rally their stormtroopers on the streets, attack working class organisations or spread their racist poison via literature and public meetings. But the unions themselves need to be cleansed of racism known fascists must be driven from the ranks of the organised working class.

The legacy of Britain's Imperialist past, the disgusting chauvinism of the British reformist tradition means that the trade unions are awash with hostility to black workers. If we are to give any real meaning to correct slogans like, 'Working Class Support for Black Self Defence' we must fight to win the trade unions and local Labour Parties to doing just this inaction, and to ruthlessly hound the racist trade union officials, local councillors or MPs.

If this is not done then slogans like, 'Black and White Unite and Fight' will remain the hollow mockery they are now when chanted by white demonstrators. Anti-racism is quite as vital as anti-fascism, particularly at a time when the official party of the British bosses - the Tories - is trying to outmanoeuvre the National Front as the electoral expression of racism.

We must support the building of a WORKERS' UNITED FRONT AGAINST RACISM AND FASCISM, on the following platform accepting support from other sections of society who will fight with us for that programme, particularly immigrant organisations.

Purge the labour Movement of Fascists and Racists:

For the automatic expulsion of all known members of the fascist organisations from the trade unions,
Action for the removal from office and responsibility of all complicit in racist legislation or speeches,
For the right of black workers to caucus in the trade unions.

Equality at work.
For positive discrimination to open apprenticeships, training and education schemes to black workers; Oppose all racialist grading and promotion schemes.

No platform for fascists.
Drive them from the streets. Trade union mobilisation to this end. Trade union action to deny the fascists use of, and access to meeting places.

Repeal all Racist Legislation.
No immigration controls - the abolition of all special police and state control over the movements of immigrant workers.

Defence Against the fascists.
Active trade union support for black self-defence against Police and fascist thuggery. For Labour Movement defence against fascist attack.


The working class will never be able to fight effectively for its own freedom while remaining silent over the question of the British ruling class's oppression of other nationalities. We demand the immediate end of the vicious policy of national oppression being implemented by the British Army in Ireland. We are for the immediate withdrawal of all British troops from Northern Ireland recognising the right of the Irish people as a whole to determine the future of the Six Counties.

We are therefore in complete solidarity with all those fighting to drive British Imperialism out of Ireland. We are for the release of all Irish prisoners of war held in the UK or in Ireland and the immediate, unconditional repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Only thus can a complete fraternal solidarity be built with Irish workers in Eire or the UK.

Throughout the world the employing class is fighting a desperate battle to maintain its grip on the markets and raw materials it has so ruthlessly exploited. Spearheaded by American Imperialism they are prepared for war to hold on to their possessions.

The Trade Union Movement must make it its task to support movements of liberation against Imperialism in all ways possible. We share a common enemy with the oppressed and exploited of the world.

Through the blacking of supplies to the Imperialist War efforts, through demonstrations, through collections and donations for arms for the freedom fighters we must do all in our power to actively assist the struggle against imperialism. At this moment we must campaign actively to support those fighting to liberate Zimbabwe and Southern Africa from Imperialist domination.

The Labour Movement must fight to prevent the splitting of the Scots, Welsh and English working class. We must oppose vigorously the threats to that unity posed by the nationalists and by those chauvinist Labour 'Lefts', who actually strengthen nationalism by their attempts to block a referendum in Scotland and Wales. We must recognise the democratic right of the Scots and Welsh to self determination up to and including complete separation. But we must campaign vigorously to argue that the interests of Scots and Welsh workers do not lie with either independence or parliamentary devolution arrangements. Against these we do not pose the sovereignty of the British Parliament or of the United Kingdom, but of the united struggle for a workers' republic.

We must decisively reject the programmes of these Labour 'Lefts' for nationalist and isolationist solutions to the crisis of British capitalism. Their campaign to withdraw from the Common Market - a campaign that sees a 'British Capitalism' as preferable to a 'foreign' European capitalism must be vigorously opposed. In or out of the Common Market the tasks of the workers' movement remain the same: to develop and strengthen international unity in the workers' movement: we must build international trade union organisations to fight the employers, international combine committees and co-ordination. To oppose all nationalist solutions advanced in the workers' movement. We must oppose the campaign of the 'Lefts' for Import Controls. This programme for a British capitalism protected by tariff walls, offers only a perspective of collaboration between British bosses and British workers to save jobs in Britain at the expense of workers elsewhere.


The traditional goals and methods of struggle, the sectional wages struggle ‘leapfrogging', first-in/last-out, the reliance on the Labour Party in Parliament for social reforms are inadequate as a coherent strategy to resist the capitalist offensive. Above all they are insufficient to bond together a coherent class-wide counter-offensive.

Neither is propaganda for 'socialism' adequate to the living struggle to the sharply felt needs of millions of workers and their families, Only around such demands can organisations of struggle develop which will not collapse when faced with the betrayals of the existing leaders of the working class movement. Only around such a programme can the necessary forces be mobilised to provide a workers' answer to the crisis.

This answer is necessarily a Governmental answer. It must be a programme for depriving the bosses and their agents not simply of parliamentary office but of controls over the real state forces-the army, the bureaucracy and the economy. This transformation is not a matter of taking over the existing machinery of class rule, but of breaking it up and replacing it with democratic mass organs of working class power. It means convincing millions of workers, at each stage of the struggle, that this task is an unescapable necessity.

The most immediate governmental task facing militants is to break the strangle hold the Labour and trade union leaders exercise over the organisations of the working class to convince those workers willing to fight Labour in office over their dispute, that the whole orientation of Labour's policies is anti-working class through and through, that all struggles against these policies must be supported and no-one must hold back to preserve such a government. If Labour chooses to stand or fall in defence of the bosses, then it is responsible for its own fate.

To those workers who believe that Labour can be made to act consistently in their interests, we have to say: "Let us prove it in practice." Together let us build a real fighting movement which can either force Labour to settle accounts with the bosses (as you believe it can) or when the Labour leaders compromise and betray (as we are sure they will) move forward to do the job ourselves."

We mobilise to get the organisations of the Labour movement - industrial and political - to demand the following from a Labour Government:

1) Workers must not pay for capitalism's crisis - the Labour Government must abandon all attempts at controlling wages. No Incomes Policy under capitalism.
2) Workers must not pay for inflation - the Labour Government must
a) enforce a legal minimum wage of £70 per week
b) introduce a one percent increase in wages for each one percent increase in the cost of living of workers and their families
c) immediately introduce equal pay for women.
3) Workers must not suffer unemployment - the Labour Government must:
a) Nationalise without compensation all firms declaring redundancies and recognise workers control of them.
b) introduce a legal 35 hour week with no loss of earnings.
c) make it legally obligatory for all employers who cannot find work for their employers to pay them at full trade union rates.
d) Introduce a plan for useful public works under Trade Union control (hospitals, schools, houses, nurseries etc) in which all 'surplus' labour could be employed.
4) The Labour Government must tackle the real cause of economic chaos.
a) It must abolish 'business secrecy' and open the records of all companies, banks etc to workers' inspection.
b) It must nationalise the big banks and finance houses centralising them into one state bank subject to workers control and inspection.
c) The Labour Government must restore all cuts in social expenditure. It must:
i) cancel the ruinous interest repayments and debts of the local authorities which effect both workers and the lower middle class.
ii) It must nationalise the building and construction industries under workers control.
d) It must nationalise, without compensation and under workers' control, all the major industrial and trading companies.
5) The Labour Government must repeal all remaining anti-trade union laws (or clauses in laws), enact legislation clearly protecting trade unionists from conspiracy charges, establishing the right to picket, and to join a union.
6) The Labour Government must disband the Special Patrol Group and the SAS, and establish the legal right of the members of the police force and the armed forces to join trade unions and political organisations, have free access to their press and the right to attend and organise meetings etc. The immediate repeal of the 'anti-terrorist' legislation, and the withdrawal from NATO and all other Imperialist alliances. Further we demand the disbandment of the police and the armed forces and their replacement by an armed workers' militia.
7) The Labour Government must immediately withdraw all British troops from Northern Ireland and release all political prisoners held there and in Britain. It must give material support to defence against the Orange pogromists.
8) Repeal the racialist Immigration Acts, legally recognising the right of immigrant self defence against racialist harassment.
9) Grant immediately the full right to women for free abortions and contraception on demand, the right to work and to free 24 hour nursery and crèche facilities.

These demands represent an arsenal of weapons to struggle against the bosses and their Labour supporters. We do not present them simply as a list for propaganda purposes - although we in no way conceal that each and everyone represents a vital objective need of the class struggle in the period of developing capitalist crisis. We raise them singly or in combination with others where they can be focus for united struggle.

However, only a Labour Government which set out to implement such demands as a whole - particularly those measures which place real power, militarily and economically, in the hands of the workers organisations, could claim to be a workers government. As we have said we believe that such an outcome is very unlikely indeed. But even if a future labour government - under massive pressure from working class organisations did tackle these tasks then it could be nothing else but a short transitional stage to the establishment of the full political power of the working class over the exploiters – the dictatorship of the proletariat.