Friday, 2 October 2009

The Workers' Next Step

Shock! Horror! Lucien Freud's portrait of 'Big Sue' Tilley: 'Benefits Supervisor Sleeping' graces the cover of a new discussion booklet for the National Shop Stewards' Network published by The Workers' Next Step group. Featuring an attack on New Labour's managerialism & the 'New Workers' Party' idea, it is based on the 'Miners' Next Step' and the critique of Geoffrey Ostergaard 'The Tradition of Workers' Control'. It features essays on the New Deal & an interview with a former inmate at a Government training camp down south; Asbestos, contaminated land, and Health & Safety issues treated by Jason Addy, researcher in occupational and environment diseases at Manchester Metropolitan University; Rachel Whittaker attacks the 'carbon footprint' & the 'prole-cult' in the Vestas dispute.

Direct sales price £1.99 or £2.49 (post paid); Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices'. Available c/o 46, Kingsland Road, Rochdale, Lancs. OL11 3HQ

To read comments received about this publication, please click through the 'read More' link below:

(Donovan Pedelty's comments to the editor):

An attractive and quite impressive production, even if your cover claim to being ‘A historical analysis of the British labour movement and the managerial revolution in the post-modern era’ does seem, shall we say, a trifle overblown. The question mark in my mind: Is this a one-off production or an ongoing publication project?

A handful of comments:

(1) Just a seeming contradiction, I assume, but I think an explanation might have helped when you write of The Miners’ Next Step “The proposal was for more centralisation combined with steps to keep power in the hands of the rank and file workers.” A cavil, maybe, but it points, I think to a tendency to take for granted readers’ awareness of the fundamental distinctions between revolutionary (especially libertarian) syndicalism and orthodox trade union organisation.

(2) I really enjoy your characteristically wide range of reference, as in your citing of a passage in George Eliot’s Felix Holt (a favourite of mine, in Middlemarch, is a labourer’s retort to Caleb Garth when he starts talking about the coming of the railways, “It’s all ben aloike to the poor man.”), but at times your allusions are too cryptic for me, as with your sideswipe at Brecht.

(3) (Pattison’s piece on a labour camp was the most startling to me - a sinister episode which I knew nothing about. That makes it even more so. And were there others such camps? It would have been strengthened by historical context (Harold Wilson and Labour’s very own Annie Oakley, Barbara Castle, struggling to break-in the trade-union bucking bronco – remember Solomon Binding?) and by the current workfare-style parallels.

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