Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Review: The Cleavage in 'Trade Union Solidarity'

Trade Union Solidarity:  Send for 1 for a 20-pages copy of 'Solidarity' on the basis of 4 issues per year: £7 inc. - P&P.  Make cheques out to 'Solidarity' and send to Glen Burrows, 1, Blake Place, Bridgewater, Somerset, TA6 5AU.

I WAS sitting at a Tameside Trade Union Council meeting last year when Derek Patterson, the President, swept into the room and ceremoniously pulled out a crumpled up copy of the 1st issue of Trade Union Solidarity out of his pocket and promptly put it on his chair to keep the dust off his trousers. Seating himself comfortably, he said:
'It gives me no great pleasure to say this, but this is all it's fit for!'
Whereupon, he promptly began picking his nose with one hand and conducting the meeting with the other. 

Is this a fair assessment of this trade union publication; put out mostly by the radical left syndicalists down South and in the Midlands? The early issues I think lacked a certain sexiness and resembled too much the dreary sheets put out by the main stream unions in this country: photographs of picket-lines, union flags and banners.  I say this having done an interview with the blacklisted electrician, Steve Acheson, in the 1st issue, and having helped obtain trade union contacts at Park Cakes in Oldham for the 2nd. 

Somehow, I didn't get to see the 3rd issue so I can't comment on that but this week I received a copy of the 4th issue, and my first impression is that it's vastly improved. I say this, while looking at the cleavage of a voluptuous French woman, a supporter of the CGT with red hair, on the front page. It's not just about cleavages, of course, this issue of T.U. Solidarity covers 'The angry summer of the Spanish miners' in the Asturias in Spain by Emy Castelao, a USDAW Rep. at Primark in Taunton; an account by barrister, Dave Renton, of a redundancy case and his claim that 'redundancy dismissals are almost impossible to win...'; an interview of Keir Snow with French CGT trade union activist, Oliver Delous; a report on the use of prison labour, including an interesting interview with a Category 'D' prisoner on prison labour; and in another article Keir Snow has an interview with a lad from Dundee.

I must confess to being a bit troubled by the suggestion in the piece by Dave Chapple on the PCS that a '15-minute strike' gives members of trade unions the feel good factor and that 'one member said to me “even if we lose in the end at least I feel like I tried...'  Well that's one view!  Another view may be that these kind of actions, and the two big marches by the TUC demonstrate the impotence of the trade unions and create a lowing of worker morale with inconclusive actions. Nor does the window breaking by the Black Bloc do much good either. One feels like Mother Courage in the Brecht play of the same name when she said to that malcontent soldier: 'Get back to your post I can see you're not angry enough!'  The state of the British trade union movement is closer to that captured in an interview by Becca Kirkpatrick with Sophia James, a UNISON Young Members' Officer at Aberdeen Universities Branch on page 2:  where Sophie says:
'The trade union movement to me is crucial... but it's dying out.  There is a significant gap in young members and a substantial risk of apathy leaving a young person open to the erosion of workplace rights...'

What struck me was the prominence on page 3 given to an interview with Carlos Mondaca, a Chilean 'libertarian historian' and environmental campaigner, conducted by Beck Hillman. Senor Mondaca says: 'Reports on trade unionists' cultural and recreational activities should be a must in any trade-unionist publication: we must break up apathy and begin to socialize the trade unions. This means strengthening relations with all sorts of cultural associations that share similar class-struggle horizons...' He then reinforces this with the following: '... there is way too much text in TU Solidarity. This, of course, depends on the reading capacity of target audience, which I don't personally know. But in Chile, that amount of text would be unacceptable for any trade-unionist publication. So it is good to look for other ways to communicate the same messages: cartoons, drawings, photos, and humour all encourage creativity and make links with wider society.' 
Most left-wing publications in this country have too much text, and not enough grapgics or humour.

This 4th issue of TU Solidarity does show signs of taking this on-board with a page of coverage of Bill Douglas's film 'Comrades' by Kevin Leeiton. There's also another Keir Snow interview with Liam Young about films and especially about his film 'Faces of Glasgow' on the back page. Give us cleavages, give us nipples – anything that stops Derek Pattison from sitting on the publication and picking his nose at Trades' Council meetings.

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