What We Are And What We Must Become  

A critique of the politics and perspectives of the Militant Tendency
by Rachel Lever, Phil Semp and Sean Matgamna

First published July 1966

Appendix 2


Unsigned article from MILITANT No. 13, February 1966

Some readers have been critical of the article on the anti-working class legislation being contemplated by the Labour Government.

However readers and supporters of Militant should have a due sense of proportion. The headlines of the article indicate the main emphasis that should have been given. "T.U.s Must Say: NO! TO LEGISLATION. LEADERS MUST DEFEND RIGHTS."


The article should have been slanted to give emphasis to the reactionary character of the legislation and the need for militants to agitate and struggle against it within the Labour and Trade Union Movement. This activity should have been around the demand that the Union leaders mobilise their members by launching a campaign for the abandonment of such shameful legislation by a government speaking in the name of Labour. It should have emphasised as the main theme of the article the need to fight the suggested legislation within the Labour Movement. It should have dealt with the need to preserve the independence of the Trade Unions from the entanglement of the capitalist state even under a Labour Government. They must fight all anti-working class measures whoever introduces them.

At the same time it should be remembered that we reach primarily the advanced workers at this stage, and therefore the lessons of perspective should also be given.


While the mass organisations of the workers remain intact, legislation can hamper, but also embitter the workers. It is wrong to underestimate this vicious legislation but it is also false to exaggerate the possibilities in front of reaction at this stage.

It is one thing to put it on the statute book it is another thing to carry it out. Any attempt to carry it out will cause a worse situation than the employers are trying to avoid. Instead of small strikes they will have big ones. They will heighten the class consciousness of the workers and aid their radicalisation. The example of the New York transport workers strike is particularly clear, in this regard. The Court Injunction that the strike was illegal and the arrest of the trade union leaders, embittered the workers and made them even more determined.

It did not prevent the victorious outcome including the release of the Union leaders unconditionally. It should be pointed out to the advanced workers and the militants, that the union leaders, who are looking the other way, or at best only expressing nominal opposition to the suggested legislation may themselves be caught in a trap of their own making.


If Michael Quill, a non Socialist Trade Union leader under pressure of his members and of circumstances, can wage a struggle and "defy the law", then certainly the British trade union leaders, with the Socialist consciousness of the movement, under pressure of the workers can find themselves in the same situation.

Now is the time to raise the issue sharply and clearly in the trade unions and labour movements, shop steward's committees unconditional opposition to any legislation restricting trade union and workers rights. Move resolutions of protest in the wards, G.M.C.s trade union branches, district and area committees, shop stewards' committees, and throughout the labour movement.