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Raymond Challinor

Challinor’s Choice

(29 May 1969)

From Socialist Worker, No. 124, 29 May 1969, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

NOBODY COULD DESCRIBE the journal The Economist as an organ of revolutionary sedition. So when it calls the Italian paper La Nazione ‘rabidly right wing’, one must assume that it errs on the side of understatement. Nevertheless, it is interesting to read what Signor Enrico Mattei, the editor of La Nazione, writes.

In a letter to The Economist (May 10), Signor Mattei outlined his paper’s policy:

‘Even considering the unrest and disorder which today disturb Italian public life, it has never thought of advocating as severe a law as the British one against persons who attack the police; nor of approving as harsh a law to regulate strikes as the one proposed by Mrs Barbara Castle.’

So here, in a nutshell, we have it: the Labour government is even more conservative than a ‘rabidly right wing’ paper. As one poster on an anti-trade union legislation demonstration put it: ‘Hitler is alive and well and living at Number Ten.’

And Eva Braun appears to be round the corner at the Department of Employment and Productivity.

Action, not words

THE MOST EFFECTIVE answer to those who talk about ‘going through the official, constitutional channels’ is that usually it achieves nothing. It was George Woodcock who talked at the 1963 TUC congress of moving from Trafalgar Square into Whitehall, from the demonstrations to the corridors of power.

But in the same year’s General Council report he showed how powerless the TUC was in influencing ministries. It mentioned the repeated attempts to get the government to provide specially adapted motor cars instead of a motor-tricycle for those who have lost both legs. ‘The TUC has pointed out tricycles are less reliable than cars,’ the report continued, ‘and in cases of breakdown disabled men have been stranded for long periods.’

But the government remained unmoved. ‘Despite the injustice and hardship caused ... and the trifling cost involved, the representations of the TUC have had no effect.’ Nor have the sweet words of the General Council had any effect on this issue right down to the present day.

A more recent case, illustrating the same principle, comes from the Fire Service. If any man is killed on a fire-call, then his wife and dependents receive a pension. On other emergency calls, however, they are not protected. A few months ago, a Bolton fireman was killed while trying to rescue two children trapped in a disused coalmine. So his next-of-kin receive nothing.

The Fire Brigades Union have had repeated talks with Jim Callaghan, the Home Secretary. They have pointed out how anomalous the position is. They have shown that to extend existing protection for those killed in fires to other cases would involve the government in spending a trifling sum of money. But Callaghan adamantly refuses to budge.

Terry Parry, the FBU’s general secretary, is an exceptionally talented gentleman. He is the only trade union leader I know who has a British Empire Medal and at the same time defends Mao Tse-tung in the columns of Tribune! So if he can’t persuade Callaghan, who can?

The answer is less talk and more action. Only if the firemen down tools will the Home Office listen to their argument seriously.

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Last updated: 15 January 2021