KARL MARX wrote in his masterpiece ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’ that ‘Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.’
Marx was contrasting the tragedy of the swing of the great French revolution to the right, to an empire through the coming to power of Napoleon, with its farcical and its comical repetition in the coming to power of the adventurer, chancer and swindler Napoleon 111 in 1851.
The tragic and farcical actions of the CWU postal workers leadership in the face of a major Labour government-Royal Mail offensive against their members’ terms and conditions of service brings Marx’s brilliant remark to life and to mind.
CWU members are facing an historic management-government diktat.
The intention is to destroy their pension rights, greatly weaken their trade union by imposing a management right to change working practices on a daily basis without consultation, as well as wage cutting with annual below inflation wage rises, and last but not least over 40,000 redundancies.
These measures amount to a huge qualitative change which postal workers are refusing to accept or tolerate in any shape or form.
Their heroic resistance is proving to be the rock on which all of the attempts of their reformist leaders to sell them out, and help the management bring in the changes, have foundered.
After a record vote in the ballot for strike action, the CWU leaders instead of calling indefinite strike action, called partial strikes saying that as soon as the management said that they were willing to negotiate they would call off the strikes.
This the CWU leaders did with tragic results. They wasted five whole weeks in secret talks with the Royal Mail management at the end of which they were not an inch nearer to a settlement that their members would accept.
The union leaders then went from tragedy to farce.
They were forced to call two 48 hour strikes but halted them mid-way after the Royal Mail went to law and got their strike action declared illegal.
That debacle has led onto another five days of talks, with the TUC general secretary Barber presiding over them, with the entire postal trade union executive standing by permanently in case any prospect of a deal emerges.
The intention was to have a deal signed and sealed by last Monday evening. But Royal Mail has made not a single real concession, while the postal executive has so far not been willing to face the anger of its members by accepting the unacceptable.
Meanwhile, thousands of CWU members are having the flexibility measures imposed on them on a daily basis by managements, and they are getting angrier and angrier with the everlasting negotiations farce.
CWU members have to act now to break the talks deadlock and open up the way to win the struggle.
The branches, and the district, and the regional organisations of the CWU have got to instruct their postal executive members to end the talks at once and to reinstate the strike actions, this time in the form of an indefinite strike.
They must tell the executive to sack the discredited Hayes-Ward leadership that has led the troops up and down the hill for almost three months.
The postal executive must be made to take action on behalf of the members. There must be no toleration of further delaying tactics.
As well, the executive must approach the public sector unions for united strike action against the government’s anti-public sector polices. This is the way forward to victory.