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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 20 - War-cry for the days of sans culottes’ militancy on the barricades


THE marvels of computer animation are manifold. With it, you can virtually wander into an Aztec temple and stand beside the altar on which sacrificial victims were made to feel quite other-worldly, observe rapacious ex-amples of reptilian frightfulness slobbering over their electronically-created kills or, the other day, see the talking TUC dinosaurs, the fearful simulacra of Jurassic-like creatures that once stalked picket-lines, seeking what they might devour.

Gosh, some of them seemed almost real. Every jaw jutted, every mouth like a slit trench, every eye like a blowtorch be-spoke a fearsome agglomeration of aggressive intent leading to the tearing-up of succulent no-strike deals, the obliteration of Thatcherite anti-trade union laws, significant increases in workers’ pay packets to prevent them getting depressing feelings that they are second-class citizens and a return to the grand old gustatory days of beer and sandwiches at No 10 and metaphorical trade union tanks on the lawn.

There was Derek Simpson, the new fugleman of the once government-friendly, engineering union Amicus; cool, calculating - mind like a salami-slicer - ex-Communist opposer of workers-employers so-called "sweetheart deals", and dedicated ripper-up of British employment legislation - "the worst in Europe" - to achieve parity with that of Continental countries, who has promised, if necessary, not to give Tony Blair a mere headache but a f****** (fearful) migraine.

That sounds like the authentic war-cry of high-strike-production Britain, with the public on the Aztec sacrificial slab. It evokes the days when the des-camisados and the sans culottes of trade union militancy manned barricades, when the noise of battle rolled at Grunwick, the photographic processing factory in north west London, in 1976-77, which saw violent attacks on police by Socialist Workers’ Party members and the battle of Orgreave when "King" Arthur Scargill’s Yorkshire miners battled with mounted police and tried to shut down British Steel’s coking plant during the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

Great militant days when TV cameras recorded every gasp, grunt, hooves’ clatter and thump. Could they return as well as the legendary 1979 "Winter of Discontent" when Britain, as usual, stood alone while public sector workers struck, dustmen refused to collect rubbish and Liverpool gravediggers left the dead unburied?

Many old trade union dinosaurs have gone to the great standing orders’ creator in the sky, but TV shots show there are promising, armour-plated-opinion newcomers, passionate to keep Britain strikingly ahead. There is battling Bob Crow, of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union, talented and tireless orchestrator of at least 30 strikes in ten years, including railway and London Tube stoppages.

Mick Rix - or is it Rick Mix? - of the train drivers’ union, Aslef, is an impressive straight Left, militant operator, who allegedly relishes his power to bring Britain’s reeling railways to a halt, and one must not forget Andy Gilchrist, of the Fire Brigades Union, who, with eyes alight and heart aglow, has promised a wave of strikes over a 40 per cent pay demand for £30,000 a year.

Recently, John Monks, the TUC leader, called for strikes to protect workers’ pensions.

Surely, these figures are figments of a computer-animator’s fantasy or a national nightmare. If they are real, it shows that Britain is a strikingly-resilient country, heroically ready to face a war with Iraq and internecine industrial disputes at home.

All is not gloom and dread in these troubled times. A new edition of The Flying Pickets’ Song Book (Bakunin Press, £15.99) has been published. Among its rollicking, disputational ditties, the book contains the pulse-pounding, Back to the Front, the rallying song of the Amalgamated Union of Demarcation Line Manufacturers, set to the tune of Clementine.

Also new on the shelves is Strikebreaker o’ My Heart (Red Banner Books, £9.99). Was Ken Trivett, union activist and bird fancier a traitor to his class? Who was the mysterious Helga with the brisk, military carriage who hovered in the shadows of the union’s dialectical materialism and line-dancing classes? Was the CIA involved? This tender tale of a feckless but loveable Socialist with his Marxist maid is a robust and riveting read.

How to Build Your Own Tory Party (Bluestone, £25.00) will appeal to the young and old political handyman. Its appeal is likely to be limited since, for convincing results, it needs expensive electronic additions, depending mainly - you’ve guessed it - on computer animation.


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