Craft unions are and must always remain powerless. The boss, the State, the trade union official, have the power. Tom Cann’s union was national, not international. He ignored thousands of foreign catering workers. He had one walk-out strike and failed. The Transport & General Workers’ Union, Catering Section, has not even had that. It just draws the subs of its few members, and does nothing. As with these few unions, so with the whole British trade union movement.
Now the contrast: The Cooks’ Syndicate was international. The Cooks’ Syndicate had no huge funds, The Cook’s Syndicate had no funds in Government bonds. The Cooks’ Syndicate had no leaders or bosses. The Cooks’ Syndicate members controlled it themselves. The Cooks’ Syndicate did not need strike pay. The Cooks’ Syndicate understood the class struggle. Their aim was to end capitalism. They had thirty-eight strikes: all were won. Not one man was injured, arrested or victimised.
Since 1939 the unemployed army has gone back into the other army. Once again prices rise, rages rise, and falling industries not concerned with war are depleted of workers. Once again, anyone, even at 60 or 70, can get a job. Hotel and restaurant managers are nowadays more polite than ever. Part-time workers are now the order. Some workers can even choose their own time to work.
It is extraordinary how some so-called Socialist Parties can perform acrobatic feats of complete change. They used to say Socialism was the only hope of the world’s workers, now (1944) when the government talks about a new world, such as the Beveridge Bubble, Town Planning, improved education, green belt and the Catering Act, these self-styled socialists call it social advance. I want to know what the advance leads to. If it is true that the interests of the capitalist class are absolutely opposed to the interests of the working class, then all reforms of a capitalist state must be in the interests of the state, which is the controlling force of the capitalist system, and can never be in the interests of the working class. Of course, a few sections of workers in various industries may for a period gain a slight improvement in their wage-slave conditions, but they remain wage-slaves.
We will try to prove our position by looking at the (1944) Catering Act. First I ask, why does the Government suddenly take an interest in the catering worker? Has the Cabinet suddenly taken sympathy for these slaves? No. The Cabinet know the trade union rate of wages of all organised workers in town and country, from the unions concerned, but in the catering trade since the days of the syndicate there has been no trade union rate of wages. What does that prove? This – in dealing with the trade union movement, the Government found it a different matter with catering workers. The kitchen staff got a stated wage, varying according to class of the catering firm and the position of the kitchen worker. The waiter, waitress, housemaid, porter, liftman, luggage porter, page-boy, chambermaid, may all get a small wage, or may not, their main source of wages coming in tips. Now the Cabinet says fair wages for all. Having obtained the scale of wages for chefs and cooks, the Government knows whom to tax and how much. How they obtain the tip percentage is their affair, but those who depend on the tips must, beyond a certain percentage, pay tax. That is the object of the Act. Of course, many may benefit. A sprat for mackerel. The Government benefit by thousands of pounds, the worker by a few shillings. Governments govern in the interests of themselves.
Also available at http://libcom.org/history/dare-be-daniel-wilf-mccartney.
Part of Dare to be a Daniel!