This month comrades in East London came home to find election material for the British National Party had been put through their doors. A leaflet was quickly drafted arguing that postal workers should refuse to give out BNP material on the basis of working class anti-fascism.
We then took the leaflet down to the Bow delivery office to catch the morning shift. There was generally a very good response. Many workers have already refused to hand out the racists’ propaganda on the grounds of their agreement, which allows them to refuse to hand out what they consider “offensive”.
This action came after postalworkers in Bridgewater in the south west, refused to deliver BNP leaflets. At Bridgwater, branch chair Dave Chapple gave the following speech:
“For the last few European Elections, between twenty and thirty CWU members at Bridgewater Delivery Office have refused to deliver the leaflets of the British National Party. They have the right to do this because Royal Mail and the CWU have agreed a ‘Conscience Clause’ which has the following words:
“‘Whilst it is expected that in most instances delivery will be secured by the individual due to undertake the particular delivery, local management will deal sympathetically with requests to deviate from this arrangement. Such cases may arise as a result of personal circumstances or beliefs…’
“At Bridgwater local managers have previously honoured this agreement and alternative arrangements have always been made.
“For some reason, now, May 2009, local managers are breaking the agreement and trying to force CWU members to act against their conscience.”
The effect of management’s action (and perhaps the growing strength of the BNP) has meant that less postalworkers refused to deliver the leaflets than in previous years. However, the campaign has spread through the work of grassroots activists and the example of Bridgwater has been repeated across the country.
All too often, the unions outsource their political work with a brand of “resolutionary socialism”. They pass endless resolutions in under-representative union meetings backing one noble cause after another. Anti-fascist work becomes equated with sending a cheque for £500 to Unite Against Fascism or Searchlight.
In the real corridors of power, inside the Labour Party, the unions outsource their political work to various toothless campaign groups. During the 2007 postalworkers’ pay dispute, the CWU’s political officer, Dave Ward, resigned from his position on the Labour Party National Executive just at the moment when he should have stayed to fight. Now, the CWU has outsourced much of its work inside the Labour Party to the soft-left campaign group, Compass. This “outsourcing” is partly responsible for Labour being able to attack us for the last 12 years.
This European Election poses a problem for class conscious workers: there is no half-decent working class party standing south of the Scottish border. A vote against the BNP means having to hold your nose and vote for New Labour. Establishment anti-fascism (as represented by UAF and Hope not Hate) has failed to pose a political challenge to the BNP. The left turn up to BNP areas with their leaflets like a moral crusade, trying to guilt trip people into “not voting Nazi”. In the attempt to work with mainstream political parties and various millionaire celebrities, UAF/HnH (both run by socialists) drop their class politics.
We need an alternative to the pro-capitalist mainstream parties and the violently anti-working class BNP. We need a working class party mobilised around a set of democratic demands that represent the interests of our class. To get there, we need a new conception of trade unionism where we use our collective strength as workers to fight the political battles. We need rank-and-file participation in the union structures and a DIY attitude that is lacking in most workers' understanding of trade unionism.
The example of the postalworkers in Bridgwater, East London and elsewhere is just a small sign of what might be possible if we stand together and use our strength.
• Stop the BNP! For working-class unity against the fascists! Public meeting, 7.30pm, Monday 8 June, the Arbour Centre, Shandy Street (Stepney Green tube)