400 issues of Workers Power

07 February 2023

By Dave Stockton

THE FIRST issue of Workers Power as a monthly paper appeared in October 1978. Its headline Smash the Five Per Cent Limit related to a situation we face today: a government trying to impose a ceiling on wages for public sector workers. Though the government then was a Labour administration, many of the lessons are the same.

The spur then as now was inflation. The previous year had seen it peak at 15.85% with wages held back by a Social Contract (pay limits) signed by the union leaders. Local government, NHS, car plant, rail and transport workers struck and marched in a huge outburst of anger that the tabloid press named the winter of discontent.

Then as now the problem was how to coordinate and escalate the struggles and Workers Power was calling for setting up local cross union action committees to build this. A few issues later Workers Power reported on a joint public sector mass rally in Central Hall, where so loud and unremitting were the calls from the rank and file for coordinated and escalating action that the leaders fled the platform in disorder.

Sharing the first issue’s front page was an article denouncing the Anti-Nazi League for refusing to mobilise against a march of the fascist National Front from Charing Cross to their new headquarters in the East End, with its huge Asian population. The excuse was that an ANL Carnival was the priority. The Socialist Workers Party had effectively jettisoned the policy of no platform for fascists. We said:

‘Their conception is of a ‘mass movement’ based on liberal anti-fascism… The ANL is devoted solely to making vapid propaganda full of references to the second world war. The use of Rock Against Racism-type concerts, useful as an auxiliary device to attract youth, has totally usurped the centre of the ANL’s tactics’.

Another article Ireland: Labour’s Bloody Years recorded the crimes of the British Army against the nationalist movement and the Labour governments complicity in repression. There was a piece on Zionism and the State of Israel exposing the fraud of the Camp David Peace talks between the Zionist state and the PLO. It said; ‘ It is fruitless to expect Israeli-Palestinian working class unity on any basis that ignores this central question—recognition of the Palestinians’ violated national rights.’

The first issue also reported the huge mobilisations against the Shah’s regime in Teheran which ended in the massacre of hundreds of unarmed demonstrators. Our article warned against the influence of the religious leaders who were heading the movement. It concluded:

‘While in no way underestimating the importance of the struggle for democratic demands, only the perspective of working class power can guide Iranian revolutionaries to the correct strategy and tactics in the coming period.’

Workers Power at issue 400 is waging the same fight as its first issue—militant trade union organisation, uncompromising struggle against centrism, and for anti-imperialism, workers’ power and international socialism. It is a tradition we are proud to continue.


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