Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Prison Officers' Unofficial Walk Outs

Blink and you would have missed it. An unofficial walk out by prison officers at Liverpool Prison yesterday sparked secondary action across North West England today. Risley prison in Warrington, jails in Preston and Lancaster and young offenders' institutions in Lancaster (again) and Portland, Dorset all went out on unofficial action this morning and afternoon.

By the time of writing everyone has returned to work after a deal was hastily put together.

The outstanding issue at the heart of the dispute in Liverpool is, surprise, surprise, bullying management (details
here). That it provoked mass action suggests this is far from an isolated incident.

Some on the left would take a rather sniffy attitude toward this. Because screws are part of what Louis Althusser would call the 'repressive state apparatus', i.e. the armed bodies of men and women that, in the last analysis, will be called upon by the state to defend itself and the social system it protects, ultra-lefts typically argue the workers' movement should have nothing to do with them. So to back prison officers in a strike or, heaven forfend,
allow one of them to join your party is tantamount to class treachery.

A discussion of Marxist strategy and prison officers, the police and military can be found here.

But comrades who express indifference toward industrial relations in the prison service are being very short sighted indeed. Quite apart from the fact that disputes help erode the ideologies of service and loyalty the state relies upon, there are the wider, positive impacts wildcat actions can have on working class confidence.

Despite the economic crisis and the recession, generally speaking union strength and militancy remain at a low ebb. This is one reason why the wildcat strikes at Lindsey Oil Refinery and elsewhere earlier in the year were so important. After years of relative industrial peace - on the bosses' terms - the strikes demonstrated collective action not only works, but can be victorious too.

There's no reason why wildcat actions by the screws can't have the same effect, which is why - in addition to the justice of their grievances - another round of walkouts should receive the left's and labour movement's full support and solidarity.


red cynic said...

The POA's history is one of racism, reaction and brutality and their demands merely economistic. Don't forget the torturers of Long Kesh which side were you on then? With the jackbooted thugs of the Brit state or their victims?
Do you support batons to be used on working class children (we are talking about under 18's here) in YOI's as the POA do? Do you support prisoners having the right to vote? The POA oppose this. Do you think prisoners are soft and cushy? The POA seem to think so. Do you support prisoners having union rights? Unsurprisingly the POA oppose this.
Next time there s a prison uprising which side will you be cheering on? The screws and riot squads of POA members or the prisoners?
Is your and other SP members fetishisation with the POA and other "workers in uniform" affecting your sense of judgment and reality the role of the oppressive arm of the state as being anti working class? This is basic stuff, but then opportunism is one of the problems of the left, you may well think that a few working class kids broken bones as a result of POA members brutality (ill post link to this story in which your man Caton speaks of "fighting with children" how revolutionary, how grown up is that?) is a price worth paying for some short term political gain, but I and don't believe it is a price worth paying. They are not even on the liberal side of the criminal justice debate but firmly on teh Daily mail wing, and there is absolutely nothing that Caton and POA have said that their views have changed whatsoever.

Neil said...

Hello redcynic. I feel like I've met you somewhere before...?

steelcityred said...

Redcynic aka Chris where was you at Socialism 2009

Leftwing Criminologist said...

red cynic

- so i take it you are an expert on the history of the poa
i take it you have read the recent book by david evans and sheila cohen then?

Brain on Trotskyist theory said...

Why have you cut your link to Brain on Trotskyist theory because reactionary videos appared on my blog? This has been a prolem I had for years of not being able to delete new videos unilatirally placed on my videos on that blog without my permission. You can see my statement concerning this problem on my blog. Could you please restore your link to my blog? now I have clarified the situation.

Phil BC said...

No, I didn't get rid of the link because of your content - it was because your blog appeared to have fallen silent. It's been restored now.

Phil BC said...

Red Cynic, would you like me to trade your list of atrocities with the record of the British army? Its record is far, far worse than the prison service of the UK and yet I doubt you'd have any objections to the recruitment of squaddies.

red cynic said...

I don't disagree about the Brit army and yes I would have a problem if they still joined while maintaining reactionary,racist and other bigoted views which a lot hold and like screws put them into practise with devestating consequenses, including death on their victims. Caton and the POA's views on criminal justice belong in the Pages of the Daily Mail not in a revolutionary socialist organisation.

SamG said...

A revolutionary socialist organisation can't isolate itself from people with conservative views on crime etc, this would mean abandoning vast swathes of the working class for christs sake.

Jota said...

Revolutionairies see a need to win over sections of the state repressive agencies, red cynic. That is why the bolsheviks organised amongst the Russian army and why teh Spartacists organised 'soldiers' raters'. In the 1919 Police strike would you have been with the stikers demanding workers' rights (thus bring the rank and file police closer to the workers' movement) or the government?