From the Solidarity group: a polemical exchange with Tony Topham of the Institute for Workers’ Control.
In the first issue of Solidarity (West London), we carried a five and a half page article on the failure of the September ’69 occupation at Liverpool’s G.E.C [General Electric] and E.E [English Electric] plants, Netherton, East Lanes and Napiers. Feedback from the men up there indicates they appreciated our of the September events. In contrast, we recently received a confused and hysterical letter from Tony Topham, on behalf of the Institute for Workers’ Control complaining about our article’s coverage of the Institute’s activities in Liverpool. We print below the complete letter. Our reply follows it.
Your unsigned article “GEC Liverpool, The Occupation that Failed” contains a section on “The Role of the Institute for Workers’ Control” which is inaccurate, scurrilous, and gratuitously hostile. I must request space to reply to your attack in detail.
You allege that our “strange sense of priorities” led to question of affiliation fees to the IWC “being considered as the first on the agenda at our Initial meeting with the Action Committee. This is untrue. Representatives of the IWC attended two meetings of the committee. On the first occasion, IWC affiliation was not discussed; we offered certain services – the drafting and circulation of an appeal to the labour movement, the preparation of a printed pamphlet on the GEC and the redundancies, research into the question of world markets for GEC products and into the legal issues raised by the proposed occupation of the factories. We set this work in process and completed it without any exchanges between the Institute and the Action Committee concerning affiliation. At our second meeting with the committee, the question of affiliation was raised, (not as a “first item” or with any sense of priority) because we wished to be placed even more fully and clearly, for the outside world, in a position of servicing the committee. Those who followed the events and publicity closely will recall that the usual accusations were made in the press, that “outside” bodies were directing the occupation plan. We felt that, had the committee taken out a formal (and in financial terms, merely token). Affiliation, it would have been even better placed to refute these suggestions, and to give us directions on the services required of us.
In the event, we accepted fully the Committee’s wish to defer consideration of the affiliation, and we proceeded with our programme of assistance and research without giving the matter a second thought. You then make certain allegations about the content of our pamphlet Workers Takeover, which show that you either have not read it, or have read it with closed minds, determined to discover within its pages the appropriate sins according to the gospel of Solidarity, West London revised version. You say that the term worker’s control’ is never allowed to stand on its own, but always occurs in the phrases “public ownership and workers’ control” or “social ownership and workers’ control” in our pamphlet. Even if we take this “criticism” at its own puerile level of infantile semantics, we do not find it difficult to refute. If readers will refer to our pamphlet, page 3 line 10, page 6 line 28, page 7 line 6, page 10 lines 21+ 25, they will find workers’ control’ used without reference to public or social, ownership. It is theSolidarity version of workers’ control that is misleading and not that of IWC or the GEC workers.