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posted 18 Jun 2014, 06:29 by Gerry Kangalee
This year the labour movement celebrates seventy-seven years as we assemble in Fyzabad on June 19, 2014. During these years internal and external opportunists have ridden on the backs of the movement to try to derail it.


One such opportunist was Eric Williams, former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. Today, sections of the labour movement have made an alliance with the PNM in their attempt to oust the PP Government from power. Such strange bedfellows!


In 2010, these same opportunists made an alliance with the PP and used the movement for their own political ends. We have to learn from history and not be fooled again. Therefore, in order that we not be fooled again, let us use history as a guide. Hear Eric Williams’ rhetoric concerning the Trade Union Movement.


On July 16, 1960, Eric Williams noted: “It would be a sad day for Trinidad if the workers ever stopped fighting for their rights” and said “as long as the PNM was in power nobody was going to pass any legislation to interfere with the rights of the workers of the country. That was going to mean tyranny that was going to mean a Police State. I am not going to have any part of tyranny nor part of any Police State, now or in the future.”(Trinidad Guardian).


This statement was one big lie because when oil and sugar workers took industrial action in 1965, Williams used the power of the state and declared a state of emergency and crushed the movement.


Moreover, to further prove that he attempted to fool the movement, his government drafted the Industrial Stabilisation Act (ISA), introduced it to parliament, speedily voted for it, and enacted it. The ISA was a weapon the state used to take away the rights and freedoms of the workers. Additionally, it was aimed at the militant section of the trade union movement led by the OWTU and TIWU.


Even after passing the most vicious anti-working class legislation, Williams once again continued his scheme to fool the workers. In September 1965, six months after the passage of the ISA, Williams declared:


“The Party (PNM) must be the defender of the workers, the political arm of the labour movement, providing particularly the information and data so urgently needed by the workers in their organizations. The party must give every encouragement to effective trade unionism, and must make it clearly understood that this includes the rights of the workers to choose their own representatives.


We must repudiate unambiguously the indefensible efforts of the Ministers to intimidate the trade unions, split the workers’ ranks and set themselves up as little demigods recognizing only those they consider amenable. That road leads straight to Totalitarianism”. (Quoted in Is Slavery Again – Michael Als).


These words were just lyrics talk. From 1969 until he died, Williams and the PNM waged an all out war against the progressive arm of the movement. They used inside agents and outside agents to destabilize these forces at every turn.


The Industrial Relations Act, enacted in 1972, during a state of emergency when trade union leaders were detained without charge, introduced the Essential Industries Schedule which prevented unions which represented workers in what the politicians declared to be an essential industry from representing workers in another so-called essential industry. This violated workers freedom of association to join a union of their choice.


On this Labour Day, as the working class and its allies assemble in Fyzabad, let us be determined not to be fooled by politicians and their agents making false promises. Instead let us be resolved to work at building the working-class party that will serve the interests of the working class, the working poor and all marginalized groups in the society.