Page 1, 5th September 1947

5th September 1947
Page 1
Page 1, 5th September 1947 — "THIS IS A PRETTY CYNICAL ASSEMBLY"

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Woman Delegate On 'Stage-Managed' T.U.C.




With this pious sentiment, Communist General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, Mr. Arthur Horner, expressed himself at the opening of the 79th Trades Union Congress at Southport, on Monday last, when he dominated the 836 delegates representing over seven millions of British workers, assembled in the Floral Hall. This could have been the most momentous session of the " workers' parliament," but the cabinet from Smith Square appeared no more willing to " get tough" with the vociferous atom and sectional interest than the elder statesmen who have graduated to Westminster. • Only one delegate—a woman— had the moral courage to seriously challenge Horner.

Following him on to the rostrum, she declared : " We are confronted at this Congress for the first time with totalitarian trade unionism." The speaker, Miss Anne Godwin. assistant secretary of the Clerical and Administrative Workers' Union, strongly opposed the acquiescence of the General Council to a demand that the National Union of Mineworkers be the sole negotiating body for colliery officials and clerks.

She told the delegates that her union was not fighting the National Coal Board, but the attempt by Homer's organisation to smash a smaller body, Mr. W. Lawther, President of the National Union of Mineworkers, opened his address with a number of bitter class-conscious jibes, and then, in a reference to the possibility of strike action by Miss Godwin's union, truculently informed Congress that "as miners we are not going to allow dictation by threats of a strike from anybody on this issue."

No Workers at Races General Council member Mr. Tom O'Brien, M.P., discussing with me whether or not the Congress delegates were "crisis conscious," said that in the absence of a police form of State one could only put

workers on a moral conscience to

give of their best.

He believed that the " working class " were in many respects more conscious of the moral basis of the problems facing the country than many others whom he saw on the news reels frequenting the racecourses of the country.

A visitor to Congress viewing the. scene from the angle of an American business man said: " The ehole set-up strikes me as sheer unadulterated counterfeit. Speakers obviously play to the gallery here for personal advancement and popularity outside. If the country is on its back I do not feel these people have the ability to put it on its feet. There is not a sign of apprehension on their faces."

Alderman Simon Mahon (Transport and General Workers' Union) first Catholic delegate I met at Congress refused to be interviewed or make any comment on the business of Congress so I asked the woman who singed Mr. Homer's union pie.

" This is a pretty .cynical assembly you know," said Miss Godwin. " There is a tremendous amount of stage managing, but the real work is not done here. On an issue like the crisis Congress provides a platform.

" It should be noted that this Congress has established an important precedent in that it has said that one union has the right to another union's members."

Woman On Miners Although Miss Godwin said she would not be interviewed " on the woman's point of view," but only as "a trade unionist," she changed her mind when I introduced the question of moral principle.

Discussing the food situation she said: " Our need is so great we are not in a position to bargain and I believe we have been exploited. The character of some of the goods sent to this country is disgustingly poor and I cannot help but think that they were specially made up for us."

Coming back to trade union matters she was pleased to note that I did not " confuse the miner with the people talking here to-day."

"Since nationalisation," said Miss Godwin, "two sickening lines of approach have been made to the miner. On the one hand he has been flattered and blackguarded on

the other. He is an ordinary worker

entitled to a fair return for the work

he performs. His union is in the control of the Communist party and apathy is the reason." Asked about the employment of Poles in industry, Miss Godwin said it was a matter that each individual industry must settle for itself.

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