A group of union leaders has given its backing to a book by a Marxist former MEP which advocates restoring workers' control of industry and reviving socialist policies supported by trade unions in the 1970s.
The book celebrates the ideas of the now defunct Institute of Workers' Control, which played a key role in developing union thinking during the industrial disquiet of the 1970s which ultimately resulted in the Winter of Discontent.
The stance by the union leaders, including Derek Simpson, general secretary of Amicus, will dismay Blairite ministers who are anxious to crush any emergence of mass industrial action. It will also provoke fears that union bosses are planning a new era of strikes over pay and conditions.
Mr Simpson wrote a foreword to the book, Workers' Control: Another World by Ken Coates, who was expelled by Labour for his ideas. Mr Simpson says the book "provides an intellectual framework for the restoration of effective industrial democracy in the 21st century". He adds: "The Institute for Workers' Control played an important role in formulating the industrial strategy of the labour and trade union movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and the lessons learnt have a striking relevance to the challenges facing the trade union movement in today's global economy."
The union leaders say the book will help the task of the "expanding trade union organisation, strengthening collective bargaining and reasserting and developing workers' control over their lives and industry". Mr Coates was a Labour MEP from 1989 to 1998, when he was expelled from the party.
Other supporters of his book include Tony Woodley, the newly elected head of the Transport and General Workers' Union; Andy Gilchrist, the leader of the Fire Brigades Union; Mark Serwotka, head of the Public and Commercial Services Union; Mick Rix, who is soon to be replaced as head of Aslef; and Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists.
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