— Calum Macdonald, Edinburgh
As the Tory party continues to self-destruct and anger about the cost-of-living crisis builds, public support for striking workers has only grown. Many bourgeois commentators are attributing this to the ‘Mick Lynch effect’: the RMT leader has gone from an obscure trade union official to a household name in the matter of months.
The ruling class and their media mouthpieces have done what they can to counter this through the tried-and-true methods of character assassination. Lynch has been accused of hypocrisy for his supposed ‘six-figure salary’ (in reality only five figures, democratically approved by the RMT membership), had xenophobic allusions about his Irish Catholic background raised in the press, and is said to take “sadistic pleasure” in disrupting train timetables according to the Daily Mail.
While appearing on live TV Sky News even attempted to goad Lynch into discussing the possibility of violence at picket lines — which he expertly shrugged off by pointing to the line of peaceful picketers standing behind him.
With Lynch refusing to take the bait, the Sky News presenter tried to draw direct comparison to the miners strikes, when forces of the State attempted to curb the mass picketing with violent assaults from uniformed thugs. In the aftermath, miners were slandered across the press as responsible for the melee.
Famously, Lynch also made a fool out of repulsive reactionary talking head Piers Morgan live on his morning programme. Morgan attempted to paint Lynch as “the most evil man in Britain” because of his Facebook profile picture: the Thunderbirds villain ‘The Hood’, whom bears a humorous resemblance to the RMT leader. Obviously, the joke was lost on the humourless windbag Piers.
After they could get nothing on him, the media managers stopped inviting Lynch on their shows. Then it was the turn of Lynch’s deputy, Eddie Dempsey. He suffered the same lines of attack, about his salary, and also about the fact he lives in a council flat as he has done for decades.
They dredged up everything they could on Dempsey from his past, like his support for Brexit or vocal opposition to the 2014 US/EU-orchestrated Euromaidan coup in Ukraine. The lengths they will go to smear these trade union leaders is like deja-vu of the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, but unlike then it always seems to backfire.
This is because unlike Corbyn, Lynch and Dempsey are unapologetic in their support for workers in struggle. In this, they fill a gaping void left by the lack of serious opposition to the cost-of-living crisis from any political party, be it Labour, the SNP or the Greens.
Lynch and Dempsey didn’t cut their teeth in the genteel debating clubs of Oxford or Cambridge as most of the media mercenaries or Tory Ministers have, but in the throes of industrial struggles and union negotiations. They can cut through the soundbite-obsessed press and keep the focus on the workers — not themselves — taking action in defence of their livelihoods and the services they provide to the public.
These clear and articulate arguments put out by the RMT leaders resonate with a lot of people. Workers have had enough, why should they be, yet again, the ones who have to suffer? Why can’t all workers get a decent pay raise when they need it most? How can the bosses say they ‘can’t afford it’, when they’re raking in billions?
Ultimately, the blame lies with capitalism — the system built on profiting from exploited labour, from keeping wages as low as possible. This is the elephant in the room that the union leaders don’t quite arrive at, save for the occasional indulgence in front of a labour movement crowd.
The argument for the only alternative to this status quo — for socialism — is the one that needs to get through to masses of people. The strikes and the inspiring leadership of people like Mick Lynch are raising the confidence of the working class. With an unapologetic militant leadership, class struggle methods and a bold programme of socialist revolution, the working class can really begin to fight back and win.