Chris Trotter has decided to take umbrage at my post about the 1951 lockout. I wouldn’t usually reply to such criticism but this one provides me with the opportunity to discuss one of my pet grudges: the pointless obsession of some on the left with glorious defeat.
I say pointless because defeat is defeat. It’s not glorious and if you treat it as such the vast majority of people will see you as a loser.
If there is one line in Trotter’s post that sums up his failing of logic across the whole thing it is this:
so long as you’re willing to fight, you can never truly lose
Let’s just consider that for a moment. According to Trotter you never lose as long as you fight. By that logic the Germans never really lost the first (or the second) world war, the indigenous populations of South-America, the Congo and Aotearoa didn’t lose because they put up a good fight.
I’d be interested to know if Trotter believes the US didn’t really lose in Vietnam.
Is anyone else seeing the problem with this proposition?
As difficult as it may be for a middle-class moralist like Trotter to understand, winning actually requires winning. Good unionists know that. If you engage in a dispute and lose you don’t just lose the dispute you lose the majority of the members involved. Knowing you were morally right doesn’t feed them or their families. And it doesn’t strengthen the position of the next generation of workers on that site.
That’s why comments like this are so absurd:
Because the example you provide for the generations to come of resistance to injustice, and self-sacrifice in a noble cause, is always in and of itself a triumph of the human spirit.
That’s a perspective better suited to some 50’s religious epic than an industrial dispute.
In my time I’ve seen a lot of industrial disputes and I’ve seen a few go wrong (thankfully not many). From that experience I can tell you that when you unpack Trotter’s “human spirit” statement what you find he is actually saying is working people should sacrifice their livelihoods, their homes and, often, their marriages in order to prove a political point.
I don’t know many workers stupid enough to do that. Would Chris?