2 FEBRUARY 1974, Page 1

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to disaster

The decision of the executive of the National Union of Mineworkers not merely to hold a pithead ballot on the subject of the desirability of strike action, but enthusiastically to recommend — often in tones of the most blatantly aggressive sentiment — this course to their members gives yet another twist to the grim spiral of our national crisis. And when Mr McGahey openly repeats his earlier revolutionary call to the workers to bring down the Prime Minister by main force — doing so as a known, fervent and determined member of the Communist Party — we may begin to feel that Britain is on a Chilean brink. It matters not what one's view of the Government's conduct is when matters reach such a pass.

The Spectator has consistently opposed, not merely Phase 3 of Mr Heath's incomes policy, but that policy as a whole, believing it to be unjust and unworkable. We have also consistently argued that more efforts should be made to meet the miners, particularly by paying them for winding-time and for their ablutionary periods. Nonetheless, the truth of the situation before the ballot forms were sent out was that the miners' pressure on the economy and the Government had already reached such a pitch that economic deprivation threatened every worker in the country, especially when that particular industrial dispute was considered in connection with our other difficulties. It could not be said, at that stage, that the miners would certainly, with patience, have won what they wanted, but they were very likely to do so, either in the near or in the ? medium future. In spite of all that they have • gone recklessly ahead with a call, not merely for a strike by their own members, but for a general strike. Mr Jack Jones is to be congratulated for his statesmanship in rejecting this call, at least for the moment. But the question must be asked — what if there is a general strike? And what if the Government tested the national will then — ministers could hardly be said to be irresponsible in doing so if they found the country to be ungovernable — and found it solidly behind them? Would Mr Gormley and Mr Daly then go along with what would undoubtedly be Mr McGahey's recommendation to carry conflict with established parliamentary authority to the point of revolution?

These are hard questions to ask, and difficult things to say. That they have to be asked or said at all is the consequence of the years of Muddle in our national affairs; of the years of attempts to introduce silly incomes policies; of the years of inflation and deflation equally Unskilfully administered; and of the years in Which governments of all parties allowed the unions to attain to their present position of monopolistic privilege in the national economy. But all that will be judged water under the bridge in the face of a revolutionary Challenge by a single union, and the people will tally round whoever seems to them to „_rePresent some kind of order. Thus Mr mcGahey and his allies, if they are not actually hell-bent at this moment on overthrowing the constitution, seem determined at the very least t° Punish their fellow workers all over the Country by deliberately inviting an unnecessary escalation in their conflict with the Government. There can be no allowances, either for such conduct or for such rhetoric. And the only consolation in a desperate and darkening situation is that no one can now deny that the Communists in the trade union Movement have at last revealed themselves for What they are.