NICOLA Sturgeon says she’s a lot calmer now thanks to HRT, which is welcome news. But she must be pure ragin’ over the RMT. After throwing money at Scottish train drivers to save newly-nationalised ScotRail from a summer of strikes, now she gets the biggest rail strike in 30 years, courtesy of their brothers in arms. Network Rail is sabotaging Natrail.

Ms Sturgeon is calling for Boris Johnson to sort it out, conveniently forgetting that she initially said the Scottish train drivers dispute was a matter for ScotRail. That was before she unleashed the power of the public purse. In public sector pay disputes the Government is invariably the loser of last resort.

The Rail Maritime Transport union has asked for 11 per cent, the RPI rate of inflation, though it seems it would settle for 7% and no redundancies. Other groups of public sector workers are queuing like delayed trains to strike for double-digit pay increases. Civil servants, teachers, local government workers, lawyers… lawyers? Since when have m’learned friends been part of the oppressed masses? Come to think of it, why were train drivers earning twice the average pay in Scotland regarded as tribunes of the dispossessed? It’s all about solidarity, we’re told.

Strikers, however well remunerated, are seen by right-thinking people as vanguards of working class struggle. High-earning loco drivers must be supported because they raise the pay of all workers. Except that they don’t – otherwise we’d all be on £56k a year.

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Train drivers are a privileged group who used their ability to disrupt a public service to coerce government into giving them more than they’re worth, often upwards of £60,000. This in an inefficient industry which only survives because of the subsidies paid by the very workers prevented from getting to work.

This is a nuance lost on the British left. “The workers united will never be defeated” they chanted on the picket lines yesterday. Left-wing Labour MPs are celebrating a return to the 1970s, though not their leader. Indeed, Sir Keir Starmer has banned shadow cabinet MPs appearing on the RMT picket lines.

His reticence is not hard to understand. The right to strike is an important human right. But Sir Keir knows that supporting unrealistic pay hikes for public sector workers antagonises all the other workers thus inconvenienced.

One of the many ironies of the rail strike is that company bosses and managers will be sitting it out in their jim-jams on Zoom. It’s the actual workers in factories, shops and offices who will not be able to get to their places of work.

The nationalist left cannot resist the romance of industrial unrest. The digital sans-culottes on Twitter are again hoping for the collapse of capitalism, as the British economy descends into industrial chaos. General strike! Smash the Tories!

Unfortunately, history suggests there is nothing better calculated to boost support for the Conservatives than a wave of public sector militancy during a cost of living crisis.

Public sector workers constitute around 20% of the workforce. The vast majority of workers, 80%, are in the private sector. That’s where capitalism actually happens and it’s where strikes rarely take place nowadays. Only 14% of private sector workers are members of trade unions.

Indeed, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, unions are now largely the property of white collar workers in the public sector: civil servants, local government workers, teachers and the like. That’s where the strike ballots are happening in this summer of discontent, not on shop floors and factory gates.

Public sector workers are not employed by capital, by private companies, but by other workers. Their pay comes from the taxes paid by the employees of capital.

The EIS General-Secretary, Larry Flanagan, gave the game away last week when he said that the Scottish Government should increase taxes to give teachers a 10% pay rise. That’s ultimately what Ms Sturgeon will have to do. Either that or slash services further.

Her recent Spending Review is supposed to freeze the public sector pay bill at 2022 levels. State employees already earn more on average than those privately employed, according to the Office of National Statistics, and their pay rose faster last year. Public sector workers often have generous pensions unavailable to the wage slaves of capitalism.

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In fact, many public sector employees aren’t really working class at all. They’ve just adopted the language and tactics of an age of industrial militancy which ended in the last century. It is a curious paradox that the discourse of class struggle has increasingly been appropriated by relatively well-off people like doctors, lawyers, civil servants and university lecturers.

Actually, post-modern Marxists like Jean Baudrillard forecast as much this 25 years ago in Simulacra and Simulation. A simulacrum is a kind of virtual world with little relation to social reality. The industrial working class now largely exists in the minds of left-wing intellectuals who populate the hyper-real world of social media.

Strikes retain a fatal attraction to radicals on on Twitter. Normally they regard the white working class as racist Brexiters. But as soon as a group of overpaid train drivers threaten to go on strike they lapse into proletarian romanticism. It’s back to oppressed workers with big muscles and firm jaws fighting the effete bosses.

The reality of modern capitalism is rather different. The great industrial workforces of the past – miners, steel workers, car-makers – no longer exist in the West because of globalisation and technological change. We live in a service economy where only 9% of GDP comes from manufacturing.

The working class heroes no longer exist, just as bosses no longer wear top hats. Indeed, late capitalism is dominated by Silicon Valley billionaires in T-shirts who own the social media sites on which the left conduct their imaginary class struggles. They don’t employ workers, just robots and highly-educated shareholders in tech hubs that look like theme parks.

Nineteenth century industries like the railways have no place in the world of Elon Musk and self-driving cars. Nor do militant unions, except as part of the heritage industry. The workers united will never be repeated.

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