“I’m reluctant to use the word impossible, we’re trade unionists afterall”

"Trades Union Congress"
“Trades Union Congress” (Photo credit: Toban Black)

I was discussing a number of options with a comrade the other day that would have enabled us working in a different way, hopefully a more effective way.  They would have required substantial and difficult changes though.  His response, quoted in the title above, got me thinking about our movement.  Often in life people take the easy route and avoid the options that look hard.  Often they use the word impossible to describe the difficult, to describe the struggle.

It seems to me that this is one of the things that sets us apart.  We call our cause, our existence and our aim a struggle.  It puts difficulty into context when you expect it as a result of your actions.  Whether you’re involved with negotiations with management in the workplace or organising activities within a union, the hitherto history of all your existing activities is likely to have involved failure, delay, derision or apathy. 

And yet we carry on.  We carry on because we expect toughness and we toughen up as a result.  Every set back is to be learned from, every failure is to be replaced with a success further down the line.  Successes are not rare of course.  We have many of those too but the sense of what some might call the general march of progress can feel very far off when working in an environment hostile to union work and where our members are facing major attacks on their pay, pensions and jobs.

Choosing the hard route can bring its own rewards.  It can help you view things in a different way.  It can also lead to greater success than taking the easy route.  Sometimes the other option is to simply stop but when we stop it is often in the hope that someone else will take up the reins on our behalf.  Who else is there?

We call our work a struggle because it’s hard but it isn’t hard in the sense of impossible.  It is hard in the sense that we need to get up tomorrow and start again no matter what progress we’ve made or whether we’ve suffered a set back.  In that way I’m very reluctant to use the word impossible.  We are trade unionists after all.


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