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J. Peter Burgess

This chapter develops the relation between the experience of extraordinary events such as terrorist attacks and the sense we make of them. Returning to the notion of disenchantment developed in the book’s Introduction, the chapter tries to articulate what an experience of terrorism is and how we are changed by it. It revisits the foundations of what we call experience and asks under what conditions it can be surpassed. The chapter turns to a key experience of the unthinkable in the experience of mourning, before asking to what extent violence in general is implicit in the neoliberal forms of thought that organise our everyday lives, and the links to excess and extremism that they imply. The chapter further deepens the concept of ‘the unthinkable’. It develops the notion of the unthinkable in the direction of aesthetic experience, itself linked to recently developed theories of affect. Insecurity, it is argued, is linked to an experience of senses, which exceeds in vital ways the experience captured by rationality.

in Security after the unthinkable
J. Peter Burgess

This chapter studies what has been called the ‘alternative 22/7 Commission’ report. The report, commissioned and curated by the Ministry of Justice and Police, analysed the 22/7 attacks through a different lens, with different premises and different operational expectations. The chapter studies in particular the concept of societal security ‘work’, central to the practical perspective of the ministry. It shows that, whereas the expected output of the report prioritises functional and operational solutions, the sources for that output build on significantly more cultural and social depth than that of the 22/7 Commission report. The chapter explores the report’s mobilisation of the conceptual pair ‘prevention’ and ‘preparedness’ widely used in risk and crisis literature. It argues that the distinction between the two core ideas is not simply one of different phases of relating to risk but rather of different ways of existing in relation to them. The chapter follows this insight into the conventional discussion of what operational cooperation across different societal sectors and agencies can and should be. It opens a discussion on the societal complexity of the risk and the limits of understanding and governing risk as a national system. The chapter concludes with an in-depth analysis of what is understood as risk to ‘critical infrastructure’, asking what constitutes the critical or indispensable in this critical infrastructure.

in Security after the unthinkable
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The framework
Gregor Gall

As this study is both biographical and sociological, issues of social class and power, material interests and ideologies are necessarily examined, through the prism of Mick Lynch and the RMT. To do so, the study draws on insights from research in industrial relations, sociology and political science. This chapter lays these out by setting out the analytical framework and intellectual perspective for the study; the two primary parts explain how Lynch developed to the point where he became eligible to be a working-class hero and then the process by which he became a working-class hero. The first is about what was necessary to become a working-class hero without being sufficient, and the second covers what was sufficient to become a working-class hero after securing what was necessary. In both, ‘accidents of history’ played their part. From here, other layers of the analytical framework are established: the three components of power, material interests and ideology; the ‘frames of reference’; what are termed the four ‘P’s – persona, politics, period and potential power; and the six functions of leadership. The chapter then begins to operationalise these different layers of analytical framework by discussing the issue of how ‘power to’ (disrupt) can be turned into ‘power over’ (bargaining opponents).

in Mick Lynch
Gregor Gall

A year before Mick Lynch experienced his next baptism of fire at the hands of the media during the ‘hot strike summer’, he was elected RMT General Secretary. So this chapter covers Lynch’s election and his first year in office before the maelstrom of media attention was unleashed with the national rail strikes of 2022–23. Lynch showed himself to be confident in his own abilities within the RMT, especially as General Secretary. It was obvious he felt that he had leadership abilities that others did not possess, and these leadership abilities were essential in order to make a critical contribution to achieving the union’s bargaining objectives and to run the RMT as an efficient and effective organisation.

in Mick Lynch
Abstract only
Gregor Gall

This final chapter examines the phenomenon of the widespread perception of Lynch as a working-class hero in terms of the criteria laid out in Chapter 2. This study has shown that context was ‘king’. In the process and timing by which Lynch became RMT General Secretary, quite a few pieces of the jigsaw might not necessarily have fallen into place: the resignation of his predecessor provided the opportunity for Lynch to become RMT General Secretary at a time of the biggest proposed onslaught on the RMT’s rail membership’s terms and conditions of employment; had Labour been led by Corbyn rather than Starmer, Lynch would have not scaled the heights of public recognition and importance that he did; and the RMT was the first union into battle with national strike action against the cost-of-living crisis. But Lynch showed himself to be a very able public political operator. The phenomenon of Lynch as a working-class hero was used to open up crucial issues about power, material interests and ideology for unions and the working class in Britain. The crux was to consider transforming the ‘power to’ (disrupt) into ‘power over’ (bargaining opponents). Given this, the chapter asks how credible is a working-class hero who does not win their bargaining demands; for how long can an individual be a working-class hero without winning their bargaining demands; and how credible is a working-class hero that is only seen to have the courage and determination to ‘fight the good fight’ without winning something?

in Mick Lynch
Abstract only
Gregor Gall

This first chapter introduces the figure of RMT union General Secretary, Mick Lynch, as a newly emerged ‘working-class hero’. This came as a result of a handful of media interviews in the early summer of 2022 in which he not only articulated his members’ case but also batted back attacks from right-wing interviewers and provided a critique of contemporary capitalism in Britain. The Introduction lays out the rationale for this examination of Lynch in terms of being both a celebration and critique of him. It concludes by setting out the chapter-by-chapter structure of the book.

in Mick Lynch
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The making of a working-class hero
Author:

In the summer of 2022, the little-known leader of a small union became a 'working-class hero'. Facing down media pundits who thought they could walk all over him, he offered a robust critique of the government and provided workers with an authentic voice. This union leader was Mick Lynch. At a time when the Labour Party was unable to articulate a credible alternative to the Tories, Mick Lynch spoke for the working class. Where did Lynch come from? How did he develop the skills and traits that make him such an effective spokesperson and leader? This book, the first biography of Lynch, explores his family and social background and his rise to the top of the RMT union, which culminated in election as General Secretary in 2021. Considering his persona and politics as well as the particular political period and the potential power of his union members, this book asks what qualities singled out Lynch as a working-class hero compared to other union leaders and, more broadly, what leadership means for working people and for the left. The analysis is constructed around the troika of power, material interests and ideology within the neo-liberal phase of capitalism in Britain.

Gregor Gall

This chapter analyses the two national rail disputes and the undercurrents running beneath them concerning union power and union membership participation. It starts by recounting the unfolding of the disputes. It then goes on to look at the strike strategy, the nature of the strikes and the bearing of public opinion on them, the regulation of industrial action and industrial relations, and extra-workplace campaigning. Finally, it considers issue of internal union democracy and membership participation. The problematic of turning ‘power to’ into ‘power over’ is the thread that runs through all of these. What also emerges is that Lynch revealed himself to have authoritarian and autocratic aspects to his leadership which found a parallel with his political world view.

in Mick Lynch
Reform and revolution
Gregor Gall

Media interest in Mick Lynch during the rail strikes allowed him ample opportunity to articulate his wider world view to a mass audience. This chapter looks at its various components and how they related to the strikes, wider political change and the notion of a working-class hero, especially concerning Labour and a general strike. This begins with looking at his analysis of capitalism. As will become clear, Lynch was a radical reformer of a reformist, social democratic – and not revolutionary socialist – bent. So Lynch did not envisage a world without capital and capitalism, for he believes social democracy is the hope for humankind. In his own words, he is a ‘pragmatic … reformist’. However, his moderate radicalism took on an added significance on account of his ability to articulate it and the attention he was given due to the rail strikes in a peculiar period of political instability where the right became more rampant and reactionary. These are among the factors that produced the phenomenon of Lynch as a working-class hero. Based, as this was, more on words than deeds, he was a powerful propagandist. And despite his unsuccessful search for political representation via Labour, for many Lynch’s world view remained no less compelling for that.

in Mick Lynch
Gregor Gall

This chapter first considers Mick Lynch’s formative years, covering his recollections of his family background, childhood and young adulthood. What comes through strongly are the combined influences of his parents and the Irish Catholic community his family lived in for helping to shape his social democratic values and beliefs. The chapter then looks at his life from the mid-1980s to the late 2000s, when he was blacklisted in the construction industry for his growing union activity and so looked for work elsewhere. This led to him starting work at Eurostar in 1993, where he joined the RMT.

in Mick Lynch