THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE (Longbridge 1971) Scraps of paper found in Shop Stewards Committee papers at Longbridge reporting on votes held in different shops on a proposed new wage structure.
Car factory democracy very rarely got a good press in the 1970s, as it was usually assumed that the militants were omnipotent tyrants. The reality was more complex. Social practices varied from factory to factory. While some factories preferred to take decision at huge mass meetings attended by 1000s, at Longbridge the preference was for workers to vote at small sectional meetings, then tot the results up at the end. This had its advantages, a smaller meeting meant more chance for questions and contributions from the floor, and stewards could tailor their recommendations to the particular group. On the other hand it did lack a bit of the symbolic value of ten thousand hands going up.
In this particular vote the Works Committee’s recommendation was passed, although as you can see a number of people felt confident enough to vote against it. In fact this was the second vote, the workers had turned down an earlier (less generous) offer and this was the second attempt to get their agreement.
It’s interesting to compare with this with democracy in modern workplaces and in modern trade unions. In how many workplaces would there be space for these sorts of discussions and meetings? To what extent to modern postal ballots prevent this sort of direct collective democracy?