Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 20 April 2016

Review: 'On the Track' by Bill Mullins

A demonstration of the role of a Marxist in the workplace

Toolworkers mass meeting at British Leyland Longbridge in 1977

Toolworkers mass meeting at British Leyland Longbridge in 1977   (Click to enlarge)

Dave Gorton, Unite shop steward

There were 612 strikes recorded at British Leyland's Cowley plant in 1969 - workers today will be as amazed at that figure as the bosses were horrified by it then.

The years that signalled the end of the post-war boom brought with them increased struggles for better wages and the improvement of working conditions. This was seen clearly in the British car industry.

On The Track is one man's recollection of that turbulent period. Bill Mullins was no ordinary shop steward; he went on to become a Midlands organiser for the Socialist Party, then Militant, and then its national trade union organiser.

I had the privilege of working closely with Bill for many years and not once did he try and tell me: "this is the only way to do it". A generation of Marxists was taken under his wing and we learnt how to build our own confidence and earn trust in the workplace. No book can do this.

But Bill's memories in this short volume are still valuable - they demonstrate the role of a Marxist in the workplace - bold but adaptable, able to listen but not scared to talk and an ability to see 'the bigger picture'.


How many times have we seen disputes fail because the leaders have either been too timid or too rigid? How often have stewards been picked off by management because they allowed themselves to become isolated?

The 1970s saw the British trade union movement at its peak - 13 million workers organised by the end of the decade - a figure, with the huge decimation of manufacturing in Britain, that is unlikely to be surpassed. But it would be completely wrong to write off trade unionism and struggle just because car manufacturing, mining and steel production has been exported by capitalism to cheaper shores.

Workers will always be forced to struggle while huge inequality exists between those who own the wealth and those who create it.

A campaign by unions that sought to explain how capitalism works to exploit workers, rather than hide it, and then a fight to tackle that exploitation could boost recruitment by millions.

If all unions sought to organise, say, workers on zero-hour contracts by promising action, then real gains could be won.

Margaret Thatcher's guru, Keith Joseph, wrote at the end of the 1970s: "We are now seeing militants increasingly taking over control from union officials".

It was militants like Bill he was referring to. We owe them a debt of gratitude. Read this memoir, use it to learn the lessons from the past, adapt them to 21st century Britain and build the forces of socialism that will transform the everyday lives of ordinary working people.

On the track

On The Track by Bill Mullins

On The Track by Bill Mullins   (Click to enlarge)

An account of trade union struggles at British Leyland in the 1970s by Bill Mullins (former TGWU shop steward)

7 including postage

Available from Left Books,

PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD

020 8988 8789

[email protected]

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • We must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 20 April 2016:

What we think

Strike together to kick out the Tories!

Socialist Party news and analysis

Clock ticking on UK steel: it's time to act!

Cops bid to hide spy trial

Treasury boss attacks call to nationalise Tata

Free runs threatened

Them & Us

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Pent Valley students strike against closure

2,000 lay siege to A&E cutbacks consultation

Day of action against poverty pay: 10 now!

Elections 2016

Why I'm standing

Increasing anger at cuts boosts Grimsby campaign

TUSC objects to Liverpool political censorship

EU referendum

Jeremy Corbyn's EU u-turn

EU: bosses pick 'safe' reactionary out voice

Socialist Party feature

The socialist case for nationalisation

Socialist history

Ireland: 100 years since the 1916 Easter rising

Chernobyl nuclear disaster - 30 years on

Workplace news and analysis

Huge profits for BT and Royal Mail, cuts and attacks for workers

Stop supermarket bosses making us pay for their mistakes

PCS national elections: vote for Democracy Alliance

Review: 'On the Track' by Bill Mullins

Workplace news in brief

International socialist news and analysis

International news in brief


Home   |   The Socialist 20 April 2016   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:

Car industry:

triangleNationalise Ford to prevent closure

triangleUnions must fight and demand nationalisation to save thousands of car industry jobs

triangleCar workers strike at BMW in defence of pensions

triangleCourt slams Tory air quality plans

triangleThem & Us


triangleTV review: Valley of the Tears

triangleJohn Barnes on class and capitalism. What's missing?

triangleTV review The Riots 2011: One Week in August

triangleTV review Maid


triangleHackney & Islington Socialist Party: Defend the right to protest

triangleSouth west London Socialist Party: The role of a Marxist in the workplace

triangleBook: The national question - a Marxist approach


triangleNHS workers - vote yes for action to win a decent pay rise

triangleBulb bailed out, nationalise energy to solve price crisis


triangleNapo ballots for trade dispute, but members need strategy for industrial action

Trade union:

triangleAn appeal to trade union members to stand as anti-cuts candidates


triangleNottingham and Mansfield trade unions rally against cuts and for better pay


triangleIndia's health system in meltdown under Modi's misrule


triangleUnfinished business


triangleObituary - Tony Davison: "I work for Militant, but Laing's pay my wages"

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments



TV review: Valley of the Tears



What did you think of Socialism 2021?



Obituary: Ted Austin (1940-2021) - working-class socialist stalwart



Readers' opinion



John Barnes on class and capitalism. What's missing?



TV review Maid



TV review The Riots 2011: One Week in August



I'm unemployed: For me vacancy crisis is a lie



TV review: Squid Game



Newcastle United takeover - no to billionaire Ashley or Saudi despots



Ridley Road: An engaging story of fighting fascism



Readers' comments



Obituary - Dave Hardaker, 1952-2021



Caffeine and capitalism - a symbiotic relationship



TV Review - Help: Heart-wrenching portrayal of Covid care home crisis

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 077 7221 5281

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793



Alphabetical listing

December 2021

November 2021

October 2021

September 2021

August 2021

July 2021

June 2021

May 2021

April 2021

March 2021

February 2021

January 2021