Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/716/14449
What we think
A strategy to stop austerity and bring down the government of the super-rich
The Con-Dem coalition is Increasingly showing its weakness. Calls for an inquiry into whether Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt broke ministerial codes brings the Murdochgate scandal to the doors of Downing Street. By a margin of two to one people think the government is incompetent, a recent poll found.
Figures show that two years into the coalition's brutal austerity the economy is still 4.3% smaller than in 2008. The trade union, anti-cuts and youth movement urgently requires a strategy to fight all the cuts and defeat this government of the rich.
While workers will be delighted that there is strike action to defend pensions on 10 May (M10) there will also be concern that the strike will be smaller than the magnificent two-million strong strike on 30 November (N30).
The Socialist Party fought for the strike on N30 as a starting point of a mass campaign of industrial action to defeat the government. We argued for the next step to be a second 24-hour public sector general strike in January - also reaching out to the private sector.
The strikes on pensions in Unilever, on wages in Stagecoach and of course victoriously against the Besna by the 'Sparks' construction electricians, show that further coordination beyond the public sector was entirely possible. It would have terrified the Con-Dems and their big business backers and opened up the rifts between the Tories and Lib Dems.
However, as it quickly became clear, government ministers weren't the only ones nervously contemplating the prospect of a New Year of a mobilised trade union movement determined to maintain and step up the action.
The right-wing union leaders, led by Unison and the GMB and supported by the TUC leadership, were anxious to put the struggle into deep freeze by signing up to the government's 'Heads of Agreement' that would still mean working longer and paying more to get less.
While the right-wing leaders were attempting to dismantle the N30 coalition, unions such as the PCS have been working painstakingly to regroup those unions willing to take further action.
Unfortunately, while NUT took action in London instead of nationally along with UCU on 28 March, the prevarication of the leadership has proved to be a trend, firstly at their conference over Easter and then at their executive meeting. Not only will NUT not be taking part on M10, their involvement in further action in June appears in question. Incredibly, the NUT executive is planning a meeting on M10, when thousands of strikers will be on the march!
But teachers are showing their anger and mood for action - on 28 March London teachers overwhelmingly demanded national coordinated strikes over pensions. But teachers are also taking action on a local basis against academisation, bullying, imposed changes, etc.
The rank-and-file Local Associations conference in Liverpool on 16 June (sse below) and the NSSN annual conference in London a week earlier will be important opportunities for teachers and others to organise the demand for action.
The question is can the struggle develop? A meeting of the public sector unions in the TUC public service liaison group or, if the TUC won't host it, under separate auspices is urgent.
The rejection of the government's 'deal' and support for sustained industrial action in Unison health, albeit by 50% to 49% on a turnout of 14% is, nonetheless, an incredible result and a brilliant achievement for union activists (see report on page 4).
The Unison leadership will try to point to the margin and turnout but the ballot was loaded against rejection. It is likely now that GMB members in health will also reject the government 'deal' as recommended by the leadership and both unions should be involved in action on 10 May or at least in June.
This should be broadened out to involve workers in the local government scheme. The leaderships of Unison, Unite and GMB have claimed some concessions. It is true that the government has delayed the increased contributions until 2014 for various reasons - but they are still coming. It is far better to strike together now against a weak, divided and crisis-ridden government and win a famous victory.
Alongside working out the way forward on the industrial front, to defeat the government requires a plan for the political front too. Otherwise when workers go from the picket line to the ballot box they will be forced to choose between the main parties behind the cuts and privatisation they are fighting. Trade unionists need a political voice.
Labour does not provide any real opposition to government cuts, even carrying them through in the councils they control. A new mass workers' party is urgently needed.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition stand in the 3 May elections was a step in this direction (see page 5), backed by leading trade unionists such as Bob Crow, RMT general secretary and others. Leading members of the FBU, RMT, PCS, and NUT and other unions stood as candidates, gaining huge support from those who learned of the campaign, given the press blackout.
The government and the bosses should fear the re-igniting of this action, coming as it does as the cuts drive more and more ordinary people to take up campaigns against cuts to public services, such as, libraries and children's centres; to demand jobs and housing; and to defend benefits and rights.
These actions will lead millions of workers and youth to not just challenge the cuts but the whole austerity project and the capitalist system that demands it. Instead of accepting austerity demanded by the bankers and bondholders the ideas of genuine democratic socialist planning to meet the needs of the overwhelming majority will be increasingly attractive.
On 9 May the Queen's speech will bring the latest round of cuts into law. But the poll tax was made law by Thatcher - only to be made unworkable by a mass campaign organising 18 million people in non-payment. This eventually led to Thatcher's downfall. Let's make sure the action on 10 May is the start of a sustained campaign to stop the cuts and bring down this government of the rich for the rich.
Important NUT meeting
After the decision of the NUT national executive not to call action in June an important meeting of NUT branches (Associations) has been called.
- Local Associations for National Action - Organise for a confirmed calendar of action. Saturday 16 June 11am - 3.30pm, Quaker Meeting House, 22 School Lane, Liverpool L13
For more information: http://electmartin1.blogspot.com/
In The Socialist 2 May 2012:
Fighting the government attacks
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party workplace news
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition feature
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis
Environment and socialism