The Socialist 25 May 2011
Unite to stop the cuts
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Firefighters discuss strategy to fight cuts
Hugh Caffrey, North West Socialist Party
Seventy delegates to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) conference attended the official fringe meeting about how to fight the cuts.
On the panel was Dave Nellist for the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN), speakers from Right to Work and Coalition of Resistance, FBU activist Steve Roberts who stood for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in Rugby, and Matt Wrack FBU general secretary.
Dave Nellist contrasted the fury of millions at the Con-Dems' cuts with the insipid opposition from the benches of New Labour.
In the 1980s, explained Dave, Labour councils at least initially opposed the Thatcher government before they all bowed the knee - except for Liverpool and Lambeth. But now the unions are faced with fighting cuts with no real parliamentary support.
"We can defeat the Con-Dems' plans through widespread, coordinated strike action, which should include a 24-hour public sector general strike," Dave said. "But the question of course is, what follows after we get rid of them? We need trade union policies, socialist policies, of opposition to all cuts and privatisation and we need a vehicle like TUSC which can address that issue too."
Steve Roberts explained how he and other TUSC supporters brought together "a strong spectrum of left candidates" on behalf of TUSC in Rugby.
Matt Wrack outlined the battles facing the FBU and all public sector unions. Matt explained the need for coordinated industrial action on a scale capable of defeating the Con-Dems' attacks.
The FBU still has socialism as an objective of the union's constitution, said Matt, and a socialist political solution is necessary.
A range of comments and questions from the floor reflected the frustration of many workers at the employers' offensive, including falling wages, not yet being matched by a mass national anti-cuts movement or a sufficiently powerful political alternative.
Dave, Steve and Matt in their replies indicated the urgent need to strengthen the industrial and political struggle against the neoliberal parties' agenda and for a socialist working class political alternative.
The NSSN and the TUSC can make a powerful contribution to these battles.
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