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Editorial of the Socialist
Workers can show their power in 30 November strike
Behind all the events being covered in the media at the moment, looms the massive 30 November strike (N30) to defend public sector pensions. Such is the potential size of N30 - up to three million workers, bigger than the first day of the 1926 general strike - that the phrase 'the elephant in the room' has never seemed so apt.
Certainly, the logistical effort alone being put in by the unions to ensure that the biggest postal ballot in British industrial history takes place is mammoth.
The Socialist Party welcomes all the current and future protests that draw attention to the Con-Dems' cuts package and help build the opposition to it. We've played a key role in assisting the organisation of the Jarrow to London 'March for Jobs' which has grown into an important vehicle for opposing the attacks on young people.
The march has received huge support, particularly from trade union branches and members as it has made its way down the country. We appeal to all trade unionists, workers, young people and all who oppose the cuts to join the closing rally of this excellent march on 5 November. See page 12 for details.
Also, alongside the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) and Youth Fight for Jobs, the Socialist Party has given support to the 'Occupy London' protest camp outside St Paul's cathedral. We defend the right to protest and campaign and oppose moves to evict the demonstrators.
Two weeks ago, some of the protesting construction electricians staged an impromptu march from their Blackfriars protest to St Paul's, instinctively realising the need for solidarity with those opposing the naked rule of the bankers. The electricians' rank-and-file committee is looking to coordinate its national demonstration on 9 November with that of the students on the same day.
Our message in all these events has been consistent. The organised working class is potentially the most powerful force in society. All those fighting the cuts should come in behind the unions taking strike action on 30 November. We call for mass demonstrations to be organised in every city and major town to provide a means by which those not in the striking unions can show their support for the action and opposition to the cuts.
The prospect of hundreds of thousands of union members on the march will be a powerful pole of attraction to all those opposed to the cuts and also to the many victims of Cameron, Clegg and Osborne's vicious assault on our class and particularly the most vulnerable sections of society.
The public support for the Southampton council strike has been consistently over 70% because those on the receiving end of the cuts, the vast majority in society, have been delighted to see at least someone fighting for them.
This is particularly the case as there is a cross-party parliamentary consensus that the cuts are necessary, even if New Labour thinks they are 'too far too fast'!
While Labour leader Ed Miliband opposes the strike a poll by the Metro free paper found that 68% of Labour supporters are in favour of the strike. This shows how big the groundswell can be on and after N30 when the potential power of the unions is shown to everyone in society.
It is this force of the organised working class that is the main threat to the best-laid plans of the Con-Dems and those in Tory, Lib Dem and Labour led councils who swing the cuts axe. However, to be fully effective N30 must be part of a fighting strategy and not just a 'parade'.
No doubt, the likes of TUC leader Barber and Unison general secretary Prentis have an 'acceptable' deal in mind which they may hope can delay the N30 strike or make it a one-off. The Unison leaders may be hoping that a big vote for strike action in the ballot which ends this week can force the government to give concessions or just promise 'meaningful' talks to justify pulling out of N30.
We don't take lightly the dilemmas facing the unions, such as with the FBU firefighters' union that has concluded that there is enough on the table not to ballot. We think that the FBU should join the action (see 'The 30 November strike and the Fire Brigades Union' but agree with them that the decision of the TUC and others to begin scheme specific talks has confused the situation and potentially weakened attempts to create a united front.
However, a strike of millions of workers terrifies the right-wing union leaders, precisely because it threatens their control over this great dispute. The reality of millions on strike, with picket lines, rallies and demonstrations in every town and city can bring home to workers how powerful they are when they act collectively.
It is then far more difficult for the leaders to argue that given the impact, the action must stop or that the next course of action must be to step it down to regional, local or selective strikes.
The Socialist Party is flexible on the tactics needed to take the struggle forward. But for us, in order to avoid the mood to fight dissipating, any other action must be to supplement continued coordinated national action.
We welcome any discussion on the precise nature of this escalation, for example, whether there should be a 48-hour strike to follow N30 or another 24-hour stoppage. But the principle has to be of maintaining and extending the united front of unions acting together on a national basis.