Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/634/10053
'Radical' cuts require serious action
Build national and local action
"Some people will be hit much harder by the VAT rise," cried the impassioned Tory councillor in Waltham Forest town hall. "Think of those who have to buy Bentleys," she continued!
Con-Dem cuts are definitely not hitting everyone equally. In fact we have never been so far from 'all in it together'. British Gas nearly doubled its profits this year. Almost 3,000 City workers 'earned' over £1 million last year. And us? If the government succeeds in its plans we face the loss of much of what makes life liveable.
'What can we do?' is the question on everyone's lips. But the Tory/Liberal government, and councils that carry through its cuts, should be warned that this questioning will soon give way to mass action.
Workers see reports of mass demonstrations and general strikes taking place across Europe, but in Britain the date for national action has not yet been called.
The civil servants' PCS union has a motion at the TUC congress demanding that the TUC call a national demo on Saturday 23 October.
The RMT transport union has also tabled a motion for the TUC congress calling for a coordinated trade union and community fightback.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "Our defence must be built on generalised strike action and community resistance in the biggest public mobilisation since the anti-poll tax movement."
That we face an assassination attempt on all the gains of the working class since the Second World War is blindingly obvious.
But the TUC has, as yet, not called a national demonstration. No wonder PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh, speaking at a recent National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) event in London in a personal capacity, asked if members of the TUC general council had suffered childhood traumas on a demo to make them so averse to the idea.
Leading members of the Unison public sector workers' union have claimed that there is no mood among ordinary members for a demo.
They are wrong. If they made a serious call and organised a determined campaign of meetings, local and regional rallies, using every method of communication possible to spread the word, hundreds of thousands, if not more, could be mobilised.
A national trade union-led demonstration would do more than give people a chance to express their anger and opposition to the cuts, important though that is.
Hundreds of thousands of trade union members, young people, workers, service users and community campaigners marching together through London would build the confidence that the government's plans can be defeated.
Such an event would make tangible the idea of organising a one-day public sector strike, a crucial next stage of the campaign.
Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, outlined how far the TUC leadership is prepared to go. At the last general council meeting he called for a 'week of action' to coincide with the government's comprehensive spending review on Wednesday 20 October, with regional rallies and days of action.
But this will not suffice. The National Shop Stewards Network has called for a lobby of the TUC congress on Sunday 12 September with the aim of applying pressure so the TUC names a date for a national demo.
This is our opportunity to answer the naysayers and to show the real anger that exists and requires an organised outlet.
In every area, despite the holidays, plans must be put in place, transport booked and trade unionists and campaigners mobilised for the lobby.
Even if the TUC refuses to respond to our pressure in September there is potential for the regional rallies during the week of action in October, with the active and determined intervention of trade unionists and socialists, to be turned into major events which step up the campaign for a national demo.
Coalition of the willing
However, if the TUC continues to postpone calling a national demo to spring 2011, at a certain stage the task must be taken on by a 'coalition of the willing' trade unions such as the PCS and RMT.
But the trade union leaders must be warned: their inertia will not contain the growing rage indefinitely.
The working class will move with or without them. However, without a positive lead being given there is potential for the anger to be misdirected. Rioting could be seized upon by a layer of young people if a strategy based on mass organised action is not forthcoming.
National, coordinated action is the only antidote to attempts to create divisions among workers that will then be played on in an attempt to weaken our movement - divisions such as between the public and the private sector, between young and older workers, divisions based on race, gender, sexuality and ability.
To defeat the cuts requires the mass participation of the working class. National demonstrations and events will be crucial. However, action on the ground in every town and city, building solidarity and support networks that can respond to both council cuts and the local implementation of national cuts, is also essential.
The campaign that was organised through the anti-poll tax unions, successfully defeating the hated tax and bringing down Thatcher, is a useful model.
This was a campaign that, just over 20 years ago, started out with small meetings of activists. But, through a clear strategy based on mass involvement of the working class, it grew to an 18 million-strong movement of mass non-payment.
The boiling anger and frustration that many now feel makes such united and bold action necessary.
In a number of areas, trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists are already coming together to provide a lead locally.
This is in the form of initiating anti-cuts unions and alliances.
Some of these new bodies have been initiated by trade union branches, or by trades councils, NSSN activists or Socialist Party groups.
They are open forums that provide a vehicle through which public sector workers, service users, benefit claimants, young people, campaigners and all who oppose the cuts can come together, and they are based on taking action to halt the cuts.
In the course of the battle there may be defeats, but our starting point has to be that we oppose all cuts to the jobs and services of working and middle class people.
Any other approach implies that some cuts are acceptable. There is a call from some on the left, such as the Socialist Workers Party, to involve Labour Party councillors and members in these campaigns.
The Socialist Party's approach is that we must work with anyone and everyone who is serious about defeating the cuts.
However, we also call on Labour councillors to vote 'no' to cuts. We pledge our support to those who take this difficult but essential route, the route of the socialists in Liverpool council in the 1980s.
We also call on left Labour MPs to give their support to councils who defy the millionaire government cabinet and set 'needs' budgets to defend jobs and public services.
Labour, or even Liberal politicians, who do this will be welcomed with open arms into anti-cuts unions.
But if they wish to only condemn the Con-Dem cuts while carrying them through or arguing for them to be merely postponed until the economy is in a better state, they will not be welcome.
For example, housing workers and tenants will not happily sit side by side with those responsible for their redundancy or eviction.
The present absence of a mass workers' party, with elected representatives, means that, in the main, the argument against cuts in jobs and public services is not made in the capitalist media.
This is a crisis caused by the banks' and the bosses' greed - but it is fundamentally a crisis of the capitalist system.
Our struggle must involve discussion about alternative ways of running society, about socialist ideas.
In The Socialist 4 August 2010:
War and occupation
Workplace news and analysis
Youth fight for jobs
Environment and socialism
Socialist Party LGBT
Socialist Party events
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Review & Comment