Workers will fight austerity

Rob Williams, NSSN national chair, replied to an article “The British have no fight in them any more” by Nick Cohen in the 9 December Observer.

Nick Cohen would have us believe that working people’s resistance is next to non-existent in the face of the Con-Dem austerity offensive. Nick wasn’t the first with this pessimistic view.

In November 2010, on the eve of Osborne’s first Autumn Statement, setting out an initial cuts target of £81 billion, Jeremy Paxman asked then TUC leader Brendan Barber: “Why aren’t British workers like those in Europe?” Paxman contrasted the TUC’s modest 3,000-strong rally that day with the mass protests and strikes raging across Europe.

However, between that Autumn Statement and now, we’ve seen the greatest mobilisation of working class and middle class people for decades.

On 26 March 2011, well over half a million marched on arguably the largest union-led demonstration in this country’s history.

On 30 November last year we saw possibly the biggest single day of strike action since the 1926 general strike as public sector workers took action to defend their pensions.

That day could and should have been the beginning of the type of concerted and coordinated industrial action that could have forced the government to retreat on pensions as they’ve u-turned over 40 times – from culling badgers to the pasty tax.

But because the cuts have been unrelenting, millions of workers still see the need for the unions to strike together to stop the austerity programme destroying our lives.

On 11 December, the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) is lobbying the TUC general council to call on the union leaders to name the date for a national strike of workers across the public and private sectors – effectively a 24-hour general strike. The NSSN believes that such joint action would be hugely popular and well supported.

Strikes, that are almost a daily occurrence but rarely reported by the media, from the victorious construction electricians early this year to the Tesco delivery drivers who are currently on all-out strike in Doncaster, show that willingness to fight is absolutely present among workers in this country.

The PCS union has announced a strike ballot early next year; we call on other unions to join them to build a 24-hour general strike.

Rob Williams,