Socialist Worker

How can we fan the flames of resistance against the effects of recession?

by Chris Bambery
Issue No. 2136

This is a time of contrasts. On the one hand there is anger on the streets and campuses over Israel’s attack on Gaza. On the other a lack of struggle against the huge level of job cuts hitting workers in Britain.

Many union leaders claim that workers will not fight at a time of recession. They hang onto Gordon Brown’s coat tails in the desperate hope that he can somehow deflect the worst effects of the crisis.

Their argument rests on translating the events of the 1980s into 2009. This ignores the resistance that took place then, and it is a misreading of the situation today.

In the 1980s Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan used unemployment as a club to beat the trade unions with. But Barack Obama, Gordon Brown or even David Cameron are not the equivalent of those two class warriors.

There is no faith left in the neoliberal policies that were brought in during the 1980s. Rather there is panic within the ruling class as talk of Britain facing bankruptcy grows.

They are worried about how people will respond to this crisis. The next European Union summit will discuss unrest across the continent.

Because of the union leaders’ attitude, it is unlikely that Britain will see, in the short term, big national strikes. Yet it would be a mistake to say that there is nothing that can be done to stop the cost of the recession being loaded onto workers.

It is essential that workers fight back against the attacks. Opposition to cuts can rally many people behind it.

In Glasgow, the Labour run council is planning to close 25 primary schools and nurseries. The main teaching union is arguing it will accept these closures if there are no compulsory redundancies.

But that did not stop parents and pupils holding a lively demonstration last week. Activists are now intent on building a grassroots campaign that can draw in teachers.

Where union leaders give a lead, as for instance the CWU union has done in calling a national march against post privatisation, socialists should build on that.

Where they do not organise such initiatives, we have to mobilise locally, at both rank and file and community levels.

Across Britain we need to build networks of resistance. That starts with action such as organising workplace collections for the people of Gaza or meetings against job cuts, as journalists at the Financial Times did last week.

Resistance will grow. In the medium term, local fights can come together to create a national response. Resistance can coalesce around a group of workers who take action over a closure or other issues.

Any such fight would get a tidal wave of support from those in the trade unions and those who have marched and occupied over Gaza.

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Tue 27 Jan 2009, 18:47 GMT
Issue No. 2136
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