DIVIDE AND rule is a key weapon in the bosses’ armoury. We must not let them use it in their battle to impose cuts.
In the 1970s the Tories produced the Ridley Plan. It set out how to beat trade unions in key battles in order to drive down wages and shift power away from organised labour.
Its central element was to isolate strikes by taking on groups of workers one at a time and to cut off support for them. Despite a number of titanic battles—which could have been won if the union leaders had better tactics—their plan worked. They even beat the miners.
However, the Tories lost when they attacked everyone together, as they did by introducing the poll tax.
Today across Europe governments are again attacking workers. They want to repeat the success of the Ridley Plan, and avoid the fate of the poll tax.
If Brown or Cameron have a strategic agenda, it might read, “Beat the civil service workers today, squeeze local government next, mop up the postal workers and then do the difficult ones like health workers and firefighters.”
The way to prevent such methods succeeding is to unite from the start. That’s why everyone has to support the PCS strikes, and as many unions as possible need to strike with them.
Instead of advancing its own programme of cuts, Unite should have scheduled a British Airways strike at the same time as the PCS.
Every college which has balloted should be out on the day of the next PCS strike. So should rail workers.
Every cuts protest or mass meeting should invite a PCS member to speak and actively build solidarity.
Every student protest should link to workers’ struggle—and workers should support student fights.
The strikes should be built politically, contrasting the money for the bankers with cuts in services.
Every trade unionist needs to know that up to £130 billion could be collected from the rich and big firms if more civil service workers were employed. Everyone needs to know the pickets at the jobcentres are the frontline troops in a bigger battle to defend key services for all.
All of this is possible.
The Trade Union Coordinating Group pledged last week to co-ordinate industrial action against the cuts. Unions represented included PCS, RMT, POA, FBU and Napo.
RMT leader Bob Crow said trade unionists in Britain should be encouraged by the general strikes in Greece and Portugal. And speaking of forthcoming strikes at Network Rail against cuts he said, “We’re not mucking about—we are looking at potentially five or six days on the trot. We might not be popular with the press but that’s life.”
That’s the right attitude. TUC leaders should be building unity, but they are damping down disputes rather than extending them.
It falls to rank and file workers and groups like the Right to Work campaign to attempt to fill the gap.
A victory for civil service workers now would be a boost for our side in the struggles that are coming after the election, whoever gets elected.
All together to win!