The grand leadership of Britain’s trade unions met last week against the background of the sharpest assault on the working class since the 1920s. They decided to do virtually nothing this year in response—because of “lack of time”.
Unions with more left wing leaderships, including the NUT and the CWU, backed a call from the PCS for a national demonstration on 23 October.
That’s the Saturday after 20 October, when slasher chancellor George Osborne will announce his spending review.
But the majority of general council delegates opposed the move.
It’s outrageous that these people believe that 12 weeks is not enough time, even for the TUC, to get a decent protest after the Tories announce the gutting of public services.
They weren’t discussing organising a general strike. They were discussing a demo, the most basic form of protest which even the most hesitant union leaders have endorsed across almost the entirety of the European continent.
The TUC decision is not a question about logistics. It’s about politics.
Some union leaders think it’s impossible to beat the Tories. Others would rather hide and hope to cut “compromise” deals. Both of those roads will lead to disaster.
The Tories don’t want compromise. They want to use the crisis to shift vast chunks of wealth from the working class to the rich, tear up public services, and entrench power among the ruling class.
Meanwhile, those at the top of some of Britain’s major unions are backing Ed Miliband for Labour leader.
The unions all have policy to repeal the anti‑union laws.
But Ed Miliband has openly said he will not campaign for this.
Union leaderships should be fighting the Tory cuts and demanding more from Labour.
But leadership is not just about what happens at the top of the unions. It’s also about the initiative and energy coming from the rank and file.
People can give leadership to those around them and put pressure on those at the top.
If the TUC won’t call action in October, then activists must do it themselves.
The UCU lecturers’ union in London has already signalled a protest in the capital on 20 October.
It should be possible to widen that with backing from other unions, anti-cuts groups, the Right to Work campaign and other bodies.
On 22 June, budget day, many cities saw protests that united broad forces. This needs to be repeated.
To its credit the Scottish TUC has already declared it will call an anti‑cuts demonstration on 23 October in Edinburgh. Now we all need to push for more TUC regions to follow that lead.
The lack of a TUC demonstration makes the demonstration at the Tory Party conference in Birmingham on 3 October even more important.
It stands out as the national event planned so far this year to focus the anger against the Tories.
Everyone must be a leader! Build the resistance!