Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of the Unite union, believes it’s better to abandon the working class to the pain of the Tory cuts than to fight back with strikes.
That’s the implication of what he told the BBC last weekend.
“The Conservatives would love me to say there will be a winter of discontent, as that would move the whole emphasis to union militancy and away from the cuts,” he said.
Perhaps Simpson believes the only way forward is to allow the cuts to devastate people’s lives and hope that Labour can then get back into office on the back of the anger it will cause.
Such complacent failure to contest the cuts would be disastrous.
Tory plans mean hundreds of thousands of job losses, destruction of vital services and the relentless march of the privateers into core areas of the public sector.
They mean shattered hopes—and can fuel a rise in racism.
The threat from the government is so great that even mainstream TUC leaders are now ready to see a demonstration against the attacks next March. But we need to start the fightback now.
Simpson went even further in his interview at the weekend and said we shouldn’t expect the type of militant union opposition seen in other parts of Europe to spending cuts.
“I don’t think that’s the nature of the British public—we don’t have the volatile nature of the French or the Greeks,” he said.
It’s not the British “nature” that’s the problem.
A history that includes chopping off a king’s head, the first general strike in history, going to the brink of revolution in 1919 and strikes that brought down a Tory government in the 1970s suggests that submissive passivity isn’t programmed into the British DNA.
The problem is that too many of our “leaders” spend longer demobilising the fightback rather than encouraging it.
Simpson hopes that he can block calls from unions including the PCS, FBU and RMT for a national protest and coordinated strikes centred on the government’s 20 October spending review.
Winning the argument against Simpson and his ilk needs a political campaign inside the working class—and action.
The strikers in “volatile” Greece had to overcome similar do-nothing arguments to the ones we hear here.
It took initiative from below to force first one union (the teachers) to say it would call a strike against cuts, and then pressure on other union leaders and political parties for a generalised fight.
The demonstration at the Tory conference on 3 October is important as a focus for all those who want to resist the government. It can also be a focus for a movement to win the argument against surrender.