protests have started against the cuts. It’s a very positive sign that thousands of people took to the streets immediately, and many more will march this Saturday.
The Tories are gambling that workers will be paralysed by the scale of the assault. But we have to make sure that the response is anger—and action.
French workers and students—striking and marching in their millions, blockading the schools and factories, and ratcheting up the pressure on their right wing government—have given us a great example of what’s possible.
Some British trade union leaders are pointing to what needs to be done.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS civil service workers’ union, told protesters in London on Wednesday night: “If students and workers march in France, we can do it here as well.”
He rightly said that we also need industrial action, adding this must be coordinated across the unions.
Matt Wrack, leader of the FBU union, called for solidarity with the London firefighters’ strike this Saturday.
“Firefighters in London are on the frontline of Tory attacks,” he said.
And Bob Crow, head of the RMT rail union, also pointed to the example of France.
But this is not the argument of most trade union leaders. They have been too slow, and too unwilling to say it’s right to strike when you’re under attack.
Many union leaders point to the ballot box, not the streets or picket line, as the way to fight.
Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, expressed this view clearly.
He angrily attacked Osborne’s cuts, saying rightly, “After this review the broadest shoulders will still have the fattest wallets.”
But there was no talk of mass demonstrations and strikes to knock back the Tory offensive.
Instead Kenny says, “As this plan unfolds and its impact is felt… Tory/Liberal authors will find life increasingly difficult at the ballot box.”
Alan Johnson, Labour’s new shadow chancellor, was asked if he would support workers who strike against the cuts.
He replied, “No.”
This is a disgrace.
We can’t wait over four years to elect a government that may be committed to fewer cuts.
We need to build resistance to all the cuts, now (see box, left).
The magnificent resistance we have seen in Greece and now France against austerity didn’t happen overnight.
It was a process of using the official calls to action, however limited, to build confidence and then pushing to go much further.
It took activists demonstrating, resisting and striking, but also arguing for a fightback on the scale needed to create powerful national movements on the streets and picket lines.
Join us to be part of doing the same here.