Socialist Worker

Follow France, follow the firefighters: fight!

Issue No. 2225

Tens of thousands of people took part in demonstrations against the Tory cuts last week. The resistance has begun, and not a moment too soon.

The Tories’ spending review was a bitter assault on every worker. It was a calculated act of class war designed to reshape Britain in the interests of profit.

David Cameron said the cuts are inevitable—“It’s like a family’s credit card,” he said, “because the debt gets bigger the more you leave it.”

In fact, as RMT union leader Bob Crow said last weekend, it’s more like someone robbing your credit card, using it for a luxurious binge until it reaches the limit and then demanding you pay the bill!

The fightback has to escalate—now.

Last week union leaders queued up to denounce the Tory cuts. But you’d have searched in vain for more than a couple of calls for actual action.

We need local fightbacks and a national strategy.

Whenever the government or a council tries to slash jobs and services there needs to be resistance. The unions must fight, not just say how unfair it all is.

The biggest demonstration on Saturday was the one called by the Scottish TUC. It matters when labour movement leaders encourage a fightback. And whenever and wherever workers take action, everyone needs to get behind them.

That’s why the battles by firefighters, London Underground workers and others are so important. If one group can win, then others can too.

Every anti-cuts group should take heart from the victory this week over Trafford Tory council’s academy plan. We need many more such campaigns.

But we also need national action.

Big, unified anti-cuts protests of the sort we began to see on the day of the spending review and last weekend are crucial. And building the Right to Work campaign is a vital part of getting them.

Last weekend TUC general secretary Brendan Barber condemned the Tory cuts and said, “Let’s start campaigning and mobilising for our national demonstration in London on Saturday 26 March. Together let’s make that mobilisation the biggest, boldest and best event in our history.”

And certainly everyone must throw themselves into that protest.

But the model is the resistance we’ve seen in Greece and are now seeing in France. Over a period of months the French workers’ battle against attacks on pensions has gone from demonstrations to mass strikes, blockades, and unity between workers and school students.

If the union leaders use the potential to escalate further, the resistance could mortally wound president Sarkozy.

We need to push for a general strike here in Britain.

Some British trade union leaders have advised not taking any action until the cuts are unpopular.

That argument was always wrong, because even people who might be fooled into thinking cuts are necessary will fight over particular assaults.

But in any case the polls now demonstrate public opinion is against the cuts.

A YouGov poll for the Sun on the day after the spending review found 55 percent agreeing that “the government’s plans to cut public spending amount to a desperate gamble with people’s livelihoods”.

An ICM poll for the Guardian on Tuesday showed 48 percent of all voters say the cuts go too far, 36 percent think the balance is right and 8 percent want them to go further.

It’s time to fight, not surrender. Follow France! Follow the firefighters! Strike back now!


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What We Think
Tue 26 Oct 2010, 17:31 BST
Issue No. 2225
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