In a sign of the growing anti-cuts movement, more than 1,000 people attended the Coalition of Resistance conference in central London last Saturday.
Andrew Burgin, one of the conference organisers, summed up the mood when he told the opening rally, “The students have opened up a path for us all—let’s follow them.”
Left wing Labour MP John McDonnell called for workers to take mass action alongside students on the day parliament votes on tuition fee rises. He also suggested a campaign of direct action against tax evading companies.
And he had a message to the TUC: “It’s time to play your role. We need co‑ordinated industrial action. We need generalised strike action.”
Newly elected Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey, also spoke.
He said he would tell the union’s area activist committees to link up with local anti-cuts groups.
Mark Serwotka, leader of the PCS civil service union, spoke of “sickening attacks on the welfare state” and the drive to divide those in work from those out of work.
“But the justice of our arguments is not enough,” he said. “We have to force them to change direction.
“Strikes are inevitable. Mass strikes are the best way.”
Eileen Short, from Defend Council Housing, spoke about the “devastating threat to millions of tenants” from government plans for housing.
She echoed an argument many speakers made that the Tories and Lib Dems had no mandate—which can boost confidence to fight.
Other speakers included Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport workers’ union, Tony Benn, Jean Lambert, Green Party MEP, and socialist film-maker Ken Loach.
Chris Bambery, secretary of the Right to Work campaign, electrified the audience at the final plenary.
He said, “This is the biggest attack on us in living memory. We need to build a grassroots movement everywhere to fight the cuts.”
He called for workers to gather outside workplaces in support of students.
“We need to build the TUC demo,” he said. “But if we have one or two million on 26 March, the next step is for us all to strike together—a general strike.” Chris stressed the need for unity and said that no one group can declare itself the leadership of the anti-cuts movement: “We all need to work together.”
Right to Work forum, “How can we unite to stop the cuts” Sunday 5 December, 11am, NUJ Head Office, Headland House, 308 Grays Inn Road, London, WC1X 8DP (Kings Cross tube). £3 waged, £1 unwaged. Places have to be booked in advance. Email [email protected] or phone 07986 085162 to book