The coalition is launching a wave of attacks on workers. This is not just about vicious cuts—it is also an attempt to reshape the whole of society in the interests of big business.
Next week MPs will vote on plans to privatise the Royal Mail.
A few days later the government is expected to publish its health bill that will see huge chunks of the NHS wrenched away from public control.
The assault is far deeper and quicker than that under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. But the coalition is far weaker than is often claimed. Over the holidays the Liberal Democrats continued to tear themselves apart after their betrayal over tuition fees.
They claimed to reporters posing as constituents that they were “waging war” on Rupert Murdoch and were jolly upset about the Tories. Then they got on with propping up the regime.
At some point Lib Dems who can see their support haemorraging away may step up the argument to break from the coalition.
Meanwhile, senior Tories are arguing over whether there have been too many concessions to the Lib Dems. Papers such as the Daily Mail worry that the Tory party might be about to commit suicide by agreeing an electoral pact with the Lib Dems.
These tensions matter because they weaken our enemies.
The crucial issue, however, is the fightback. The student revolt has demonstrated the depth of anger in Britain, and the way one set of protests can inspire others.
Students are pushing to restart the movement in 2011. That’s a key task, as is building workers’ resistance.
There are already some signs of a fightback at a local level, and potential for something much bigger.
Strike ballots are set to begin soon among lecturers in the UCU union. And the PCS civil service workers’ union is also moving towards national action over a broad range of issues.
On 20 January the executive of the NUT teachers’ union will decide whether to go ahead with plans for a ballot over pensions.
And even before the budget on 23 March, millions more public sector workers will learn the details of the government’s plans to savage pensions. That has to trigger coordinated strikes.
Union leaders have talked about it over Christmas. Now they must be forced to deliver. And the best form of resistance would be a general strike.
We cannot know the precise timetable, but there are already important dates for everyone’s diary:
- Saturday 29 January, demonstrations by students and workers in London and Manchester
- Saturday 5 February, demonstration against the racist EDL in Luton
- Saturday 12 February, the People’s Convention to build resistance to cuts and austerity hosted by the Right to Work campaign, the Labour Representation Committee and others
- Saturday 26 March, the TUC March for an Alternative
These have to be focuses for everyone to step up the speed of the fightback.