Socialist Worker

We've marched together... now strike together!

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2326

Marching against cuts—workers show their power (Pic: http://www.guysmallman.com/Guy Smallman )

Marching against cuts—workers show their power (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The 200,000 people who marched in London last Saturday, and the thousands who demonstrated on the same day in Glasgow, are proof of the potential to defeat the Tories.

We face a divided, ramshackle government. We can win if we use all our strength. The question is what we do next.

First, 200,000 in London is a big march. It was as big as the demonstration in the capital in 1990 which played a decisive role in the defeat of the poll tax. And there was a very strong sense of class anger. This came out in the placards and the chants about “plebs”.

They were directed at former chief whip Andrew Mitchell, but also at the sense that the Tories are arrogant public schoolboys with a sneer on their lips. They’re not from our world, and we hate them.

And this sense of class anger also came out in the bitterness towards the tax avoider Starbucks—who received special police protection paid from our taxes because they have paid no tax.

This was a demonstration heavily centred on the organised working class. There were nearly as many union banners on the London march as on the bigger demonstration of 26 March 2011.

But it also drew in students, pensioners, unemployed people, disabled people, those who want action on climate change and many others.

People who are angry at the Tories want to see action. When PCS union leader Mark Serwotka, Unite leader Len McCluskey and RMT leader Bob Crow all called for some variant of a general strike, they received heavy applause.

Resounding

When McCluskey asked the crowd to vote on a general strike, the result was a resounding yes.

The idea of a general strike has become part of mainstream discussion in the trade unions. That does not mean it will happen—it will require immense pressure from below.

The argument for action needs to be raised in every workplace, every union branch, every campaign meeting. The union leaders and the TUC have to feel the pressure from below.

We know from the pensions dispute last year that even if there is a big strike, many union leaders will try to stifle struggle.

The magnificent strike of 30 November was followed by the shameful retreat of 19 December when several big unions signed up to the outline of a rotten deal.

So as we fight for a general strike, we also need to develop networks of activists. And the talk of coordinated action and a general strike cannot be a substitute for action in the here and now.

Some union leaders—including those who head Unison, Unite and the GMB—are suggesting that there might be big strikes next April. But it is far from guaranteed. And April is too late for too many services, too many jobs, too many people’s living standards.

We cannot delay the fight for our living standards, our NHS, our children’s futures and our rights. It has to start now. So we need solidarity with every struggle, even if it is a small strike or protest.

Europe

On 14 November millions of workers will strike across Europe as part of a continent-wide day of action. At the very least, union leaders should call protests here.

The PCS national executive is due to meet soon to discuss potential plans for action in parts of the civil service before Christmas. Other groups with a live strike ballot should back any action that is called.

On 5 December chancellor George Osborne delivers his autumn statement. We need protests and more. And on 21 November students will march. We need a big and militant demonstration.

The Unite the Resistance conference on 17 November fits this situation perfectly. If we are to turn the talk of action into reality then we need much more pressure on the officials and much more independent initiative.

The conference will be a forum for discussion, a place to spread solidarity and a chance to learn from struggle across the globe.

But crucially it will be where the fighters come together, organise and prepare to make a difference in the arguments taking place across the working class. Sign up yourself today and bring as many others along as well.

In the course of every fight we need to develop a political alternative to capitalism and to Labour. Ed Miliband was roundly booed in London on Saturday by a big section of the rally when he said Labour would ram through cuts if it were in office.

We need a stronger socialist spine to the resistance and a stronger Socialist Workers Party. We ask you to join us.

With fighters in every workplace and community, it is possible to win the argument that there is an alternative and a fight to be won.


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