Socialist Worker

After the march step up the fight

Issue No. 1690

What we think

After the march step up the fight

TONY BLAIR arrogantly lectured other European leaders in Portugal last weekend. He suggested they should get in line, follow his example, and surrender even more power to big business. To show his good faith he agreed with the German government to drop any criticism of BMW for murdering thousands of Rover jobs.

While Blair praises "enterprise, innovation and competition", and insists that "liberalisation is going to go on", the businessmen who lap up such rhetoric are threatening to devastate the Midlands.

The last week has been a turning point for many people. Never again will they feel secure in their job. A crazy market system is bringing more job losses, more poverty, more suffering and more despair. Fortunately thousands of people who know their lives will be torn apart if the Rover job cuts go ahead are not ready to surrender to the bosses. Many others support their fight.

Even right wing Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle, who resigned as defence minister in January, reflected something of that mood when, on Monday, he accused the government of betraying working people. He was one of the first MPs to back Blair for leader of the Labour Party six years ago. Now he says, "My constituents often feel they are being chastised for being unemployed. I don't recall the Good Samaritan telling the thieves' victim that he was the author of his own misfortunes."

No one should doubt that workers have the power to shake governments. Chancellor Gordon Brown found extra funds for the NHS in the budget last week. It is still far from enough. But we would have got much less if there had not been marches and protests about the lack of health spending. For an even stronger example, look across the Channel to France. Weeks of strikes and protests forced prime minister Lionel Jospin to sack two of his most right wing, pro-business ministers on Monday.

The trade union leaders in Britain called the Birmingham march. But they have not yet called the strikes, occupations and sustained protests which could force New Labour to nationalise Rover, seize BMW's assets in Britain and save jobs. Despite that, some workers are beginning to understand that such action is needed. Roy works in the paint and trim plant at Rover's Longbridge factory. He told Socialist Worker, "I have worked here for 20 years, but they are offering me only �5,000 redundancy. "My lathe is worth more than that. That's why we should occupy the plant."

That mood has to be built on and organised. There have been large protest marches in the past. Over a quarter of a million of us marched against pit closures in October 1992, only to be told by our union leaders at the end of the demonstration to go home and wait. They called no further action and the pits closed. We must fight to stop that being repeated. Our leaders are telling us to be loyal to a government that is not loyal to us. Increasing numbers of trade unionists, Labour Party members and community activists have had enough. It is time to fight-and fight to win. That is why we say occupy, strike, and make New Labour nationalise Rover.

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Article information

Sat 1 Apr 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1690
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