NEU union members voted overwhelmingly to support strikes over pay and school funding.
In my area, Ealing in west London, the turnout of 63 percent was the highest in the country.
Overall the turnout was 31.4 percent. So what was different?
Some things put us at an advantage. Over the years we have built up a high membership density and a high density of reps in schools.
I’m divisional secretary of the union in Ealing and have slightly better facility time than some in other areas.
It’s quicker for me to visit more schools than for someone in a rural area.
These things do help. But the thing that made a difference is what I said to teachers.
I visited over 60 schools out of 80-odd across Ealing and argued that this is a good time to strike. The Tories are in disarray and can be beaten.
I asked why so many nurses earn half the wage of Tube drivers? Do they do a less important job?
Someone would always respond that it’s because the RMT transport union is militant and has strikes.
And I would say, exactly.
I said low pay and poor services are two sides of the same coin—fighting over pay helps protect services.
I explained that if we strike it won’t be a protest strike—we need to do it properly. It prompted discussion. People asked how much money they might lose through striking and I’d tell them.
I said that I couldn’t promise victory if we stand and fight, but I can say what defeat will look like. It will be more of what we’ve got now but much worse. And that’s why parents back us.
In schools with no rep, the thing that really worked was phoning the head teacher. It’s their job to balance the books but they are opposed to cuts.
There’s a mood to fight and it’s possible to tap into it.
Don’t unite with the right wing
I wanted to respond to the letter asking if we can bridge the “left-right” gap to challenge the establishment (Letters, 23 January).
The letter was right to say that the same bitterness that exists in France that we’ve seen with the Yellow Vests exists over here too.
It was right to say that the people in charge don’t care about us.
And it was right to say that we can build a mass movement to challenge austerity.
It’s also right to say that lots of people who voted Brexit weren’t doing so because they are racist.
They were expressing the bitterness that years of austerity has led to.
But I disagree that we should be uniting with the right, racists or Nazis.
To win we have to work together.
And we have to organise in a way that makes us strongest.
That means black and white, immigrant and not, working together.
Right wingers and racists want to exclude black people, migrants, women and LGBT+ people.
If we include them we could even exclude trade unionists—racists in yellow vests attacked RMT union picket lines in Manchester recently.
Involving the right would mean ending up with a movement that is weakened.
It’s no basis for building the kind of movement that we need to win.
Upper class bigots get confused over targets
You round up scores of young, spoilt, arrogant teenage men from an exclusive, male-only, Catholic-only, fee-paying private school.
You provide them with appropriately bigoted attitudes and uniforms.
And you transport them 500 miles to the capital city to demonstrate against the basic rights of women.
They encounter an old man representing the original inhabitants of the country, who have long-standing, overwhelming grievances. He obviously represents a different culture. So they take up their aggressive, arrogant, superior stance to try and humiliate him and put him in his place.
That’s the problem with upper class bigotry.
You try to focus the contempt onto one group at a time.
But with 99 percent of the population to choose from, it will keep straying onto other targets.
Tory rows won’t be enough to beat them
The strategy taken by the Corbyn leadership is one of, “When your enemies are fighting each other, don’t interfere.”
I’m sure this strategy has been successful for many a campaign leader.
However, this approach misses the overall picture.
It is true that our enemies are at each other’s throats, but the cause of their antagonism is the European Union.
But there are two things the Tories and the ruling class are absolutely united on.
One is the continued exploitation and squeezing of the working class to maximise their profits.
The second is their determination, at any cost, to stop a Corbyn-led Labour Party taking office. Another well-used strategy used by many a successful leader says, “Strike your enemy while they are at their weakest.”
This is the attitude that Corbyn and the trade union movement must now adopt.
Failure to hit our enemy while they are weak will allow them to regroup and subject us to continued Tory misrule.
Now is the time to strike our foes and strike hard. Their defeat is not inevitable.
Good reasons for prohibition
Alistair Farrow’s article about prohibition (Socialist Worker,16 January) omitted to discuss why so many women supported and campaigned for it.
Was it not that many women thought restrictions would save them and their sisters from domestic violence regularly meted out by their drunken partners?
That is not to say prohibition was right, but some of its supporters and their intentions were much more progressive than the article portrays.
Why Tories fear Corbyn
Corbyn does want Brexit but a Brexit that works for workers. Tories fear Jeremy in power because he is against wars and austerity.
Media bias on Yellow Vests
Our media is showing very little of the Yellow Vests protests (Ten weeks that shook France, 23 January).
It’s as though our puppet media wants a blackout of these heroes.
Labour liars in Glasgow
Your report on the Glasgow equal pay strike seems to show what people can do when they are united (Socialist Worker, 23 January).
But where were the Labour-controlled unions the previous decade?
Glasgow city council under Labour spent £2.5 million fighting this claim.
Now they have the brass neck to claim their presure was instrumental in this settlement.
Resist racists’ rehabilitation
Eugenics was wrong morally and scientifically then and nothing has changed (Socialist Worker, 23 January).
Smash the Fash!