Socialist Worker

What a big strike means

Issue No. 1810

THE STRIKE meant more than a justified fight over low pay. In Northern Ireland, for example, Catholic and Protestant workers picketed together, united for a common cause. In Burnley, Oldham and other areas where Nazis and racists have been seeking to divide people, black, white and Asian workers struck together.

Everywhere the strike gave people a new sense of their energy and power when united. Big strikes cut through many of the myths and ideas pumped out by politicians and the media about how society works. When large numbers of workers strike together, suddenly it is obvious that the real divide in society is between a mass of ordinary people who do the work, and a tiny minority of bosses and managers.

Newspapers tell people the majority of us are comfortable and only a minority live in poverty. A big strike like last week's shows people the truth-that in every town in the country there are working people paid a pittance for doing vital jobs. The strike lays bare the real class divide in society. It also pushes workers to see their common interests, and can undermine the ideas that seek to divide people.

Black and white workers unite on the picket line. That can challenge people who have accepted racist ideas. Women workers on strike show they are as capable as any man of leading, organising and speaking. Workers gain confidence in their own power, as they see the impact a big strike has.

They can begin to see that they can organise themselves, opening the way to fundamental questions about the way society as a whole is organised. When strikers hear governments saying there is no money to pay them, yet there is money for war, that poses questions about the way the world is run. None of this happens automatically. But a big strike creates the conditions in which this can happen if workers argue and discuss with each other.

The impact of a single one-day strike is limited. But it gives a glimpse of what could happen in a big, sustained struggle. It is in such movements that socialists see the possibility of going beyond fighting for particular, much needed victories within existing society to a battle to transform society as a whole.

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