THE SUMMER months are shaping up to be very different from the political 'silly season' that's usually inflicted on us. The strike of 1.2 million council workers against low pay called for next week is a major challenge to New Labour.
Strikes may not yet be at the level of a 'Summer of Discontent'. But everyone who wants something better for working people faces a summer of opportunity. These are just some of the things happening:
- Tube workers this week voted by nine to one to strike against the impact of privatisation. Union reps and the union executive were meeting as Socialist Worker went to press to discuss action on that vote.
- Members of the AEEU section of Amicus have been voting for the general secretary of the whole union. The election was set to finish at the end of this week. Pro-Blair union leaders were worried about the unexpected levels of support for left wing candidate Derek Simpson.
- The battle to defend the elected general secretary of the 280,000-strong civil servants' union, socialist Mark Serwotka, is raging.
- One in four of Britain's firefighters and control staff marched last month in support of their pay campaign. Their union is set to hold a special conference in September to ballot for strike action if the government and employers do not meet the claim.
- The general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, under pressure from his own members, has promised a ballot in September for strikes over allowances for working in London.
- Lecturers and other workers in colleges and universities have rejected insulting pay offers and want their unions to call strikes next term.
Strikes and victories over pay and privatisation are not guaranteed. Union leaders are quite capable of settling for minor concessions or worse in order not to embarrass the New Labour government. But the pressure from ordinary workers for resistance is growing. So is the demand for united action across the unions and between workers in different industries.
Every socialist, activist and trade unionist can make a difference. A council strike next Wednesday would mean dozens of picket lines in each of over 500 local authorities. They would be within sight of fire stations, schools, colleges, rail depots, post offices, factories and other workplaces where people share anger over pay, privatisation and arrogant managers.
Other groups of workers visiting council workers' picket lines and rallies will strengthen the confidence of everyone to stand up for themselves. It can build the networks of solidarity at the bottom of the unions that can push the union leaders to act.
Those links can be forged whether the planned strikes take place or not. In many workplaces large numbers of Amicus members have voted against pro-partnership, pro-Blair policies. The same mood exists everywhere, among younger workers and experienced activists. It's time to seize every opportunity to deepen, unite and organise it.
WELL OVER 1,000 people packed into the opening rally of Marxism 2002. They heard speeches from Alain Krivine of the Revolutionary Communist League in France, Vittorio Agnoletto from the Genoa Social Forum, writer and campaigner Susan George, and Socialist Workers Party member Alex Callinicos. The highlight of the rally was Haidi Giuliani.
Haidi is the mother of Carlo Giuliani, the protester killed by Italian police at the Genoa G8 protests last July. The rally kicked off a week of lively, exciting political debates and discussions. Thousands of people attended, representing all kinds of different ideas and organisations.
People came not only from Britain and Europe, but from the US, Zimbabwe and Argentina, for a really international discussion about how to take the movement against capital and war, and for socialism, forward.
Let's really rock against the Nazis
EVERYONE ALSO has a chance to hit back at the Nazi British National Party this summer. A 'Love Music-Hate Racism' carnival has been called by the Anti Nazi League in Burnley for Saturday 31 August. Burnley in north west England is where the BNP managed to con its way into getting three councillors in May.
It's also, as in the rest of Britain, a town where the majority of people don't want to see black and white people divided by racism. Union conferences representing seven million workers have rounded on the BNP this year and called for action against it.
Campaigners in Burnley and the north west of England have been systematically organising to expose the Nazis' lies. Now everyone can do something to help them by building support for the carnival. The event needs money. Do a collection to raise funds for the carnival.
People at your workplace, college or where you live will be happy to donate. So will union branches and community organisations. A big turnout from across Britain in Burnley on 31 August will send a powerful message that we will not allow fascists and the far right to poison our communities.
Union, Labour and community leaders have called for a united response to the Nazi threat. Here's a chance for everyone to come together and do just that.
Love Music Hate Racism
CARNIVAL IN BURNLEY
SATURDAY 31 AUGUST TOWNELEY PARK
BANDS * HIP-HOP * DJS * BHANGRA
Organised by the Anti Nazi League PHONE 020 7924 0333 E-MAIL [email protected] WEB WWW.ANL.ORG.UK