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It pays to use militant tactics

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Issue 1723

What we think

It pays to use militant tactics

“THE 4.5 billion proof of the power of protest.”

Even newspapers like the Daily Express admitted that protests work after Gordon Brown’s pre-budget statement last week. The only reason that the government offered pensioners or the road hauliers anything at all was because both groups took to the streets. Pensioners did not get anywhere near enough from Brown. He refused to restore the link between pensions and earnings. But if pensioners had not marched, lobbied and created an outcry over last year’s miserly 75 pence a week rise, they wouldn’t have got any extra money from New Labour.

The government has bought off the fuel protesters, whose demonstration this week was much smaller than expected. But it was the blockades and protests in September that forced the government to attempt to be seen to do something for motorists and small hauliers.

The real beneficiaries though were the big hauliers and supermarkets (see page 7). Protests work! The only way to make the government do anything is to take to the streets-to march, strike, occupy, blockade.

That message should be taken up by working class people everywhere to fight for our needs. It should be taken up by the student nurses who protested against poverty pay this week, and by the students who are marching against tuition fees. It should be taken up by the tens of thousands of Scottish council workers who were set to strike this Thursday. Ford workers in east London who are meeting to discuss strikes need militant action to stop the threat to thousands of jobs. We need more direct action like that of Hackney council workers and the hundreds of others who blockaded roads last week in protest at devastating cuts.

But, like the millions of pensioners who remain furious at the government, we shouldn’t be satisfied with half-hearted compromises from New Labour. We need to widen and deepen the protests, involving as many people and winning as much solidarity as possible. The bigger and more militant the action is, the more the government will be forced to concede.

“The message from the pre-budget report is that whoever shouts the loudest gets the most,” one trade union official was quoted as saying last week. Yet so far union leaders have barely uttered a whisper against the government. It’s about time they started shouting from the rooftops and calling for the kind of mass protests that will force the government to meet our demands.

Student nurses use direct action

ANGRY STUDENT nurses from several hospitals protested in London on Tuesday. They briefly blocked the road outside the Department of Health. The student nurses are outraged at having to live on a pitiful bursary that works out at 2.60 an hour. They are also furious that many of their homes are being sold off to private developers. Amber Sutton from St Andrew’s in east London told Socialist Worker, “None of us are prepared to put up with this any more. Why should accommodation for nurses be sold off for luxury flats? No wonder there is a shortage of nurses in the NHS.”

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