The Tory party meltdown over the past few weeks has been an edifying sight. Not since John Major’s ill-fated premiership in the 1990s have the Conservatives in power been so divided. And the funniest part is that they have largely brought it on themselves.
George Osborne’s budget lies in tatters following work and pensions minister Iain Duncan Smith’s shock resignation and the subsequent scrapping of plans to cut disability benefits, as Ellen Clifford spells out in this issue. This followed retreats on the “tampon tax” and tax credits.
We can learn from this firstly that protest has a real effect. Secondly, it reminds us that the question of Britain’s membership of the EU is toxic for the Tories. Europe brings out the underlying divisions within the cabinet and the wider party. Joseph Choonara examines the EU debate as it has developed on page 10.
Crucially, our side has now begun to shift in response. For the past couple of years we have analysed the shape of the working class movement in Britain as one which has seen numerous — and often successful — localised strikes and disputes. The year-long National Gallery strike was one such example.
Now serious talk of national action is back on the agenda. This is partly due to the Tories overreaching with their attacks on public services. The righteous anger of groups such as junior doctors, who were not previously considered part of the workers’ movement, has inspired others. The BMA has escalated its action and junior doctors will be striking without emergency cover at the end of April.
And teachers are now joining the struggle. Osborne’s announcement of forced academisation of all schools in England has pushed the National Union of Teachers to call for national strike action, with a ballot expected to begin next month. This followed the fantastic protests held by thousands of teachers and supporters around the country after Osborne’s announcement. A highlight of the London rally was a junior doctor calling for united action between the two groups.
The “Corbyn effect” which Socialist Review has recognised since his election to Labour leadership last September is clearly still operating. A sense that new things are possible permeates the movement. And when we can smell Tory blood — albeit largely self-inflicted so far — this feeling is magnified.
Now is the time to push back against the Tories while they are weak and divided. The junior doctors and the teachers have recognised this and are acting accordingly. It’s time for everyone else to recognise it too.
When we take a Europe-wide view, the importance of our side waging a collective struggle against the real enemies — the bosses and their enablers in government — becomes clear. As our German comrades warn, the far-right can grow out of dissatisfaction with the establishment if racism is allowed to divide the working class.
Let’s ensure our movement is able to show a better way forward.
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