There is a new sense of fightback in the air. Workers’ anger at job cuts, planned factory closures, rotten pay deals and long working hours runs deep. In some areas it is beginning to bubble over. Last Saturday’s demonstration against General Motors shutting down the Vauxhall car plant in Luton showed that spirit.
Some 10,000 car workers, their families and other trade unionists held a determined march that took over the town centre. But the mood is not restricted to one town fighting for survival in the face of the closure of a key workplace.
Liverpool’s Daily Post newspaper ran a two-page spread on Friday of last week with the headline, ‘Are We Heading For A Winter Of Discontent?’
The article described a wave of industrial disputes across Merseyside-in the Post Office, at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant, and among workers in the Crown Prosecution Service, firefighters and engineering workers at Marconi Communications. ‘The weather may be freezing but across Merseyside the industrial relations temperature is rising as disputes develop,’ said the Daily Post.
The expected general election in May is not damping down people’s anger. It serves only to remind people that they were promised change for the better in 1997. Instead New Labour has continued the Tory worship of the free market and all the misery it brings for ordinary people. Workers are saying ‘enough is enough’, and the phrase has a new edge to it. This week alone:
Campaigners from around the country were to pour into London on Wednesday to demand the government ends its privatisation of council housing.
Vauxhall workers were set to strike on Thursday as part of a Europe-wide protest against General Motors’ jobs massacre.
The result of the strike ballot on London Underground was to be announced on Thursday. The ballot is against the threat to jobs, working conditions and safety that New Labour’s tube privatisation will bring.
This action is not alone. Royal Mail bosses continue to be hit by strike action, both official and unofficial, as workers resist attacks on their pay and conditions.
Dudley health workers are nearing 100 days of strike action against the privatisation of the NHS. The scandalous shortage of teachers is leading to protests and calls for action. And in local areas there is a buzz of activity by campaigns against cuts in services or protests at the effect of free market policies around the globe. It is not clear whether these sparks will turn into a generalised wave of resistance.
But every worker and local activist has a vital role to play in ensuring each spark ignites further struggle and protest. That means arguing for more strikes and demonstrations, and raising solidarity for every group of workers that takes action. It means encouraging links between all the various protest campaigns. The Globalise Resistance counter-conference tour beginning next week can act as a focus for this.
And it also means building a united left electoral opposition through the Socialist Alliances and Scottish Socialist Party to Blair’s neo-liberal policies that are wrecking all our lives.