Ahead of civil servants’ walkouts this week and the June 30th strike day, Steve Ryan writes on the Con-Dem offensive against the whole working class
Members of the PCS civil servants’ union throughout a number of departments are taking industrial action over a range of issues, all of which have one theme, and that is government cuts. Department for Work and Pensions and Equality and Human Rights Commission workers are to walk out over office closures, and HMRC tax workers over attacks on sick leave.
Also of course it is PCS that has been instrumental in pushing for co-ordinated action on June 30th.
Many on the left see this as something to be fully supported, and of course it is,. However the issues at stake are more complex and even more important than may at first appear.
Ostensibly the strikes etc are about the determination of the Con-Dem coalition to make the public sector pay for the recession. To a large degree this perception is true. Recent statements from ministers reveal perhaps a deeper concern. Cable threatens to ban strikes, Maude says sick pay and long-established leave concessions must go. Veiled threats have been made regarding the time given to union reps and indeed an increasing number of activist have been sacked for their union duties.
All of this has been excused as the government bringing the public sector into line with the private sector… and here of course is the key.
Public sector workers on average are not especially better off than their private sector comrades. They are though better unionised and organised , and have fiercely protected their terms and conditions, modest or not.
It is clear that aside from the cuts the aim of the Con-Dems is to take on the public sector unions à la the 1984 Miners strike. If they were to succeed then the floodgates would opened with terms and conditions for all workers stripped away.
Supporting public sector workers in their walk-out and on June 30th becomes even more important then , as a defence not just of jobs, pay etc. but of the labour movement as a whole.
Such an important task cannot be left to political parties and union bureaucrats , no matter how “left “ they seem. The history of the last three decades in particular from the miners strike on has been one of compromise and betrayal
As communists we need to ensure that the links are made between all workers, public and private. Similarly, that such links are made with communities, unemployed, students, pensioners, attacks on equality rights highlight the importance of links being made with women’s, LGBT disabled and black , Asian groups.
In short, in all communities class-based unity is needed, based on horizontal structures, strike committees, rank and file control of action. This is vital as already cracks are appearing in anti cuts groups as sectional and party political interest take over.
Finally, hard though it is, it really is time to pose the alternative of workers self management, libertarian communism and revolution not reform.