Steve Ryan shares his ideas for another wave of struggle.
Many Communists would traditionally have ignored the TUC congress this week.
However this one may prove of more interest. Debates will be had about pensions and jobs against a background of escalating industrial unrest as PCS, FBU, Teaching unions etc move to ballot for coordinated action. McCluskey for UNITE calls for civil disobedience. The TUC is actually backing the march at the Tory and Lib Dem conferences – even Barber is talking.
This is a real challenge to the libertarian-left.
This IS the biggest wave of strike action for decades, building on the March demo and June strike. Student activists are back and angry with the possibility of further action. The riots demonstrated that there is anger growing – albeit unfocused in many urban communities.
The cuts are biting hard. A recent food programme on radio 4, for example, illustrated how more and more people are relying on food parcels, but this time not in big cities, but in Cornwall, Stroud, and Pontypridd.
The NHS reforms will see it sold off. Pension age is to be 67, pay cuts and redundancy grow, and in the meantime the Coalition carries on regardless. Before the strikes the sabres rattle as they threaten curbs on public sector strikes.
As such the challenge is how to support the growing mood. There is little doubt that it must be. The coalition still rides high in opinion polls, and the response to the riots was shockingly reactionary. The cuts, if successful, will devastate communities, and crush the labour movement. The battle must be won.
On a base level then, communists must build for action in their unions, anti-cuts groups, and communities. The case must be argued to support the strikes and the demos.
However, the importance of this cannot be left to union leaders. Strike committees should be set up in all towns and cities. Rank-and-files need forming – the Spark group is a good example.
As communists we should also be arguing that a one day strike is not enough. We need hard rolling action and longer strikes, non payment of rents and fuel bills. We should target firms using casuals, as well as agencies, banks, and all who seek to make money out of the recession.
The demands of the unions are vague and reformist. It is clear that a small concession may well be seized as a victory. Retire at 66, not 67, or pay 2 percent, not 4 percent, etc.
Communists should be pushing to keep ALL current terms and conditions. Indeed we should be exposing the paucity and timidity of even the most “left” unions. As I have argued before, why ARE we working harder and longer? Surely we should be arguing for less working, more leisure, pay rises that allow people to live with dignity, with pensions and retirement earlier, not later!
These are no doubt transitional demands, fine, let’s counterpoise them, and get the arguments running.
Finally, the libertarian-left need to get out there. Too often we stand on the sidelines to mock, scoff etc. Now is not the time. We need to get our ideas for a new communist society out there, not just in theory, but in practice.
We need rank-and-files, strike committees, and community defence groups, all based on horizontal structures and consensus decision making whenever possible. Let’s create spaces like drop in centres, and advice groups, and link up trade unionists with pensioner and unemployed groups. All groups should be accountable with recallable delegates. Where possible run communal food and clothe shares, and allotments. You all know the score…
Finally the example of ALARM in London needs to be followed every where. We need to link up more. There is not a libertarian-left weekly paper or large national organization. Let’s build both.
3 thoughts on “thoughts for a militant autumn…”
We do need to break out of our political ghetto, so get involved at whatever level, with whoever, whenever you see opposition starting.
The most obvious fact to accept is that if this is to be a mass opposition it will be motivating people with less focused understanding of what’s going on. They will bring a more flexible, creative and hopefully more militant demands but many will also be starting from the general position that the Labour Party caused the crisis. You will have to counter this.
All parliamentry parties where working for the banks and finance industry. They all deregulated banks and financial controls, they all abandoned manufacturing, they all bought into the smaller welfare state lower tax dogma. Don’t even think of trying to apportion blame it is a system problem and all parliamentry politicians are trying to patch it up at our expense.
We should be optimistic, but we do need an objective assessment of what is happening. Instead we have this comment: “this is the biggest wave of strike action for decades” What is? so far there has been a national demo and a national one day strike by the unions. Thats it :so far. Not suprisingly this is why the question that has been around for some years still applies: are the Trade unions fit for purpose?
Thousands of public sector jobs and terms and conditions Have been lost and downgraded without a national fight back by unions with a million or more members. This is why cameron and his government are riding high in the opinion polls. Sabre rattling by the trade union Bureacracy cannot be taken at face value. The TUC leadership are already talking not about generalised strike action, but an alternative economic programme winning the policy or publicity battle for the next election.
Again the article seems to assume the anti cuts groups are fit for purpose. But most of these groups led by the SWP/SP are opposed to the necessary rank and file organisation. There must be no interference in individual trade union affairs. Militants must work through their official trade union structures are the politics we face in these campaigns.
The danger is that the rhetoric of a massive strike wave in october now put back to november as the negotiations over pensions is dragged out by government,will not be transformed into reality. This is because leaders like UNISONS Dave Prentice and others will accept a few crumbs of concessions.
wherever communists are present we should fight for maximum participation and militancy alongside our ideas of a communist alternative. But we do need to be clear about what we are up against
Adding to my previous comments. In todays Guardian the number of public sector jobs lost this year was I think 110,000. Unison and the GMB have failed to resist these cuts. At the TUC, the public sector unions have agreed or have the intention to have a one day strike, not in september or october when a head of steam or momentum could be built up, but the 30th of november shortly before christmas, where there will be no time or inclination or momentum, and then there will be further or rather the intention to have further token sorry more one day strikes.meanwhile there is no rank and file movement to challenge the trade union leaderships/bureacracy and unemployment has shot up dramatically. optimism of the will, pessimism of the intellegence? amalysis needed.
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