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.