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What we think
Massive anger must be organised into coordinated trade union action
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development estimates that Con-Dem government cuts will result in 725,000 public sector workers' jobs disappearing, with 900,000 to go in the private sector. There has to be an all-union national response to the attacks if they are to be defeated. The PCS union has been to the fore in calling for united action.
On Monday 8 November the public services liaison group (PSLG, a subcommittee of the TUC) met. As reported, the PCS proposed that, because attacks are taking place throughout the country, then the unions should do something now in the build-up to the agreed national demo on 26 March 2011.
Attacks on youth are already causing mass unemployment and the PCS argued energetically for a national demo before the end of the year against cuts and youth unemployment, in line with the resolution adopted at the TUC conference in September.
However, despite support from left-led unions, the PCS met a brick wall at the PSLG meeting. PCS will now consult on the best date for an early demo as a step towards mobilising the whole movement for the March demo.
The civil service alone is facing tens of thousands of job cuts already and cannot wait any longer for some sign of opposition from the TUC. They will be mobilising their members whatever the TUC does or doesn't do, including a national demo at the earliest possible date.
At the meeting of the TUC, the NUT, the POA and other left unions supported this proposal, but the reply of the majority right-wing on the PSLG was 'we already have a worked-out strategy laid out and it would not be practical for the TUC to do anything nationally before Christmas'. Brendan Barber also complained of reading "TUC - get off your knees" placards. This of course does not rule out regional demos as was pointed out by the TUC at the meeting.
The unions are at a crossroads in Britain. Massive anger is manifest throughout the public sector; in particular Cameron's insistence that "we are all in it together" is increasingly looking threadbare. As the bulk of the population, and not just the organised working class in the trade unions, look at where the cuts are falling they say to themselves: "this will affect me and my family".
Speaking for the middle class, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote in the Independent that: "we must resist... the coalition is fragile... anyone for a national demonstration?"
The TUC is formally committed to organising joint industrial action to defeat the cuts. Workers are waiting for a lead but won't wait forever.
The other left unions must be prepared to take the lead from the PCS and prepare to step into the breach left by the do-nothing right-wing dominated TUC.
A trade union-led national demonstration before March 2011, when thousands of jobs will be gone, would give confidence to the millions who face vicious attacks on their living standards - in the form of pay cuts, job cuts, pension cuts, service cuts and benefit cuts - that there is the potential for a mass movement to be built against these cuts.
But a demo would have to be the first step in the battle. The unions must take a cue from the struggles in Europe and urgently begin to coordinate ballots so a one-day public sector strike can take place at the earliest possible date, with further action planned to follow so the bosses can see a determined programme of action will make their cuts unworkable.
We are not all in it together. And working class people certainly did not cause the crisis and must not be forced to pay for it. Despite the rotten roles of bankers and big business bosses, this is not a crisis caused by a few individuals, but one of the capitalist system itself. To ensure that future generations do not have to fight at every step to defend their conditions from parasitic bosses, it is necessary that the struggle against cuts is also a struggle for socialism.
In The Socialist 11 November 2010:
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party review