Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1008/27892

From The Socialist newspaper, 5 September 2018

Editorial of the Socialist, issue 1008

TUC congress 2018: unions must lead in fight to kick Tories out

On the May 2018 TUC demo, photo Paul Mattsson

On the May 2018 TUC demo, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

From 9 to 12 September, the trade unions will meet in Manchester to mark the 150th anniversary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC). No doubt the union leaders will revel in the history of the TUC and the wider labour and trade union movement.

But this congress has to contend with the urgent tasks facing workers and their unions - organisations which still represent what is potentially the most powerful force in society, with over six million members. Not least among the questions facing this congress is that of how the unions can mobilise a mass movement to push out the weak and divided Tory government.

The main lesson of trade unionism has always been that nothing has ever been gifted to workers by governments or the bosses. Everything has been fought for.

This was always the case in periods of relative economic development. But it is particularly true in times such as now, when crisis-ridden capitalism threatens all the past gains made by the working class.

Just yards from the conference centre is the scene of the Peterloo massacre, where workers demanding the right to vote were cut down by government forces. 2019 marks the massacre's double centenary.

But it is another, more recent anniversary that still casts a shadow. The 2008 economic crisis has ushered in a 'lost decade' for workers.

Living standards have been cut by an average of 10% in real terms. But compared to the trends of modest wage growth before the credit crunch, this in reality represents a 20% shortfall.

The brutal pay freeze in the public sector was added to by the attack on pensions in the first wave of the austerity offensive. The Tories looked to make workers pay more in and get less out, as well as to work longer before retirement! This laid the basis for what ultimately became a public sector general strike on 'N30' (30 November, 2011), when over two million workers took action.

N30: public sector workers went on strike on 30 November 2011, photo Senan

N30: public sector workers went on strike on 30 November 2011, photo Senan   (Click to enlarge)

The Socialist Party argued that the pensions struggle wasn't a 'normal' dispute where the occasional one-day strike could wrest some minor concessions from the bosses. Ending the battle after a single day's strike action emboldened the Tories, in coalition with the Lib Dems, to continue rolling out their vicious cuts programme.

But it could have been different. If that mass joint action had been escalated it could have forced Cameron and Osborne back - and even driven them out of office.

This strike, which saw massive mobilisations in virtually every town and city, gave a glimpse of the power workers have when they act collectively. But the right-wing union leaders have tried to airbrush this, and other examples of mass struggle, from the history of the movement.

General strike

The union for prison and secure psychiatric workers - the POA - moved a motion calling for a general strike to be considered at TUC congress in 2012, the year that followed both N30 and the mighty TUC demonstration of 750,000 workers. When the POA motion was discussed, one union leader tried to dismiss it by saying "we had a general strike once before and it didn't work."

These so-called leaders bear responsibility for failing to organise the mass fight against the Tories that was possible and necessary, both in 2011-12 and since then. They will point to the new Tory anti-union laws, including the undemocratic voting thresholds that meant civil service union PCS members couldn't take strike action against the 1% pay cap despite a yes vote of 86% in their ballot. But the TUC hardly lifted a finger to stop the implementation of the Trade Union Act - not even calling one national demonstration and refusing to enact TUC congress policy advocating a special conference to discuss resisting the laws.

May 2018's TUC demonstration of up to 30,000 was a fraction of what it could and should have been. At last year's congress the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) organised its rally around the demand for the TUC to call a national demo on pay to bring together workers from different areas of the public sector where a mood was developing for joint action against the pay cap. Such a march in the autumn could have been huge and would have been a platform for coordinated strike action, potentially on the scale of 2011.

Last year's congress passed a composite motion on the public sector pay cap unanimously. It called for "immediate steps to develop a coordinated strategy of opposition to the pay cap within the public sector" and, specifically, "a national demonstration in support of our demands". But the demo was not called until seven months later! This led to the isolation of each public sector group and most pay claims being settled. Delegates should hold these leaders to account this week.

There continues to be localised action every week, showing that workers are prepared to take action if a lead is given. However, the role of many of the union leaders has prevented generalised action, helping to create a political vacuum that can complicate the situation, especially when Corbyn is under relentless attack from the capitalist establishment and their Blairite agents.

This will be exacerbated if congress passes motions from transport union TSSA and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) that would, in effect, open the way for a second referendum on Brexit. This would be used by the Blairites and, unfortunately, some Corbynistas, to pile pressure on Corbyn to succumb to another referendum ahead of a showdown at Labour Party conference.

The motions from the Communications Workers Union and Unite the Union are better and should stand alone. These unions should resist pressure to composite with the TSSA and RCM whose motions are not fighting for a general election to bring down the Tories.

This is the best way to bring the labour and trade union movement together, to fight for a Brexit in the interests of workers - against the neoliberal policies of the Tories and the EU - and for the policies of public ownership contained in Corbyn's manifesto for last year's general election. This is the way to face down the Tories and the Blairites who want to close any political channels for workers. Most importantly, it's vital the unions mobilise their members now to lead the fight against the Tories.


Manchester: NSSN pre-TUC rally

National Shop Stewards Network

Sunday 9th September 2018, 1pm

Manchester Mechanics Institute conference centre, 103 Princess Street, Manchester M1 6DD

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 5 September 2018:


What we think

Unions must lead in fight to kick Tories out

Labour: Blairite wreckers must be given the boot

Theresa May's 'Chequers deal' mauled by Johnson and EU: fight for a socialist Brexit!


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Fight racism, fight capitalism!

Legal Costs Fund Appeal launched for former Derby TUSC election agent

Birmingham Socialist sales success

Obituary: Stan Herschel


Socialist Party news and analysis

Tory and Blairite racist policy is behind Windrush fatality

Self-harm soars among young: fight the mental health crisis

Them & Us

Capitalism in crisis: news in brief

What we heard


PCS union

PCS union: build the fight for a pay rise and against austerity - re-elect Chris Baugh

DWP: PCS union builds fightback on pay

PCS members in Land Registry demand 6% pay rise


International socialist news and analysis

Germany: violent attacks in Chemnitz - how can the far right be stopped?


Workplace news and analysis

Shop workers hungry for 10 an hour now and an end to zero-hour contracts

Guards continue fight against driver-only operation following Merseyrail victory

Higher education ballot: vote Yes and strike for pay and equality!

Housing workers walkout forces improved pay deal

Liebherr Sunderland strike continues


Opinion

A day in the life of a carer: "I am having trouble feeding my children on my wages"

The Socialist inbox

GDPR data laws: Punishing workers for human mistakes


 

Home   |   The Socialist 5 September 2018   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

TUC:

triangleCovid crisis boosts union membership but TUC leaders want to cosy up to the bosses!

triangleUnion independence must be maintained - a reply to the TUC

triangleLow Pay, Long Hours. Bosses rip us off. Organise the fightback now!

Unions:

triangleNSSN conference - 4th July

triangleSocialists call for trade unions to join the fight

triangleThe 'Lucas Plan'

triangleHull Trades Council debates workers' political representation

Union:

triangleEquity union president elections: re-elect Maureen

triangleChange in leadership needed to secure union's future

triangleBenefits system being used to force return to unsafe workplaces

General strike:

triangleBirmingham North Socialist Party: The General Strike and workers' power

triangleIndia: Bloody pogrom fuelled by Modi's sectarianism

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

1/7/20

Coronavirus

Tory full return to school plans gamble with lives

1/7/20

Trans rights

Yes to self-identity

1/7/20

Waste

Plastic waste ignored

1/7/20

Covid

Tories put profit before lives

1/7/20

NHS

A socialist NHS fit for heroes

1/7/20

Labour Party

Workers need a new mass party to defend their interests

1/7/20

Food

News in brief

1/7/20

Tory party

Capitalism and corruption go hand in hand

1/7/20

Government

Boris's new big deal

1/7/20

Benefits

Benefits system being used to force return to unsafe workplaces

30/6/20

Britain

A new movement for system change

24/6/20

Housing

Act now to cancel Covid crisis rents and debt

24/6/20

South Wales

Victory for Royal Glamorgan A&E!

24/6/20

Coronavirus

Lifting the lockdown: workers must not pay the price

24/6/20

Young people

Young people fighting back: Jobs and homes, not racism

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 07748 534 891

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999