Tuesday, February 01, 2011

When marching is not enough

The contrast couldn’t be clearer. In Egypt, they gather in hundreds of thousands and strike with the aim of bringing down the Mubarak regime. In Britain, the leadership of the trade unions wants workers to walk through London at the end of March – and then go home.

By March 26, the date of the march called by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), up to 200,000 public sector workers will have lost their jobs, as councils – many of them Labour controlled – implement government cuts, wrecking local services.

By then, those keeping their jobs will have suffered a massive erosion in their standard of living as food and fuel inflation takes off.

By then, university and college lecturers will be staring at closures and redundancies.

By then, the astronomical increase in university tuition fees will be a reality facing the next generation.

By then, the Coalition government would have forced through further marketisation of the National Health Service, building on the work of New Labour.

In other words, by then Cameron and Clegg will be halfway to imposing the burden of the capitalist crisis on the backs of ordinary working people.

Last week, the TUC called member unions together to discuss its response to the effects of the spending cuts announced last October. Talked up by the media as a planning meeting for a wave co-ordinated strikes against the cuts, it was nothing of the kind.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber stood on the steps of Congress House and ran up the white flag. Frightened by the existing anti-union laws – and alarmed by the threat of further legislation – Barber and the right-wing led major unions ruled out a confrontation with the government.

All Barber would say was that there could be action around “specific disputes” but none were planned. What are scheduled, however, are talks with the government over planned changes to public sector pensions.

A World to Win supports the TUC demonstration but not simply to register a protest against the government’s policies which are directly driven by the deepening capitalist economic and financial crisis.

We will campaign on the march for a way forward beyond March 26 that is not dependent on the manoeuvres of the TUC leadership. AWTW will urge:

 Leaders of trade unions opposed to the TUC right wing to call their own conference to plan joint action against the Coalition
 Occupations of town halls, universities and colleges to block job losses and the destruction of services
 The removal of discredited local councillors and their replacement by trade union and community representatives
 The creation of a network of People’s Assemblies to build a sustained challenge to the government’s authority.

As the resolution adopted at the weekend National Assembly of Education said, People’s Assemblies can:
 unite students, education workers, trade unionists, community groups and all those resisting austerity and ConDem cuts, as well as climate change activists, campaigners for human rights, migrant support networks and anti-racist groups.
 develop an alternative democratic voice and long-term presence to effectively challenge corporate/financial power and its grip on the existing political system.

A key role for Assemblies would be the development of alternative economic models to the failed profit system. We have to take the opportunity presented by the crisis to set out what we are for as well as what we are against, and to create strategy to put that into practice.

The revolutionary upsurge in North Africa, prompted by worsening economic and political conditions, will make its appearance in Britain. With the TUC on its knees, preparation for that eventuality is everything.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

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