2011: A hunt on the tyrants
My final article of 2010. It’s been a tough year for people throughout Britain. Gone are any certainties about our futures.
All we have is our labour power and eachother. The battle is on to protect our class and to usher in a new kind of society.
2011 will be an important landmark in our continuing struggle.
At the beginning of 2010 the capitalist class thought they had everything sewn up. No matter which party won the election, the EU-inspired cuts agenda would be firmly on the political programme for the next five years.
The only difference would be the speed at which they were implemented with a small possibility that if Labour had won the election, the trade unions could have exerted political and financial pressure to ameliorate the worst excesses of the cuts.
Despite no one party winning an overall mandate and the need for a PR drive to justify the coalition stitch-up, the Tory cuts agenda could now proceed without a hitch.
Or so they thought.
The student protests against the tuition fee rise to £9,000 a year represented an almost spontaneous outpouring of anger at the injustice – both of the policy and hypocrisy of the Lib Dems.
Dispersions cast by the right-wing media that those protesting were spoilt middle-class militants doesn’t hold water when thousands of comprehensive school pupils and sixth-formers made up a substantial contingent of the demonstration.
However, the anti-cuts campaign is still in its embryonic stage. It needs to be “escalated,” as union leaders have rightly put it, to meet head on the Con-Dem government.
The raw passion and bravery of the students on these demonstrations in the face of some brutal and unlawful treatment by the police is not in itself going to halt the cuts agenda or bring down the coalition.
Only organisation and co-ordination of the resistance to the cuts both locally and nationally from the democratic representatives of working people – trade unions through their local trades councils – can provide the appropriate framework for a successful campaign.
Of course unions and their lay activists will have their work cut out to mobilise members and public-service users to support strike action in defence of jobs and services.
With Britain still reeling from the deindustrialisation in the 1980s, the lack of investment in a viable manufacturing base in the ’90s and the draconian anti-trade union laws today, membership has shrunk from 11 million to just over six million.
Coupled with endless attacks from the hegemonic right-wing media, the image of trade unions as a “selfish interest group” rather than as a pillar defending communities predominates in the public consciousness.
Most of the students engaged in the protests are not members of trade unions and if they have jobs they will experience exploitation at work, but from an individual perspective.
Joining a union is not automatically the first place people will turn when they want protecting from an injustice.
But with the coalition axe swinging more viciously slashing jobs across all remaining industries, and with unemployment likely to hit 10 per cent midway through 2011, the public’s view of trade unions is likely to change.
The TUC-led demonstration on March 26 represents an important benchmark in winning over the public to the anti-cuts movement.
It is neither the event that will bring the government down nor a pointless exercise, because as some on the ultra-left have argued: “It’s just a march.”
It is a stepping-stone to heightened campaigning in communities and helping to build the confidence among workers to take successful industrial action.
Individual unions are launching their own campaigns early in the new year and are seeking to build on the mandate provided by TUC conference anti-cuts policies from last summer.
Unite, under the new leadership of Len McCluskey, will be launching the Don’t Break Britain campaign, while public-sector unions Unison and PCS will flesh out details of co-ordinated industrial action.
CWU is continuing the fight to save the post office following a successful lobby and roadblock outside parliament this month.
UCU will be playing its full part in the continuing protests against the fees rise with some suggesting this policy could become the coalition government’s “poll tax moment.”
And RMT and TSSA have pledged to co-ordinate industrial action to protect workers and oppose cuts to the country’s ailing privately run transport sector.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow’s call for peaceful civil disobedience and direct action against the cuts has struck a chord with young militants, and must be part of the overall strategy of resistance.
Despite differences in tactics and emphasis in different unions on how precisely to oppose the cuts, the trade union movement in Britain has a newfound unity and purpose.
A single enemy – the political representatives of the capitalist class, backed by the EU – hold the levers of power in this country.
They have no ear open to working people, no democratic mandate, no interest in compromise and will bring all manner of force to bear in implementing their big business cuts agenda.
The aim of the working-class movement must be to bring the government down.
As a young Friedrich Engels once said: “The sentimental little songs go unheard and the resounding hunting horn awaits a hunter to blow the rallying call for a hunt on tyrants.”