Unite the Strikes
For a sliding scale of wages, benefits and pensions
Cap prices – stop profiteering
International Socialist League
Workers are fighting back against the bosses’ attacks on their wages, jobs and conditions by taking national strike action. RMT Rail workers, CWU postal and telecommunication workers and ASLEF train drivers are leading the way to fight the policies of the hated Tory government. These are the first national strikes for 30 years.
They are rejecting bosses and government offers of below inflation wage increases, since January, inflation is increasing each month. This was in response to the imposition of a 2% pay rise in Royal Mail on employees, “who were designated key workers at the height of the pandemic, in an economic climate where RPI inflation has soared to 11.7%.” (CWU website)
City -wide and regional strikes are taking place. For example, bus drivers in the Unite union are taking strike action across in many cities. Wage offers of up to 8% are being rejected, for example by tram drivers in London, dock workers and bus drivers in Liverpool.
This strike movement is a political break against the Tory government’s empty promises and programmes, for those workers who voted for Brexit, and then gave political support to Johnson because they had been betrayed by Labour since the miners’ strike in 1984/85 and before. The first three RMT strikes were supported in polls averaging 58%, 72% by the youth polled. Rail workers, nurses, bus drivers and postal workers were lauded as ‘heroes’ for working through COVID, now they are treated like ‘zeros’ by the bosses and their government.
The crisis in the British government will continue, no matter who leads. That crisis gave RMT workers more confidence to strike and increased their support dramatically. A week after the strikes, Johnson stepped down. No mainstream commentator linked the strike to Johnson’s fall, but it was an important factor, as Johnson sent his Cabinet poodles against the RMT leadership in a media war and lost. They were called out by the RMT and the public saw through their lies.
The Bank of England and the Financial Times say wages cause inflation as if the Russian invasion of Ukraine or the deepening economic international trade and production problems do not exist in world capitalism and imperialism. The government’s main policy to face the international economic crises is to cut real wages while real inflation is above 11% which hits the poor the hardest. This policy is based on a lie It is the energy and other privatised companies’ profiteering that is driving the cost of living crisis not the wages of workers.
The strikes are taking place because workers have to fight for cost-of-living pay rises. Millions of workers, in education, schools, hospitals and emergency services, and the civil service are facing more and more cuts to their pay, pensions and terms and conditions, along with job cuts. Plans to ballot for strike action in these sectors are underway and the call to do so is gathering pace.
NHS staff in England have been offered 5%, civil servants even less. The unions should all be demanding a sliding scale of wages (as well as benefits and pensions) to keep up with inflation and be organising strike action to fight for it.
The TUC called the London 60,000 strong demonstration on 18 June but is letting workers down by not organising a national strike or a national conference to coordinate nationwide strikes. They must be pushed into doing so.
While workers in one sector may win above inflation wage increases, they cannot defeat the employers and government offensive themselves. We need to build joint strike actions, so all workers should be demanding that the TUC organise a general strike.
We support Mick Lynch (RMT General Secretary) when he calls on other unions to join the RMT in national strike action. We think the RMT, and other union leaders should go further and call on the TUC to organise the general strike. The rank and file of the unions should raise this demand at every level and build inter-union and inter-sector committees.
The RMT strike helped bring Johnson down, a general strike can bring the government down.
Over the first RMT strikes, unions internationally showed their solidarity. CUB Trasporti from Italy, CGT rail from France, CSP Conlutas from Brazil and the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggle, including Solidaire from France, called on the 100 internationally affiliated unions to support the RMT strike.
This was the beginning of building international solidarity for the UK workers’ struggles and building common struggles with other countries. Rail workers and many trade unionists face a global struggle against international capital, according to the RMT, 70 per cent of Britain’s railways are under foreign ownership to some degree. For example, the owners of the British rail system include Netherland State, Deutsche Bahn and the state-backed Italian firm Trenitalia Rail.
The IMF, World Bank and the G20 organise around the principle that there are no barriers to capital for the bosses. Their system of capitalism and imperialism is global. The national and international owners exploit workers worldwide. In the fight for our wages, against precarious work, privatisation and oppression we have the same enemy worldwide. So, all workers’ struggles must be linked together.
Stealing from workers
The unions say that shareholders in the privatised rail and British Telecommunications (BT) pay huge sums to shareholders. Dave Ward, CWU general secretary, said, “While bosses rake in £758m in profit and shareholders take £400m, workers are expected to take a serious real terms pay cut.
Companies give obscenely large bonuses to CEOs and increase prices. Workers and customers, in general, have had to endure rising costs on everything, including ‘public’ transport and telephones.
These attacks on workers, if not defeated, will lead to many unsafe conditions at work, precarious jobs and unequal pay (that capitalism has never resolved). In contrast, some new attacks, such as on firefighters, move towards union de-recognition. All this is pursued by a capitalist system that keeps its greed on track and looks any way to cut the cost of employing workers – determined to increase the amount of surplus value they steal from workers.
The UK now has 177 billionaires, six more than last year. The combined wealth of the UK’s 250 most affluent individuals and families has climbed to £710 billion, an 8 per cent rise in 12 months.
Everyone knows that new price shocks are coming as government and media seek to normalise rising gas and electric bills, which have already risen dramatically in 2022, by another 50% to 64% this October and again next January unless the government is forced to cap prices.
Big business is using inflation as a cover for driving up prices to maintain and increase their profit. Since 2010 austerity and the COVID slump, workers’ share of income and real wages have fallen dramatically. The UK is now a low wage economy.
The Bank of England will hike interest rates, but this will have little effect on inflation and will most likely cause stagnation in investment and consumption, deepening the recession or worse.
British workers are experiencing the worst attack on wages among the G7 countries with pay forecast to slump by more than 6% over the next two years, according to research by the TUC.
Workers fight back
Organised workers are fighting back and encouraging other sectors to fight, union membership is rising, and activists are calling for a general strike in union discussion lists. The strike movement must be organised from below with continual demands from union branches and the rank and file on their union leaderships and through them on the TUC.
Don’t forget that in 2011 when there was a public sector national strike against pension attacks, the TUC organised just one day of action before closing it down, and workers were asking “when is the next national pension strike” to defeat the Tory government. Eleven years on, we can go much further with the strike movements if they are driven and controlled by the union base.
The rail unions are calling for public ownership of the railways. But that slogan must deal with the question of who controls the state? We have experienced what capitalist state nationalisation means – creating ‘taxpayer owned’ services and companies in a sea of capitalism that are run as if they are privately owned. To end all the swindles and corruption, we need publicly owned companies under workers’ control. Only the struggle for workers’ democracy and control under a workers’ government can win against capitalism.
What is the Labour Party doing?
Keir Starmer made it clear he did not support the RMT in the strikes against the attacks on rail workers pay and conditions. His Labour colleague David Lammy extended the attack by criticising the striking Heathrow airport workers before back pedalling after a backlash. Then he sacked his transport minister for standing up for the workers on a picket line. The Labour leadership are hostile to the working class fighting back.
Not Labour but a new Workers’ Party
Our primary call is to all workers coming into battle and the youth. Many workers are beginning to fight, may associate ‘socialism’ with the British Communist Party or the Labour Party; at this moment they may not even be convinced about socialism. This is why we call for building a new workers’ party, solely based on workers’ struggle and democracy.
The ISL would assist such a development with a class struggle programme to answer the problems that exist today and fight for workers’ socialism, revolutionary socialism, inside of the workers’ Party.
In the deepening problems of a looming recession and greater class attacks by a Tory or ‘Labour’ government, workers will go through many experiences. To advance, workers must learn from the experiences of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership. His retreats and his own colleagues in the face of attacks by the Tories were never discussed or agreed with by the hundreds of thousands in the Party who supported him. His retreats were decided behind closed doors. He lost the last general election, as many workers did not believe he was the leader for them.
Unite and fight
Many activists from the social struggles such as sections of BLM, LGBTQ+ (and left Pride), Pakistani communities, students, pensioner organisations and those fighting for Palestine are supporting the RMT strikes. Let’s build strike support groups linked directly to the striking workers and build a truly great working class fight against the government and employers.
It is for workers to lead this fight, with all the oppressed, working class neighbourhoods and youth who want to fight with the unions for a general strike, for real union democracy and action, and for a new workers’ party that will help build a mass movement on the streets of Britain against capitalism.
Build the International Socialist League
The ISL will fight inside all the struggles against the capitalist system who are determined to make workers pay for the crisis. We never stop believing that the working class – in close alliance with the poorest and oppressed people – are the only ones who can transform society due to their social position in production. The working class are showing us that they can and will lead this struggle.
The ISL was created to fight for a new world where, as Rosa Luxemburg said; we are “socially equal, humanly different and totally free”. Hence our commitment from the very beginning in the struggles against all forms of oppression, is part of the class struggle and necessary to unite the working class on the road for seizing power, for a socialist revolution and a government of the workers.
In the ISL, we fight for the working class to enter into struggle as the leadership of the struggles for its democratic demands, with a class orientation and perspective in the revolutionary struggle.
We are part of the International League of Workers – Fourth International (IWL-fi). We understand that an organisation whose goal is the working class struggle must be international. We exist as part of a revolutionary International to confront capitalist imperialism in all its forms: for the strikes, for international workers solidarity, for the mass struggle.
• TUC organise a national strike now!
• Build strike support groups!
• For a sliding scale of wages, benefits and pensions!
• Impose price caps – stop profiteering!
• Build a new workers’ party!
• Nationalise all public services and big private companies under workers’ control!