International Socialist League
As Prime Minister Rishi Sunak plans further deregulation of the British banking system the anger felt within the working class at the cost of greed crisis is growing. With this a strike wave is building across the public and private sectors. Nurses, ambulance workers, rail (main line and tube), postal workers, and civil servants are going to strike in the coming weeks. That means more than one million workers could withdraw their labour in December despite the stringent anti-union laws. Teachers, firefighters, college and university teachers and workers, and junior doctors are likely to join them in taking action in the new year.
Sunak intervened in December to prevent a deal between rail employers and workers. The RMT rail union explained that driver only trains had been one of the unacceptable demands the employers had insisted on at the last minute, at the instigation of the Government. The RMT have stated for years they will never accept such an imposition.
The Tory government could not stop the strike wave in 2022, so Sunak’s Tories are planning to introduce legislation to further prohibit, or restrict industrial action in some sectors such as in the emergency and health services. They are planning compulsory conscript of striking labour through the Minimum Service Levels Bill, which was introduced to Parliament on 20 October, which explicitly targets rail workers. The new law would demand that unions come to an agreement with employers to guarantee minimum service requirements during strikes on services where they’re seeking to call industrial action, under the threat of sequestration.
They are going to bring in “emergency powers” to try to destroy the unions to complete Margaret Thatcher’s war on the miners, steel, and print workers. But 2023 is not 1984/85. Not only is the strike wave increasing, but support from workers’ families and their communities, young people and unemployed people is also growing, because everyone is suffering, everyone is becoming poorer.
This government is destroying the welfare state. A decade of austerity has been imposed to make workers’ pay for the £137bn of public money that the previous Labour Government used to bail out banks after 2008. It meant that month by month poverty has increased, creating social catastrophe. Poverty is increasing rapidly, while pensions and social security are under attack. The health service is crumbling. Council house provision has been destroyed. Workplace misery is increasing along with inequality and precarity in employment and students leave university with huge debts (which is why many students support the strikes).
Meanwhile , the capitalist class are aiming to weaken and destroy the trade union movement to stem the coming tide but unlike in the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher took on one sector at time, the current Tory command are stumbling into a war with the working class as a whole. There is a widespread feeling that the unions can win but will not win in a short time – they know it is a long fight. All workers are striking for reasons which are either the same or very similar and they all face the same life problems because of cuts to the NHS, education and public services.
In the 1980s, Thatcher managed to win with the help of the Labour and trade union leadership (see the last issue of SV No 43, Lessons of the 1980s) as they prevented joint action developing into a general strike. Now ‘all together’ and ‘all out as one’ is a common thought among pickets and has been reflected by elements in the RMT leadership and at this year’s TUC Congress. But nothing yet has been organised.
The Labour leadership says it would not honour even the nurses wage demands, as the RCN prepares for a national strike for the first time in its history. They have consistently refused to offer their unequivocal support to working people standing up for themselves, their families and the communities they serve. They have even gone as far as suspending one MP who attended a picket line to support striking rail workers. As a ‘government in waiting’, they are more interested in cosying up to rich people and big business rather than supporting working people. They are a Tory leadership mark 2.
Capitalism seeks to use the multiple crises its actions have caused or made worse to try and impose a new settlement on the working class, poor people and oppressed people, a settlement to the benefit of rich, to the benefit of capitalism not to the benefit of the people. The Tory government has launched its attack on all workers both economically and politically. One sector of workers no matter how militant will not defeat the government, but together, striking as one we can defeat the government, its neo-liberal and anti-trade union laws.
We need to coordinate all strikes – the days should be named! We should follow the examples of joint action organised in Italy and Belgium, in recent weeks. Millions will support the strikes and a general strike. But it must be organised by the rank and file. Only the working class united, and in alliance with communities and oppressed people, can win a better future for everyone!
Tory hands off our unions
Build national, inter-union, inter-sector coordinated actions
Build a general strike with the fighting unions and our communities