|Community solidarity on an Oxford picket line|
In years to come, the 30th June strikes may be seen as the acorn from which a mighty oak grew, but only if public sector workers can break free of the straitjacket which union fat cats force them to wear. In the meantime, the action by hundreds of thousands of workers is having a significant impact on today’s economic output – demonstrating the awesome potential power of our class.
The corporate media has actually played up the strength of today’s strike, for its own reactionary purposes. Far from being a “public sector general strike” of 750,000 workers, it is a strike of the National Union of Teachers, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the University and College Union, and the Public and Commercial Services union. The combined membership of these organisations is three quarters of a million, but many less than that figure are striking, in the main because union bosses have systematically demoralised these strikebreakers over the last three decades.
|A section of the crowd at the London rally|
Of the estimated 5.5 million workers affected by the government’s planned pensions raid, only 13% are in a union that is striking against the attacks today. The leaders of Unison, Unite and the GMB have so far refused to ballot their membership. That’s because they owe their own lofty positions in society to their role as industrial cops, policing the anger of their own memberships over sell-out after sell-out. They fear that a truly united strike could quickly escape their control, and undermine the basis of their privileged lifestyles. Nevertheless, the mood on picket lines has generally been good, and unions are reporting high walkout rates, with decent levels of support from the wider public, despite the establishment’s propaganda offensive. Many thousands participated in rallies across the country.
Around the world, the battles lines dividing oppressors and oppressed are getting ever more blatantly drawn. The economy is controlled by a criminal financial aristocracy, who demand ever greater sacrifices from workers, so they can rake in trillions of dollars in utterly unearned profits. The bankers’ wishes are the government of the day’s commands, whether they are nominally centre-left or centre-right. The union leaders pretend that they will lead a defence of working class living conditions, even as they consult with the government on how to force through slashing cuts. In turn, the pseudo-left parties cover for the trade union leaderships, as they have many members on the union executive gravy train. At the bottom of the food chain, working class people fight back where they can, but are systematically misled by all those profiting from their misery.
The rot and decay of trade unionism in the UK is illustrated by the fact that it’s taken us over a year since the last general election to get a here – a year in which union leaders haven’t raised so much as a finger against 143,000 public sector job cuts. Even now, the leader of the misnamed ‘Labour’ Party opposes the strike action, demonstrating beyond all doubt that he is a pliant and willing tool of the ultra-rich.
A new working class movement must be born, based on rank-and-file committees in every workplace and community. That movement must fight for working class control over all industries and all politics, and the abolition of the capitalist system.