Editorial: We need to get organised

30 May 2011

Resistance is growing to Cameron and Clegg’s vicious cuts programme. There is a wave of enthusiasm for the 30 June strikes – civil servants from the PCS union, teachers and education workers from the UCU, NUT and ATL unions are all gearing up to take coordinated action alongside one another. They are taking action against attacks on their pensions that will hit not just them but generations of future workers and their communities.

As even bigger cuts packages are being rolled out abroad, Greece has been repeatedly paralysed by a series of one-day strikes. And in Spain the central squares of its biggest cities, Madrid and Barcelona, have filled with young people determined to stop the cuts and win a better future for all. They have learned from the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia that if you want change then direct action is key.
The cuts are happening around the world because we are living through a crisis of global capitalism. Everywhere the capitalists are trying to force the working class, the poor, women and young people to pay the price for their crisis.
So the resistance is taking on an international character. Inspiring new movements are infectious – the desire for freedom is urgent.
The strikes over pensions or redundancies show the willingness of workers to fight when the union leaders actually give a lead. Protests and occupations by groups like UK Uncut against banks and tax-dodging companies and above all the 500,000 strong TUC demonstration on 26 March prove that huge numbers reject the Tory lie that there is no alternative to the cuts.
In times of crisis such as these it is essential that our unions and protest groups don’t just stick to “business as usual”. It’s great that four unions are lined up for action on 30 June. But what about the others? Too many union leaders are sitting on their hands.
We need to radicalise our unions and put them in the hands of their members. Rank and file challenges from new initiatives like the Unite Grass Roots Left are important and need more backing and support. Other unions – like Unison whose leaders seem determined to stay out of the action – need similar rank and file movements.
There’s another hard argument brewing. The kind of strikes the union leaders are currently willing to consider (one day strikes, or stop-start strikes) won’t be enough to beat the cuts and bring down the Tories. France and Greece have both had several one day strikes and they weren’t enough to win. But in Egypt a general strike – backed by mass protest on the streets – brought down a vicious dictatorship. That’s the way!
The anti-cuts movement in Britain today is divided into three national campaigning groups and various local anti cuts committees. Intersecting them are single issue campaigns around hospitals or nurseries. Bringing these forces together into a national anti-cuts federation is essential. The 9 July Coalition of Resistance conference could be an excellent place to start.
The tremendous youth-led movement against the education cuts and tuition fee increases shows that there is a mood to resist. There are many debates amongst young people about that kind of organisation (or not!) they want, and what kind of politics they want to promote. A national anticapitalist youth organisation could help to bring together young activists to mobilise against the cuts, against racism and war.
And then there is the issue of political organisation.
Given the disgraceful role of Labour in backing the cuts, today it is fashionable to reject party politics altogether. But if we remain at the level of spontaneity and networks, we can be sure the capitalists will beat us every time because they are organised, centralised and disciplined – they have a leadership, a strategy and a plan of action.
We need a party that fights for our class with as much determination as the Tories fight for theirs. That means organising workers and youth around an action programme to bring down the Coalition and open a challenge to the whole capitalist state – a revolutionary programme that can take us from protest to power.
Then we could replace the madness of the market, the crisis and the cuts with a democratically planned economy based on sustainability, equality and solidarity.

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