When the Tories cobbled together the Con-Dem Coalition in May 2010, they were clear about how they were going to tackle the economic downturn – by making the working class pay for the capitalist crisis.
With the Lib Dems limping lamely behind them, the Tories set their plan to rip society apart and rebuild it in the naked interest of private profit in motion. When the TUC saw the massive cuts coming down the line, it took them almost a year to call a demonstration: the March for the Alternative.
Yet, when over a quarter of a million workers turned out, the TUC leaders murmured not a word about stepping up the fight or coordinating action. Instead they waited another 18 months before calling another demo – A Future that Works.
Then in June 2011, over 750,000 teachers, lecturers and the civil servants took strike action for one day. But instead of linking this to the defence of the NHS, education or welfare, uniting public and private sector workers who all depend on these services, the union leaders limited the fight to the issue of public sector pensions – in the belief that they could defeat the government while keeping it legal.
Yet despite the limited scope, two million workers went on strike again in November, with NHS and council employees joining in. But almost immediately after, the leaders of Unison and GMB began cutting rotten deals, the more militant union leaders faltered and the coordination fell apart.
At every turn, millions of people have shown their willingness to fight the cuts, yet the TUC failed to be the organising centre for action. Even its left wing has been unwilling to step up to the plate and lead the charge. One-day strikes, separated by months of inactivity, are not enough to beat the government. They can be useful as warning shots that demonstrate the power of the workers, but it’s no warning if your enemy knows you are bluffing.
The fight to stop the Coalition’s cuts will take all-out, united strike action – a general strike – with the clear aim of bringing the government down. Instead of these stop-start strikes, which leave the union officials in control of talks and the tempo and duration of the action, all-out strikes really pile the pressure on the bosses and their coalition government.
That’s why the cowardly officials run a mile from indefinite, united strike action – and why the rank and file should fight for it.