Tomorrow, 10th July, will see up to two million public sector workers taking strike action defend their wages, pensions and working conditions. Members of NUT, Unite, Unison, GMB, FBU and PCS are all involved in campaigns. This co-ordinated action must be used as a platform for the labour movement to call a one-day general strike and fight for socialist policies.
Public sector workers are striking tomorrow to defend their wages, pensions and working conditions. Members of NUT, Unite, Unison, GMB, FBU and PCS are all involved in campaigns. Most of these unions are taking action on the same day, with up to two million members being involved.
Privatisation, cuts, and attacks
In fighting for their own livelihoods, these workers are also fighting for essential public services used by all working class people, services which have been decimated and, in some cases, brought near to collapse. Where services have continued, they are being privatised as fast as the Tories can get away with it.
Education is in crisis as thousands of primary-age children are unable to find a local school and local authorities are forbidden to build new schools. The NHS is caving in as hard-working staff are put under enormous pressures cut costs at our expense.
Fire-fighters are desperately fighting to prevent massive redundancies and station closures. They are opposing a package of cuts that will inevitably lead to fire-fighters aged over 50 being shown the door.
In local government, services are on their knees as thousands of experienced members of staff are pushed out. Even the passport office now has a massive back-log of unprocessed applications, due to cuts in staff over the last couple of years.
What is worse is that the cuts that the poor, the youth and the elderly have endured over the last few years are only the start of a wholesale dismantling of essential services. Tory ministers talk openly of ‘decades’ of cuts to come. We know that the Tories have a pathological loathing of any public service. Most Tory MPs, like their idol Thatcher, believe “there is no such thing as society”.
Capitalism demands cuts
They have a conscious long-term strategy to further shift wealth and power away from the big majority of the population – wage-earners and tax-payers – towards the very rich and the stinking rich, most of whom pay little or no taxes. As the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Meanwhile, workers, many of whom are low-paid women earning barely above the minimum wage, have been subject to five years of wage cuts and freezes, leaving their pay cut by almost 20% since 2010.
However their drive to cut public services to the bone is not only driven by their particular ideology. The capitalist class demands these cuts out of a necessity to protect their bankrupt system. This is what drives their policy on privatisation and closure of public services.
According to the TUC, over the life of this Tory government, tens of billions of pounds of income and wealth has been shifted from the pockets of the least-well off, to the bank accounts of the already-rich. This is the real motivation behind Tory policy.
The British economy is run by a monstrous kleptocracy, paying itself astronomic wages, increasing massively year on year. These are the people who provide the finances for the Tory Party and these are the people who determine government policy.
All public services – health, education, local government, fire-service, prisons, and so on – are being set up for further privatisation in one form or another. If a service cannot be privatised, it is shut. Simple as that.
For a one-day general strike!
The strike by the public sector unions is a huge step forward, as it was the last time the public sector unions struck together in November 2011.
The press have rightly called the July action a “mini general strike.” Indeed, the Unison General Secretary has stated that, with 600,000 of his members set to strike, July 10th may be “bigger than the  General Strike.” itself.
But it must be more than just one day of action. The striking public sector unions must build on this, mobilising their members behind a bold campaign to get the Tories out now, not in 2015.
This must be fought for in the TUC itself, which must be mandated to call a one-day general strike, as a signal to the government that enough is enough and to demand an immediate election.
Fight for socialist policies!
At a time when workers are having austerity forced down their throats, it is a disgrace that Labour spokesmen are tail-ending the Tories on cuts. It is completely unacceptable for labour leaders to promise more cuts if they are elected. Labour must reverse all the Tory cuts.
Those unions affiliated to the Labour Party must start to make their considerable muscle really count inside the party by fighting for policies in the interests of the working class:
- Campaign to remove those “pro-business” (read: pro-cuts) leaders and re-claim the party for working people.
- Make the bankers pay for their crisis! Instead of handing over billions to the banks, Labour policy should be for the public ownership of all the banks and monopolies under democratic workers’ control.
- According to polls, a majority of the population believe that the gas, electric and water utilities, Royal Mail and the railways should all be brought back into public ownership. That has got to be at the core of Labour and TUC policy.
In an age when science and technology is capable of near-miraculous achievements, there is no rational reason for living standards to be constantly declining. Socialists need to argue inside the Labour Party and the trade unions for a socialist plan of production where the enormous wealth, skills, resources and ingenuity of the whole country can be planned and organised for the benefit of everyone and not just a handful at the top. That is the only answer to cuts, privatisations and permanent austerity.