While Cameron has been preparing all-out war on the working class, thousands of youth up and down the country have been taking to the streets in protest. The situation in Britain is explosive. It is time for the trade union leaders to come up off their knees and organise a militant fightback.
While Cameron has been preparing all-out war on the working class, thousands of youth up and down the country have been taking to the streets in protest.
Just as the Tories wasted no time in announcing their latest attacks, so ordinary workers and youth have wasted no time in beginning the fightback. The weekend following the election, around 2,000 militant and radicalised youth – many of whom are too young to even vote – took to the streets in London, marching on Downing Street in anger against the Tories and their austerity programme.
Days later, several thousand marched through Bristol on an anti-austerity protest organised by a handful of school students at a few days’ notice. Semi-spontaneous demonstrations of thousands have erupted in other major cities, such as Cardiff, Sheffield, Leeds, and Manchester. Others will certainly follow suit. A “General Assembly of the Radical Left” in London, organised at 48-hours’ notice, drew in around one thousand people, and similar meetings across the country have seen unexpectedly large attendances. All eyes now are on the National Demonstration Against Austerity on 20th June in London, which has seen estimated attendance figures skyrocket in the wake of the Tories’ election victory.
All of these protests and meetings show the same characteristic: a picture of angry, frustrated, and radicalised youth – young people who will bear the brunt of the Tory cuts, but who have lost faith in the whole political and economic system and its ability to provide any future or hope. “They don’t represent us”; “The system is broken”; “One solution – revolution”: these are the slogans used that reflect the revolutionary sentiment that is developing amongst youth in Britain today.
For such young people, the mood after the election is not one of demoralisation and defeat, but of anger and a desire to fight back now. The Tories, confident – and perhaps complacent – have gone on the offensive. They want to get their knife in first. But, as the basic laws of mechanics teach us: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. As the cuts continue to bite, further layers of workers will be brought into struggle.
Far from being cowed at the Tory victory, these spontaneous demonstrations have taken a very militant character. Young people are openly expressing the anger felt by millions of others. They are expressing the real mood in Britain: one of defiance at a millionaires’ government hell bent on making the working class pay for the crisis.
We know the Tories have no mandate and were only elected with 24.4% of the total electorate. The overwhelming majority did not vote for them. They were wiped out in Scotland.
As we said before the election, whoever wins will face a horrendous economic situation. The Bank of England has already downgraded growth projections for Britain, as the world economy slows. It now falls to the Tories, the direct political representatives of big business, to take on the working class. They are determined to “finish the job” and are busy preparing a new budget of cuts for July.
The Tories have thrown down the gauntlet. They are going to carry through a brutal austerity, even more drastic than in the last five years. They have already leaked plans to axe 100,000 civil servants’ jobs.
They also want to further hamstring the trade unions by restricting the right to strike, making it almost illegal to take industrial action. But as the railway workers have shown – when the chips are down – workers will fight back. Already, thousands of members from the RMT and TSSA unions at Network Rail are going on strike across the country at the end of May in the first national rail walkout since the early ‘90s. If workers are blocked in any way from taking legal strike action, they will simply take illegal and unofficial action, as construction workers have done.
It is time the trade union leaders came off their knees and organised a real fightback. They should stop dragging their heels and organise coordinated industrial action against the Tory attacks. No one union should be left alone to fight. An injury to one is an injury to all. They should take courage from the young people who are taking to the streets.
Scandalously, the TUC, the so-called general staff of the unions, has been silent. While the Scottish TUC has backed the 20 June demonstration in Glasgow, the British TUC has remained on the sidelines.
What is clear is that, such is the anger, if the trade unions leaders continue to prevaricate, as in the past, they will be removed and replaced by others who are prepared to fight.
Rather than fight the Tory-led Coalition, the union leaders put all their faith in a Labour victory. That strategy now lies in ruins, as Labour have been defeated after failing to offer a real alternative to austerity.
The Labour Party has now been thrown into turmoil by this loss and by the resignation of Miliband. The Blairites asserted that the defeat was because the party was too left wing! All the leadership candidates hoping to replace Miliband are from the same right-wing stable. The “left” challenge by Ian Lavery MP evaporated when he came out in support of the right-winger Andy Burnham. Clearly workers and youth will not be looking in this direction to solve their problems.
In Scotland, the electoral humiliation of the Labour Party has also resulted in the resignation of its right-wing leader, Jim Murphy. The previous “left” challenger, Neil Findlay, ruled himself out, which reflects the utter demoralisation affecting the party. Whether the Labour Party can survive in Scotland is an open question. Scottish trade unionists, especially in UNITE, are calling for their money to be diverted from the Labour Party, as a result of its failure to represent the working class.
Nationally, the attempt by UNITE to reclaim the Labour Party has thus far completely failed, as the present leadership challenge shows. This is down to the bureaucratic non-political approach of the union leaders, who themselves do not offer workers the bold socialist alternative or militant, fighting strategy that is needed.
The working class will now swing from the political front towards the industrial front in order to fight the Tories. Big battles lie ahead. An explosive mood has been developing in Britain, as reflected in the current demonstrations of young people.
All the attempts by the trade unions and the Labour Party to operate on the basis of capitalism have failed. The system cannot be mended, but needs to be overthrown. What is needed is a revolutionary programme based upon the nationalisation of the giant monopolies, banks and insurance companies that dominate the economy. Only in this way, can the economic levers of society put in the hands of workers and youth. Only then can the resources of society be used for the benefit of all, not the profits of the few. Only on such a basis, by putting an end to the anarchy of the market, can we defeat the Tories, put an end to austerity, and offer any hope to future generations.