National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) is organising a lobby of this year’s TUC (Britain’s trade union confederation) conference in London, 11 September
"If these attacks on our jobs, services and livelihoods go through there will be riots on the streets". Anti-cuts campaigners will have lost count of how many times they have warned politicians of all parties of this since last year’s general election.
I went to the council budget-setting meeting in Brixton this spring when Lambeth’s Labour-led council passed over £70 million worth of cuts in a side room behind police lines after protesters had occupied the council chamber. Last week in those very streets – some of the poorest in the country – the riots came to Brixton. The question is now posed, what next?
For working class people, while the anger and frustration is understandable, the riots are a blind alley. Cameron is trying to jump on the violence and looting as justification for even more hardline measures which will be used against organised protests in future. They hope ’law and order’ debates will distract us from fighting the cuts. Cameron and Co are really terrified of organised resistance, particularly on a mass basis.
Now is the time for the organised trade union movement to act as a powerful alternative force. Who else will? New Labour is compromised by its agreement with the cuts and its echoing of Cameron’s hypocritical moralising. In the Evening Standard, ex-Blairite Charles Clarke called for "proper policing to be put above civil liberties"!
TUC leader Brendan Barber warned of riots in 2009 but has not so far thrown the full weight of the TUC behind coordinating mass working class resistance. If the union movement of still over six million takes decisive action against the attacks of this government of millionaires, it could inspire all those who are both angry and frightened at the moment.
Anyone who has watched the incredible movements of workers and young people throughout the world this year from Egypt to Greece and to Israel/Palestine can see the positive effect of a mass movement of strikes and demonstrations.
The mass demonstration on 26 March of well over half a million in London shook the Con-Dems and resulted in their wobble on their NHS privatisation plans.
The strikes on 30 June against the attacks on public sector pensions mobilised 750,000 workers and has posed the prospect of millions joining the strike action in the autumn. A 24-hour public sector general strike would not only heap pressure on the government on pensions, it would show everyone that there is a powerful alternative force that can fight for ordinary people. But a failure to act, particularly by the TUC and the biggest unions could let this creaking coalition off the hook.
On Sunday 11 September, the NSSN is organising a lobby of this year’s TUC conference in London to increase the pressure for all unions across the public sector to coordinate strike action. We will be meeting at the Friends Meeting House in Euston for a rally to hear speakers like Mark Serwotka and Bob Crow – general secretaries of the civil service union PCS and the transport union RMT respectively as well as rank and file workers and young people facing the worst of the cuts.
Help us build a massive rally of workers and anti-cuts fighters, young and old, to send a clear united message to the union leaders – it’s time to give a positive fighting lead to defeat this government.
See also: Website of the NSSN on 11 September