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A general strike is the way to beat this government

The November-December demonstrations by school and university students blew away the stifling atmosphere that had built up within the Labour movement like a cold but bracing wind. So when young people stormed the Tory HQ and then carried on mobilising for over a month despite hysterical witch hunting by the media and violent police repression on the streets, union leaders praised the students for “inspiring them.”

After the September TUC congress, which resolved on “coordinated industrial action,” nothing happened beyond speeches about just how destructive the Tory cuts were took place. The coalition ministers week after week announced new measures aimed at the destruction of the public health, education, social services, and job cuts everywhere. But this seemed to “shock and awe`’ our leaders rather than arouse them to action.

The TUC announced that nothing would happen till March 24 – i.e. half a year after Congress and then only a Saturday demonstration. They did not even call a meeting to discus the congress promises until January and even then it decided nothing. The left union leaders talked of fighting, even balloted for strikes, but did nothing or worse surrendered in their own disputes with the government.

Several union leaders remarked on how “inspiring” the student’s actions were but were not sufficiently inspired to launch the coordinated action they had pledged to take.

Indeed after the belated meeting to discuss this action, Brendan Barber’s most urgent message to the press and the government, was that “no one is talking about a general strike” or indeed any sort of direct action against the government’s attacks. To back up the union leaders, Labour’s Ed Miliband, condemned political strikes saying:

“They're not the way you change governments. The way you change governments is through the ballot box… through peaceful campaigning, through voting – including at the by-election and in the local elections and Scottish and Welsh elections….”

Judged by its leaders the British labour movement – facing what they themselves call a historic attack on the great social gains of the post-war era – is woefully unable to rise to the challenge.

Fortunately the union bosses and the Labour leadership are not the whole of “this great movement of ours” – just as the youth and students were not the NUS and the “spineless” Aaron Porter.

So how do we get the action we need – which is nothing less than the mobilisation of 7 million trade unionists and even more millions of ordinary people who did not vote for and do not want these cuts ?

What must we learn from the students – and also from the French workers and youth last October and the Tunisian and Egyptian workers today? When your enemy is the government and its attacks, especially under the condition of a worldwide crisis of the capitalist system as a whole, then piecemeal section-by-section resistance will not do unless it rapidly escalates into a generalised resistance. Fragmented resistance will prove totally inadequate to meet the severity of the attack. It just gives our enemies the opportunities to take us on and defeat us one by one each in isolation from one another.

When Ed Miliband says “What we're not going to do, under my leadership, is go back to the heroic failures of the 1980s.” he is spreading a lie . It was not the heroic struggles of the 1980s – the steelworkers, the miners, the dockers, the printworkers, that were a failure – it was the cowardly betrayals of the TUC and Labour leaders, who helped isolate these struggle by repeatedly blocking the road to generalised political strike action.

Our class enemies, hell-bent like Thatcher, on destroying our lives to safeguard their profits, will not be stopped by the union leaders’ negotiations or by speeches in parliament or the council chamber. The only thing our enemies really fear – whenever and wherever it occurs in the world – is the eruption of millions onto the battlefield of politics.

In reality politics is not the distorted shadow theatre in parliament – which sickens and disillusions many people. Real politics begins when those under attack fight back directly against a political attack – an attack from the government, enforced by the state – by the police, the courts etc.

To agree to fight by the rules (laws) of a game the capitalist class has designed precisely to make victory by the working class impossible is fighting with both arms tied behind your back. .

So how do we unite all those trying to defend their jobs and services? We have to win them over to a goal, a method of struggle that can actually achieve this. What is it? It is mass strike action – a general strike – aimed at halting and reversing the attacks and bringing down the government which is carrying them out. If we do not then over the next five years they destroy all our vital social gains. No gains in by-elections, no council election landslides or huge leads in opinion polls for Labour will stop Cameron and Clegg. We have to do it for ourselves.

Some cynics will say “yes, we’d all love a general strike but calling for one won’t make it materialise.” Sure! But NOT calling for one won’t make it materialise either. First decide on what is needed and then decide on what will make it materialise (and what will not). To openly and boldly persuade people what must be our goal is not a waste of time. Unless you believe that people will find their way to it blindfolded, without knowing where they are going. But political goals and struggles must be conscious ones if they are to be successful.

Nor is this goal to be counterposed to those specific fights erupting on every side. It does not harm or hinder them. Quite the opposite. If people see their own struggle to save their jobs or their particular service as part of a bigger struggle of the whole working class, then they are far less likely to see some rotten compromise deal cooked up by the union leaders as a reason to pull out of the general line of struggle. As long as sectional struggles are fought solely as such then minor concessions or threats from the courts will always be used by our leaders to break the common front and grab what crumbs are on offer.

So how do we get to a general strike- given such cowardly and ineffective leaders? The answer was shown on a small a scale by the students. It is mass political agitation.

First we have dare to call for a general strike openly on the streets, on demonstrations, in huge public meetings, on the web, ieverywhere we can make our voice heard. Of course this will not magic it into existence but we have to raise the idea in the minds of millions of people. If Brendan Barber keeps saying “no one is talking about a general strike” we have to show him on March 26 that he is wrong; tens of thousands of us have to thunder back “Yes, WE are!” Either get off your knees and call one or get out of our way.

If you will not do it then we will. We will organise and unleash mass political strikes from the grassroots, from the workplaces, from the anti-cuts committees. We will wage every struggle in defence of a hospital, a fire station, a school or a library in the most militant way, occupying to stop closures, linking them up, getting and giving support for every struggle. To our leaders we will say No ifs, no buts no jobs or service cuts

We will built a tidal wave of such struggles as will sweep away this government We will show on the streets that we are the people and we will not endure the destruction of our jobs, rights or services to pay off the bankers and the billionaires. Such a struggle can not only win but open the road to “regime change” in Britain – getting rid of the regime of the tiny number of billionaires and replacing it with the democracy of the millions.

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