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The battle to save pensions is on!

Around 750,000 public sector workers took strike action on 30 June in a brilliant display of working class resistance to the cuts and government reform package, writes Simon Hardy

Members of the ATL, UCU and PCS unions, alongside solidarity delegations from many others, filled the streets with their unions flags and banners. They were joined in many places by young people, pensioners, disabled rights activists and campaigners fighting to save nurseries and the NHS. Around 12,000 schools were either fully closed or partially closed, many job centres were shut down and there was widespread across central government.

A PCS striker in London explained: “This is clearly part of the programme of the government to widen the gap between workers and those in power.” Another PCS member told a Workers Power reporter: “I was not sure about the strike before, but I went to a union meeting last week and it struck me how serious the cuts are. I came on the picket line rather than stay at home.”

Over 30,000 people marched in London, with several thousand protesting in other major cities like Manchester and Leeds. A demo of 100 in Milton Keynes, alongside the 3,500 protesting in Brighton and 6,000 in Bristol, shows that there is a national movement that wants to take action and build the strike movement which will be an essential part of the anti-cuts struggle.

The strikes were used by the union leaders to launch the Fair Pensions for All petition – a national campaign that they hope will take the movement forward into the autumn. This petition on its own will not stop the government – it is like throwing paper at a juggernaut in a vain attempt to slow it down.

In the coming months it is essential that we step up the pace. The proposed industrial action in the autumn has to be made a reality – and not just a day of strikes, a massive escalation is required.

Two protests, one outside the Lib Dem conference (18 September) and one outside the Tory conference (2 October) are important events to mobilise for.

But we must use the summer to plan from a rank and file level. We cannot wait and rely on the union leaders to organise the next rounds of action, we need to build up pressure from below and establish a genuine rank and file movement to deliver the kind of all-out, mass strikes we need.

Labour and Tories, united against strikes
Immediately after the strikes the Tory press conducted a campaign of misinformation and attempted to demoralise the strikers. Claiming that the strike was a failure with most workers crossing the picket lines and going into work and with only a limited amount of disruption, Cameron and the Daily Mail hoped to dishearten trade unionists from future action.

In truth, the strike had a devastating effect on the economic, family and social life. The head of the CBI admitted that 25% of their employees had to take a day off work to look after their children. And this was only one day – imagine what a prolonged strike would do to the bosses’ sacred profits!

Of course the other side is whitewashing the effects of the strikes. They were terrified before the strike; both Gove and Cameron made fools of themselves as they desperately begged public sector workers and parents to help break the strikes.

It is clear that the Liberal Democats and Tories do not represent the vast majority of people in this country. Their pro-business and anti-poor politics are a proof that we do not live in a classless society. The war on the working class and poor and the project to widen social inequality shows you whose side they are on.

But many union members would be shocked by the attitude of the Labour leadership. Ed Miliband’s comments in the days before the strike were an outrageous act of scabbing by the Labour leader. His blog entry, extolling the virtues of the last Labour government in keeping strike figures low and successfully carrying through pensions reform was an appeal to the British capitalist class that it is Labour that is fit to govern and not the Tories. A video of him on the BBC shows how single minded he is in his opposition to the strikes, repeating the same phrase over and over. Miliband is a man devoid of imagination, sense and any loyalty to the union movement.

Miliband attacked teachers not the bankers; he criticised the unions more than the government. When he urged Labour MPs to cross picket lines it seemed as if it was his Blairite brother David who had won the Labour leadership elections, not “Red Ed”, swept to victory on the back of the union votes.

We need a new party for the working class and anti-cuts movement in this country – an anticapitalist party that fight to nationalise the economy under the control of the working class and take power out of the hands of the rich elites.

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