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The anticuts movement faces great challenges in the coming months

SPRING 2012 could see a turning point in the anticuts struggle. After last years broadening of resistance to the coalition’s austerity programme from the student revolt in November 2010 to the mass N30 public sector strike the major unions – we are now at a stage when we can marshal our forces for a fresh struggle against the government, or we risk fragmentation and further frustrations.

Between now and May either a N30 style mass strike will resume and go forward into to a major confrontation with the government, or it will disintegrate as the government imposes its pension reforms. The same can be said of Lansley’s Bill wrecking the NHS. On both issues the union bureaucracy’s cowardly and inept leadership threatens a major setback to our struggles.

Such an outcome was always lodged in the strategy adopted by both the left and centre-left bureaucracy.

The bureaucrats reason for concentrating on pensions was that if they took on all the major attacks – the NHS, local and central government job losses, pensions, youth unemployment, etc they would be charged of interfering in politics and, if they took simultaneous strikes, would be charged with breaking the anti-union laws. As we point out in this issue the “fight” against the destruction of the NHS has not seen even a proper national demonstration called by the big unions.

Workers Power argued from the beginning that focusing exclusively on the public sector pension struggle had severe limitations based as it was on pursuing a “line of least resistance” rather than creating a generalised resistance the Tory Lib-Dem assault on the health service, welfare, education, along with real wage cuts, job losses, and pensions.

In fact Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill is probably more universally feared and hated than any other Tory measure. A real direct action fight against it could unite all workers and many of the middle classes with the health workers. In popular consciousness it would be far easier to win mass strike action in solidarity with the health workers and to save the NHS, than even public sector pensions could.

Meanwhile all the other anticuts fronts remain fragmented or at best are only locally coordinated. Local anticuts committees remain gatherings of only dozens of activists rather than the delegate based councils of action we need to mobilise mass action. Actions are largely limited to small local demos, symbolic occupations or support for local trade unionists’ or services users’ actions. Important as this is it does not yet constitute the wave of mass resistance we need.

The Labour Party has been incredibly weak and treacherous in opposition – even by past standards. Instead of seeking to reconsolidate its working class base the leadership, after a few feeble hints of Keynesian solutions, under pressure from the media and the right wing in the PLP accepted that they cannot and will not reverse the Tory cuts if they win the next election. As a huge slap in the face for their union backers Miliband and Ball announce that they support a freeze of public sector workers wages.

In the unions developing a national rank and file movement remains a burning necessity. However, as the victory of the Sparks and #Occupy show, resistance will continue as the youth remain a source of vibrant protest movements and sections of workers are driven to take militant action to defend themselves in the coming months and years of recession and austerity.

The Spark’s victory and the retreat by the government and employers on its workfare programme show that campaigns that do not wait for the union leaders, much less cede them initiative, and take action can win. The workfare protests showed that even a small but well-targeted campaign of action by the left can actually force a government u-turn on the most vicious of its policies. These are small scale about important victories, the sign of what a mass campaign against the NHS privatisation could do if we organise one.

Now we need to use the mobilisations already planned in the coming months to fight for the revival of the anticuts and anti privatisation struggle.

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