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An autumn offensive

Editorial of Workers Power 366 – September 2012

We are halfway through the Tory-Lib Dem government. David Cameron and Nick Clegg have orchestrated an enormous onslaught on the working class, aiming to dismantle all of the gains we have made since 1945.

But how h

as our side fared?

Certainly there have been encouraging signs. Thousands of students brought central London and quite a few other cities to a standstill in November 2010, nearly defeating the government. The partial general strike a year later mobilised 2 million workers. New movements, like Occupy and UK Uncut, have inspired a new generation of class fighters.

But anti-climax followed each time.

Workers Power has participated in all these struggles, sometimes from the front. But we are not a mass party – even though we aspire to build one. We cannot simply change the course of a whole movement.

However, as Marxists, we can analyse the class struggle and fight for tactical changes that could bring victory closer. Here are three.

In the un

ions, we need to build a rank and file movement, bringing all the best militants across the unions together to hammer out a plan to smash the coalition.

For decades, left groups have sought to win control of the unions through elections. While this got rid of some of the worst bureaucrats, it has not got rid of sell-outs.

Only a rank and file movement, rooted in the workplaces, and geared towards fighting every single cut – with the officials where possible, without them where necessary – could reverse the trend of retreats and defeats.

Such a movement could do away with the rule of fulltime officials on fat salaries and replace it with the control of mass meetings, whose elected and instantly recallable reps are the servants of the movement, paid the average wage of those they represent. Such a movement would not cow before the courts every time an employer uses the anti-union laws, but would defy orders to return to work or suspend strikes, calling on other unions to come to their defence.

Related to this,

we also need to unite the anti-cuts campaigns. We now have four anti-cuts umbrella groups: the National Shop Stewards Movement, Right to Work, Coalition of Resistance and the latest, without a shred of irony intended, Unite the Resistance.

The main purpose of each of these fronts is to promote the policies and profile of the sponsoring left group – Socialist Party, SWP or Counterfire. They may claim to emphasise different aspects of the struggle, but so what? This could be done better in a single campaign. They may have different policies – but what use are any of them without a united movement to implement them?

Who really benefits from these separate campaigns? The government certainly, but so do the union leaders who are frittering away our forces in stop-start strikes, and the Labour Party that does not have to defend its position in front of a mass movement.

In contrast a united movement would be able to swing all its forces behind any group of workers in struggle at a moment’s notice, would be able to recruit more members to unions and more activists to lead struggles, and would ultimately have the authority to call actions of its own whenever union leaders betray.

Last but not least, all the unions, campaigns, socialist groups and individuals fighting austerity need to come together to launch a new working class party.

Greece recently showed us how quickly such a party could grow – if launched in time and open to all anticapitalist tendencies. Syriza grew from 4 per cent of the vote in 2009 to 16 per cent in April 2012 and 27 per cent in July.

How? By involving itself in all the struggles and hosting mass meetings to discuss ways forward. By declaring itself against all the cuts. By proposing to cancel the debt, and use the money to rebuild the country.

We believe that such a new party would have to adopt a revolutionary action programme in order to carry out such measures. It would have to seize capitalists’ finances and factories, and start to break up the police and army, if it were not to find its work sabotaged. But that is for debate inside the new party we are fighting to build.

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