|Nov. 30th – The mass mobilisations begin|
|Written by International Socialist League|
|Monday, 12 December 2011 04:21|
|More than 2 million workers were on strike November 30 against the reform of pensions – where workers will have to pay more, work longer and receive less.
There were over 1000 demonstrations nationally joined by many more protesting against the cuts in student fees, the attack on state pensions and privatisation. For many it was their first strike and mass demonstrations and there will be many more. The message was clear the 99 per cent will not pay for capitalism’s crisis.
Over 50,000 marched in central London, Manchester saw 30,000, Bristol saw 20,000 and Liverpool had more than 15,000 people. The large numbers marching in the regions reflects the level of public sector workers in the areas.
This was the biggest ever one day public sector strike. Schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and health services, local councils and services, border control, transport and civil services involving a total of 29 unions were on strike. There were 285,000 council workers and many schools closed: 99 percent in Scotland, 86 per cent in Wales, 66 per cent in Northern Ireland and 62 per cent in England.
This was a strike that was demanded and won by 100,000s of rank and file trade unionists and despite efforts by the government to split the working class, between public and private sectors, strikes and the demonstrations gained mass support. Unions had sought negotiations with the government over many months without success, at the same time anger is rising against the government.
The government falsely argues that public sector pensions are gold plated (50% get £5,600 or less) and that private sector workers are suffering as a consequence, of course their aim is solely to split the working class.
The day before the strike the chancellor delivered an autumn budget which was a further declaration of war that sought to divide the working class by generation, by region (lowering public pay in the poorer regions), and he pledged continuous austerity, freezing public sector pay for another two years (after four years of wage freezes) and announced a 16% cut in public sector pay and benefits by 2015. It was a budget that seriously hurt the poorest 30 per cent of population.
The attacks target women as 73 per cent of public sector workers are women, which is why so many were on strike. The Office for Budget Responsibility believes 710,000 jobs will go in the public sector, while manufacturing now accounts only for 10 per cent of GDP. Britain is not able to and will not be able to export its way out of crisis.
Osborne, the Tory chancellor talked of 7 years of austerity measures, that is assuming Europe solves its current problems, in a week in which many banks and multi-nationals were planning contingency measures for Greece to leave the Euro as they assume Europe will not solve its problems. Many commentators are openly declaring that this crisis will be longer and deeper than 1929 and many more are discussing the possibility of a further crash.
It is essential that unions fight against the attacks and build a struggle to mobilise all workers. An opinion poll in the Daily Mirror found 82 per cent supported the strikes. The right wing union leadership take their cue from the Labour leadership and Miliband who opposes strikes. The NUT (teachers union), PCS (state workers) and the UCU (university and colleges unions) are now calling for renewed strike action if the government fails to respond to their demands. However the chancellors statement was clear this is class war and they intend to make the working class pay.
Closer co-operation is happening between teachers’ union and others but this must be developed on a permanent basis and has to develop a plan for all the users of public services including the fight for the youth against job losses and for proper training and education which means a fight against the privatisation of education.
Nothing can be solved with private banks and private companies. All the banks, all services that have been privatised must immediately be taken back into public ownership, as must all the multi-nationals that are wrecking the economy along with the banks. Actually this is the traditional programme of the Labour Party but only very partially implemented by the Labour Party after the 2nd World War.
We need joint action between the public and private sector to fight job losses, wages cuts and against the government plans that are imposing cuts in every sector of the working class against those in work and those out of work. Public sector unions must invite and urge private sector workers to strike over their pensions, jobs and wages. The reason the right wing TUC leadership does not call for such action is that they are afraid that such action will start something they are unable to control.
As many main commentators in Britain are saying we are on the verge of catastrophe not just in Britain but Europe too, the great question is how can workers learn from each other’s struggles in Europe. The right wing leadership is trying to block a real European movement but the exchanges of experiences amongst workers and students that have started are always warmly welcomed.
Now that the British trade unions are beginning to move again they will have to discuss in democratic assemblies and all democratic union bodies a programme for mobilising the whole trade union movement, that will have to include public ownership under public accountability, jobs for all and a deepening link with all European unions and workers taking to the streets to fight austerity.