In Britain and throughout Europe the resistance to the ruling class offensive is growing. It started in Greece with the waves of strikes against the imposed austerity programmes that are grinding Greek workers into the ground. It has spread throughout the continent and last month millions of British public sector workers were mobilised to take part in the biggest strike the country has ever seen, even bigger than those who downed tools in the General Strike of 1926.
Millions of public sector workers walked out on 30th November in a TUC Day of Action against the ruling class attack on pensions. Civil servants, health and local government workers were supported by the student movement and many more workers from other sectors joined the protests and lobbies on the day.
Over 20 unions, including the giant teaching, civil service, health and local government unions as well as those representing specialist and senior grades, took part in what was the biggest national stoppage in British labour movement history.
Government ministers tried to divide the unions and the rank and file by bleating about concessions to the unions that existed largely in the imagination of the bourgeois press. They’ve offered next to nothing and the little that they have put on the table still means increased contributions and lower pensions for all public sector workers, along with the prospect that most will have to retire later to get much less than what they signed up for when they were first employed.
The Tory-led Coalition Government’s cuts are part of a general offensive against the public sector designed to place the entire burden of the capitalist crisis on the backs of the working class. The purpose of the pension cuts is to raise £2.8 billion to pay for the deficit and pave the way for the sell-off of what’s left of the public sector.
It’s all part of the Tory austerity plan designed to squeeze the pips from the working class to ensure that the rich can continue to live their parasitical lives of ease and pleasure as they have always done.
Unemployment in Britain is soaring. Some 2.57 million are now out of work using the official criteria which excludes many the tens of thousands of others that used to be counted in official statistics. Workers are working longer hours for less pay while education and the health service are being slashed. And it’s not just in Britain.
The world-wide slump has plunged the entire capitalist world into crisis. Millions upon millions have been thrown out of work in Europe and North America. Social services are being cut throughout the heartlands of imperialism. Those still in work are taxed to pay for what little benefits are left, as well as fund the Nato war-machine that’s used to oppress and plunder the Libyan, Iraqi and Afghan people.
But the rich carry on unscathed. No one in the British Government or the other chancelleries of the European Union is telling them to tighten their belts. And all the ruling class has to offer workers is longer hours, less pay, poverty and creeping fascism.
The alternative is job creation and investment instead of the damaging cuts that are devastating communities. The way out of the capitalist crisis is socialism and the planned economy that does away with exploitation and oppression altogether.
The riots in London and other British cities in August was a symptom of the growing anger and alienation of young people facing a bleak future while the massive strike on 30th November sent a clear message to the Tories and their Liberal Democrat collaborators that the cuts are unacceptable and that they will be resisted all the way. We will do all we can in support of the militant unions to stop the ruling class offensive in its tracks and bring down the Cameron-led government
Marches, demonstrations and occupations are taking place throughout the world as the demand for change is taken up once again by a new generation that is expressing their abhorrence at the way advanced finance capitalism is making one per cent of the global population unimaginably rich while impoverishing and oppressing the remaining 99 per cent of the world’s population.
We need to encourage this movement but we also need to inject a scientific, rational perspective. It is not enough to be united against capitalism; we have to be united in what we are for and have some idea of the necessary steps to achieve it.
Virtually all of those involved in the occupy movements say they are for freedom and democracy but many still cling to the bogus bourgeois theory of “individual freedom” and the anti-working class doctrines of anarchy. Others believe that protest marches and demonstrations in themselves are the way forward. But working people have never got anywhere with pious motions or cringing appeals to the supposed good conscience of the bourgeoisie. Past victories were won only through confrontation with the employers and their state machine. Today the working class can only rely on the organised strength of the unions to defend their rights, now under massive attack from the ruling class.
In Britain and throughout the rest of the European Union the labour movement has two options as its economic standards decline and its political and democratic rights are eroded.
One option for the labour movement is to remain tied to reformist ideology and continue to give its support to right-wing social democratic leadership which co-operates with and capitulates with the demands and interests of state monopoly capitalism.
These leaderships have no commitment to socialism, no commitment to defend the welfare state and the social wage and no commitment to renationalise the industries that have been privatised. They lead no effective fight to mobilise the people against reactionary governments. They betray, and work for the defeat of workers in struggle. They refuse to countenance any action which infringes against reactionary capitalist laws. They work to strengthen Nato and US imperialism’s military and political grip over Europe and in Britain and France the social-democratic leadership remains committed to the possession and development of vast nuclear arsenals.
The other option is to fight to defeat the right-wing class collaborators in the unions and the social democratic movements while building the revolutionary party dedicated to the struggle that can unite and mobilise the working class behind the banner of socialism. Socialism is the only alternative that can achieve the emancipation of the working class and fulfill the people’s desire for world peace, nuclear disarmament and the elimination of the causes of war.
Andy Brooks, General Secretary
New Communist Party of Britain