THE THOUSANDS upon thousands who took part in the TUC protests in London, Glasgow and Belfast on Saturday clearly reflected the mounting opposition to the Cameron government’s austerity programme.
The march of over 150,000 people through the capital clearly demonstrated the ability of the TUC to mobilise large numbers of working people behind the banner of resistance. And the serried ranks of speakers at the London rally who included Labour leader Ed Miliband and the general secretaries of all our major unions showed that the movers and shakers of the union movement were eager to be seen heading the struggle against the cuts.
But the numbers in London were down compared to the half a million who took to the streets in the March 2011 anti-cuts protest. Though this was partly due to the decision to hold regional rallies on the same day, many others stayed at home because they didn’t think it would go beyond yet another union parade that the Government would simply ignore and carry on regardless.
That, of course, depends on what happens next and the fight-back certainly has to be taken well beyond marching through the streets on a weekend if it is to have any hope of seriously derailing the Tories and their Liberal Democrat collaborators. Ed Miliband, who heads the Labour Party that claims to represent organised labour, clearly saw the rally as little more than a pre-election campaign rally. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition is deeply unpopular with voters at the moment.
Labour is nine points ahead of the Tories in the opinion polls and Miliband & Co clearly believe Labour is going to be swept back to power on an anti-Tory wave fired by the collapse of the Liberal Democrats. The Labour leader is still committed to austerity and he thinks that a promise to return to the alternative “soft landing” neo-Keynesian reforms that were practised by the last Labour government is enough to get him into Downing Street.
The TUC’s own call for a “Future that Works”, on the other hand, consists of supporting another national co-ordinated national public sector one-day strike on pay in the New Year and a tentative call for a one-day “general strike” if and when the European Court of Justice rules against the existing anti-union legislation.
A joint public sector one day strike, like last year’s mass stoppage over pension rights, has to be fought for in the unions concerned and the call for a general strike has to be fought for throughout the movement, regardless of what the European Court says or does.
The Tory-led Coalition is unstable and can be brought down whenever the Liberal Democrats decide it’s time to jump ship. But workers can’t wait for Nick Clegg to make his mind up or simply sit it out until 2015 when the next election has to take place whatever happens.
The fight-back that started in Greece has spread to Spain, Portugal and France and now the unions are fighting the cuts right across the European Union.
Last November around two-and-a-half million public sector workers took strike action, the biggest strike in terms of numbers our country has ever seen.
That strike sent a clear message to the Coalition Government that pension and public service cuts were unacceptable. That campaign failed because the vacillators who still control some of our unions, more concerned with preserving their immense salaries and perks than taking up the legitimate demands of their members, headed off demands for a follow-up campaign.
That must never happen again. Appeasement doesn’t work. The only way the Cameron Government can be stopped in its tracks is by determined action by the organised working class united around the basic demands charted by the TUC this year.