Between 40 and 50,000 people demonstrated at a rally in London on Saturday for ‘We Demand Better’ organized by the trade union confederation TUC (Trades Union Congress).
This week there were demonstrations by 50,000 railway employees on the eve of the national strike on June 21, 23 and 25.
Seeking to take control of a nascent strike wave, the union bureaucracy pulled out all the stops. Although the protest was slightly larger than the annual TUC protest of recent years, it was still much smaller than in 2011, which later brought together 200,000 people. The Conservative government came to power and began its first brutal austerities.
Held against a backdrop of strong sentiment among workers in favor of confrontation with the Johnson government and big business, shows the decline of union authority after decades of betrayal – only a necessary shift toward a more militant rhetoric cannot hide .
Many of the participants came from an older layer of union representatives, including local officials, shop managers and workers. But there were also thousands of activists and youth looking for a way to deal with the devastating attack on living standards and the effects of inflation reaching 11 percent. A TUC study published on the same day showed that between 2008 and 2021 the average worker lost nearly £20,000 in real income.
TUC’s bankruptcy policy was confirmed at a closing rally in Parliament Square. There, an amnesty was granted to the Labor Party, Johnson’s political partner. Former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was sacked, was reduced to wandering as an isolated figure in the demonstration, who handed over his party without a fight from right-wing supporters of Tony Blair.
The new labor leader Sir Keir Starmer had decided not to show himself where he would be in any way associated with the working class strikes. But its deputy leaders Angela Rainer and Tony Blair clone Wes Streeting, among others, were given the opportunity to be photographed with the head of TUC Frances O’Grady, while maintaining their political distance in consensus with the union bureaucracy.
The next day, at a conference of the labor group of the Union of Municipalities, Starmer announced that the rail strike should be called off. He accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Secretary of State for Transportation Grant Shapps of promoting social conflict so that he could profit from the division. He tweeted: “Time is running out. Conservatives should come and talk and solve this problem.”
Union bureaucrats came and went – figures such as Sharon Graham (Unite), Joe Grady (University and College Union), Dave Ward (Communication Workers Union) and Mark Cervotka (Public and Commercial Services Union), who oversaw a humiliating defeat by the working class did. – To boast about the successes achieved by the trade unions. O’Grady applauded another bureaucrat who said Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey had no right to ask workers to give up wage increases. But she sits with Bailey on the Board of Directors of the Bank of England.
Union leaders are riding a social lion, threatening to hold one strike vote and industrial dispute, “if necessary” after another. Among the latest unions to threaten strike are Unison, which represents hundreds of thousands of National Health Service workers demanding a 3 percent pay increase, and NEU (National Education Union), which has 450,000 members.
RMT (Rail, Sea, Transport) union leader Mick Lynch has spent the past week trying to negotiate an end to the rail strikes scheduled for this week, with the government calling for talks “without preconditions”. Involves writing a petition. But it is well aware of the belligerent sentiment among its members and the working class more broadly; “If your terms are under attack, if your salary is under attack, if your jobs have been taken away from you, then you are in a class struggle,” he told the rally.
“We were not compromised and the message is clear: we are now in a class struggle”.
Lynch concluded: “We will continue this strike until an agreement is reached. The campaign is working. The fight continues. The fight continues… This is the fight for our lives, victory over the RMT.”
sunday, financial TimesPublished an article titled “Government surprised by impending wave of strikes in Britain”. He quoted a “minister” who “declared that the government was following a ‘delicate link’ in keeping wages low and avoiding the inflationary spiral without forcing many sectors to strike: ‘If we are wrong’ , then we run the risk of entering a real general strike which will create new unrest which risks crippling the whole economy.
But the promise of retaliation by the Sangh leaders is a kind of preventive action by this social police of the ruling class. They try to quell the rising tide of social unrest, even if it means organizing limited strikes like the RMT.
The main proponents of the bureaucracy are the pseudo-left parties, with a significant layer of trade union bureaucrats among their members.
The Socialist Workers’ Party commented on Saturday’s rally as follows: “For the first time since 2018, all major unions in Britain have brought hundreds – if not thousands – of their members to march in the bloc … Unions can still be a real force. And when they try they can mobilize in the streets”.
“For many, the scale of the protest – and the fact that it brought together people from all labor movement – showed them that a united struggle was possible.”
SWP tells fairy tales. Unions have worked for decades to divide, isolate and betray workers’ struggles, an unbroken chain of defeat that extends almost forty years ago to the miners’ strike of 1984-85. This period is coming to an end in the midst of an explosion of class struggle. But the unified struggle that millions of activists want to topple the Johnson government must be fought independently of and against the union bureaucracy.
The way forward for the working class is centered on the struggle to establish rank-and-file committees at every workplace and at the center of every conflict. Like the Socialist Equality Party’s statement distributed at the protests on Saturday, “British Railway Strike: Organize the entire working class against the Johnson government!” It clearly states: “The formation of rank and file committees in every workplace and in every sector in the UK will create the necessary conditions for workers to thwart all attempts by unions to sabotage their struggle. unify and topple the Johnson government.”
To this end, the International Committee of the Fourth International established the International Workers’ Alliance of Base Committees (IWA-RFC) in April 2021. We invite all employees to contact PES today and join IWA-RFC.
(Article first published in English on June 20, 2022)
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