Nick Cohen (“The British have no fight in them any more” – 9/12/12) would have us believe that the resistance of working people is next to non-existent in the face of the ConDem austerity offensive.
Nick hasn’t been the first with this pessimistic view. In November 2010, on the eve of George Osborne’s first Autumn Statement which set out his initial cuts target of £81 billion, Jeremy Paxman asked TUC leader Brendan Barber on Newsnight, “Why aren’t British workers like those in Europe?” Paxman was contrasting the TUC’s modest 3,000-strong rally that day with the mass protests and strikes that were raging across Europe.
However, between that Autumn Statement and Osborne’s latest effort last week, we’ve seen the greatest mobilisation of working and middle-class people for decades. Nick briefly mentions the student movement at the end of 2010 but this was a mass movement of hundreds and thousands of young people. On March 26th 2011, well over half a million marched on arguably the largest union-led demonstration in this country’s history and on November 30th last year we saw possibly the biggest single day of strike action since the 1926 general strike as public sector workers took action to defend their pensions.
That day could and should have been the beginning of the type of concerted and co-ordinated industrial action that could have forced the government to retreat on pensions in the same way that they’ve U-turned over 40 times from culling badgers to the pasty tax. But because the cuts have been so unrelenting, millions of workers still see the need for the unions to strike together to stop the austerity programme that is destroying our lives.
This Tuesday, the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) is lobbying the TUC General Council to call on the union leaders to name the date for a national strike of workers across the public and private sectors – effectively a 24 hour general strike. The NSSN believes that such joint action would be hugely popular and well supported. The strikes that are almost a daily occurrence but rarely reported by the media, from the victorious the construction electricians early this year to the Tesco delivery drivers who are currently on all-out strike in Doncaster, show that actually the willingness to fight is absolutely present amongst workers in this country. PCS has announced a strike ballot early next year, we call on the other unions to join them.
NSSN national chair
Come to the Lobby – 8.30am onwards –
It will assemble from 8.30am at Congress House in Great Russell Street.