Time for action

THE SILLY season, with all its distractions including Tony Blair’s childish and malignant book, is over. It’s time to get back to the real class struggle; the TUC conference in Manchester will start next Monday 13th September and the Labour Party conference will follow hard on its heels. There is a lot to be done and not much time.

The Con-Dem Coalition has given us due warning of the coming tidal wave of cuts and attacks on our class that they are preparing — partly to solve the economic crisis that the bankers and the rest of the ruling class have brought on all of us. And it is partly for ideological reasons: they despise working people and they despise all the advances we have gained over the last 100 years through the organised collective strength of our grandparents, who fought against social injustice to create a better world for us.

They hate it that we still have access to free healthcare and free education up to the age of 18; they hate it that when we are unemployed, injured, sick or just old we get state benefits — pitiful as they are. As far as they are concerned if we are not fit enough to keep working to make them profits, there is no point in us hanging around, cluttering up their space.

The TUC has a full agenda of good resolutions, especially on trade union rights. There is plenty of support for John McDonnell’s Early Day Motion concerning minor errors in strike ballots that would prevent bosses using the courts to halt strikes on tiny technicalities in the balloting procedure.

And there are also plenty calling for the full restoration of the right to strike, as it was before the Tory governments of the 1980s and early 90s. It is hard to grasp just how much working class power has been lost through those laws and just what a powerful class weapon is the right of workers to walk straight off a job if the boss tries to make changes without consultation — and the right of workers from different sites and different sectors to support each other.

Working class strength lies solely in our numbers and that strength has to be well organised and ready for instant solidarity action. This is especially important to defend the rights of more vulnerable workers like nurses and firefighters, who for humanitarian reasons, are inhibited from full proper strikes on their own account.

The full right to strike is enjoyed by most workers throughout the world and is recognised as a fundamental human right by the United Nations and the Independent Labour Organisation — only a slave can be forced by law to remain at work no matter what.

The BBC programme Newsnight on Monday told us that the candidates in the Labour leadership have rediscovered the word socialism and are competing with each other to claim to be the most genuinely socialist — and to distance themselves from the stinking corpse of “New Labour”. Some of them go so far as to support McDonnell’s EDM but not one of them wants restoration of the full right to strike as it existed in the 1970s. It is time for the TUC and all the trade union delegates to be asking them why not? Why should our workers continue to be denied a fundamental human right — and one that would enable us to defend ourselves effectively against the coming onslaught of cuts and hardship?

John McDonnell MP has been campaigning tirelessly for many years for a full restoration of trade union rights and he would have made a better candidate for Labour leadership. Fortunately there is a growing swell within Labour ranks for a return to inner party democracy and a system that would have included McDonnell’s name on the leadership ballots.

The best of the candidates who are on the paper is undoubtedly Diane Abbott, who has consistently opposed “New Labour” policies, including the illegal invasion of Iraq.

TUC delegates must give maximum support for the proposals for a campaign of strikes, rallies, marches, petitions and lobbies against the coming cuts and put maximum pressure on the Labour leadership to act like real socialists and back the restoration of the full right to strike at their conference later this month.