Government has two key jobs to deliver on, ‘bread and circuses. Keeping people fed and distracted is essential to its survival. We know it is in crisis when the circus takes place in the seat of power and the bakery shuts. Hunger and chaos are the death knells of dictatorship.
With the end of preoccupation caused by the demise of Queen Liz and Prime Minister Liz, the government is turning all guns blazing on us. If it can’t deliver, it has to crush.
This will present us as workers with the greatest challenge of the current wave of strikes. As union leaders pause momentum, calling truces for dead monarchs and promises of talks, the government is not preparing to pull its punches. Instead they are training the army to strike-break while escalating legislation to sack and even criminalise strikers.
The government has already got away with criminalising environmental direct action and curbing protest, preparing the ground and precedent to face down the strikers. They are pressuring rail and postal bosses not to make deals that the unions can claim as victories.
The press is already on side. The Times declared “there is no more urgent challenge than to head off the wave of strikes that threaten to cripple large swathes of the public and private sector.” With the Sun revealing plans for. “..new emergency powers to break a winter of strikes”, looking at “..more options to disrupt unions’ co-ordinated bids to paralyse Britain.” This includes amending legislation going through Parliament “…to ensure a minimum level of service on strike days in key industries, such as rail ….making it easier for bosses to replace strikers.”
So far, 500,000 workers have beaten the strike ballot thresholds. With nurses and ambulance staff walking our later this month to join dockers, transport workers, baggage handlers, university staff, and communication workers amongst others, barely a day in December will be strike free.
Whilst public support is high – strikers are the public too – government plans will demand new resolve and new tactics. Apart from the traditional reluctance of the organised Trade Union movement to put their necks on the line by breaking the law and risking their position and finance, union officials are already being targeted. Royal Mail claims this week that 90 CWU reps are now facing serious allegations that have led to suspensions and reports to the police.
Many actions and walkouts are already being coordinated across sectors but this ‘generalisation’ of strike activity in itself may also become a target of legislation. Because it is effective! What should be our response to this and other government threats and attacks? Do it anyway! The TUC and Labour establishment will oppose this, but so far, the staggered ungeneralised walk outs risk bleeding worker’s morale and finances by a thousand cuts.
Negotiations alone, if at all, whatever union leaders say, will not bring victory. Where effective defeat sold as a win may happen, compromise by compromise, it will be at the expense of solidarity and other workers demanding what is theirs. So far strikes have effectively been costly demonstrations of protest. They must step up to resistance. Across sectors and communities, risking the law and demanding change through direct action, against union bureaucracy if necessary.
If the glove is off the fist – let’s step up to meet the challenge – direct action not protest! As the anarchist initiator of the Wall Street Occupation, David Graeber put it: “Protest is like begging the powers that be to dig a well. Direct Action is digging the well and daring them to stop you.” If they want a war against our class, let’s escalate the class war!