Why a ‘general strike’ is better than a “General Strike”…

AnarCom members joined the hundreds of thousands who marched and rallied in over 40 cities across the UK at the beginning of February, in solidarity with the half million workers out on strike and the half million more in between strike days.  The central focus of many though was opposition to the new ‘slap not clap’ essential workers legislation going through Parliament.

Modernisation (meaning sackings) and reform of labour practices (meaning sackings) to tackle wartime austerity have left many workers, not just here but throughout Europe, nowhere else to go than to lose pay and withdraw their labour. The sacrifice is theirs.

A list of what ballots have successfully overcome existing legal hurdles or are being considered, let alone wildcat actions without formal TUC recognition, would just be a list that changes day by day. Suffice to say that it already includes such sizeable and significant sectors as transport, health, education, legal and civil services as well as postal and delivery and fire and ambulance emergency services. 

Potentially a greater strike wave than the late ‘70 early 80’s. This is not a winter of discontent, but the culmination of a generation of discontent. This despite all the legislation setting targets and conditions aimed at making strike action illegal. A class is awakening!

For revolutionists this has been long expected. For capital too! This is why the government was so determined to provoke the rail strike last summer and defeat it at all costs, aiming to smash the last remaining organised stronghold of industrial labour since the defeat of the miners in ‘84/85. This failed to shatter the sharp wedge of resistance and stop those that have now chosen to follow suit.

Parallels with the great miners’ strike are inevitably being drawn, though the differences are as deeply significant as any similarity – the latter largely limited to government intent.

In 1984 Tories took on the NUM after 5 years of active preparation, stockpiling coal and negotiating some agreed ‘safety’ closures with the NUM under the new Plan For Coal. Through this latter facade they had spun Scargill who kept the miners quiet, whilst taking on and defeating other significant sections of the working class, from steel to shipbuilding, nurses to the railways (in 1982 ships returning from the Falklands War, having secured Thatcher’s second election, hung banners saying “call off the rail strike or will call an airstrike”).

The miners arrived late to the slaughter, driven by need and an avenging passion to redress those defeats and stop Thatcherism in its tracks. But the organised working class they needed solidarity from had already suffered bloody defeats. The TUC, guarding what little corporate presence it retained resolutely resisted the left’s simpering cries of “TUC, get off your knees, call a General Strike!”. The TUC didn’t, defeating capitalism was never their job, and the rest is history. It was the last kick of the last major cross-sectional strike wave – until now.

The difference now is that this is not at the edge of what is collapsing, but at the centre of what is rising. The icecap on the concept of class struggle is melting and those facing the challenge, whilst not from the generation accustomed to victory, are neither accustomed to defeat.

The formidable class weapon of transport spearheaded this renewed fight-back and those choosing to follow are motivated by their own need and resolution. A generalisation of strike action without the stultifying patronage of the TUC is unfolding in spite of them, raising possibilities of solidarity and unification of demands not experienced previously in the lifetime of most of those in work.

Supporting the linking and unification of class struggle is a central task of all anarchist communists, the more formidable with the blocking saboteur role of capitalist and Labour Party endorsed organised trade unionism. For this we unapologetically advocate autonomy, combativity, solidarity and the collective escalation of demands as confidence and coordination grow.

Crucial will be the rank and file taking control of their strike, communicating with other workers and encouraging each other to share and coordinate their own struggles in solidarity. Building for united action must include coordinating committees between different industries and groups of workers and building links with the struggles in the communities all workers come from. Winning will rely on each other, certainly not the bureaucrats of the TUC, or worse, the Labour Party that has banned its MP’s from attending picket lines!

TUC, stay on your knees where you belong! A general strike is de facto already unfolding and coordinating across all sectors.  For direct action and the self organised generalisation of strike action everywhere!  BEWARE BUREAUCRACY SELL OUT! ESCALATE! COORDINATE! VICTORY TO THE STRIKE MOVEMENT!

Article by Dreyfus