Over the last few days, 2,000,000 workers have taken to the streets nationwide, closing one of the largest industrial ports, blocking factories and refineries, cutting the energy system while ensuring supply to vulnerable communities – a social or ‘Robin Hood’ action. In the capital half a million brought the city and work to a standstill forcing even national monuments to close.
If you missed it, it’s because this happened in France. The capital is Paris and the port city Le Havre. War Austerity is being resisted there too as elsewhere in Europe, where the task ahead is increasingly clear. As one French worker told a journalist: “It’s less joyous, less a feeling we can win with a few demos. But it is serious and sober about the job in front of us,”. Such scale and combativity has yet to find expression here.
It is a year since we saw the birth of the current industrial unrest in the UK, beginning in the construction and education sectors. It’s nearly 8 months since one of the key sections of our class still organised and confident, the transport unions, began to take on the Tory government. The growth of the strike movement since then has spread to health, legal and civil services as well as postal and delivery, fire and ambulance emergency services amongst others.
We’ve just seen the largest single number of people on strike, across sector and industry, than we have seen in more than a generation. How much longer can you go on like this? Striking by rote, one or two days at a time and weeks apart. Drip by drip gains neither momentum nor progress.
It risks bleeding energy, funds and morale from workers and the strike movement ultimately empowering the status quo and thus the bosses. Combat fatigue and mission drift will be the consequences of the cautious trade union strategy designed more to stay on the right side of the bosses law than win by overwhelming it.
By refusing and sabotaging negotiations, the government is revealing its hand. Firstly, it believes it can win by dragging things out and demoralising those on strike and secondly, it is clearly not feeling threatened. It is prepared to pay in lost production what it would have cost to settle the disputes because it’s aim is not resolution but our defeat! Current tactics risk dancing to their tune.
We need to recall that before inflation, the war in Ukraine and these strikes, was Covid, Trump and Grenfell. Before that was the Syrian war, Brexit and the Islamic State. And still earlier, banking collapse, recession and the Fukushima nuclear disaster. This isn’t new, it never stops. This relentless war of capitalism and all its needs devouring us in its wake. This is class war, our subjugation for their ruthless adventures in search of profit. How does it change? What change have we seen? What have we gained?
Challenging the social peace and costing capital a fortune by withdrawing labour is not ‘very little’, though nowhere near enough. Our role is to highlight that, as frustration grows. We sink or swim together as workers, not judge from the sidelines. Those on strike know what they are risking and will at some point see it could all have been in vain if there is no escalation, risking the safe TU strategy and taking some more radical leaders with them.
At this stage it is a process not an event and we have written about ‘social (‘Robin Hood’) strikes’ as in France, being a possible step forward. Trade Union caution though is clearly a restraining factor and we need to say what we see – postal strikes called off due to legal challenge, nursing unions in Wales pausing for ‘considering’ an offer, rail strikes delayed to allow talks. And for what result?
Our role as workers and militants is to highlight what we see and experience ourselves and on the picket lines – where strikers are unambiguously clear, we want to win! Enough is enough must not just apply to our increasing impoverishment and drift towards capitalist war. It must equally apply to the timidity of our strategy and tactics to fight against this.
The labour establishment Trade Unions, unlike their members, are as reluctant to escalate as the loyal opposition Labour Party. Their caution, their priorities, indeed, their role is to prevent that happening. They are the log on the line that can yet derail the strike movement and the fortunes of the millions who are already sacrificing through struggle and solidarity. Stepping up is not just an option, it is a necessity to challenge the social peace and shake the bosses.
We have said it before and will continue to argue for and encourage other workers and communities to keep or seize the moment and momentum. Form where possible grassroots coordination and decision bodies or assemblies. Networking and showing solidarity across industry and trade for a unification of demands and action, under our direct control not through a bureaucratic filter.
For direct action and the self organised generalisation of strike action everywhere! BEWARE BUREAUCRACY SELL OUT! ESCALATE! COORDINATE! VICTORY TO THE STRIKE MOVEMENT!