Thu Feb 22, 2024
February 22, 2024

TUC organise a general strike now

Wages fall fastest since record began
Full support to all strikes
Workers are fighting back against the government and employers’ attacks on their wages, jobs and conditions by taking national action. RMT (rail) will strike on 27J, 18A and 20A, CWU (telecommunication workers) on 29J and 1A and Aslef (train drivers) on 30J.
By ISL (International Socialist League) – Britain
The CWU 115,000 postal workers have voted by 97.6%, on a 77% turnout, to strike. This represents the biggest mandate for strike action since the 2016 Trade Union Act was implemented. On its website, the “…CWU said company management decided to executively impose a 2% pay rise on its employees, who were designated key workers at the height of the pandemic, in an economic climate where RPI inflation has soared to 11.7%.
City and regional strikes are also taking place. For example, Unite bus drivers are taking strike action in many cities and regions. As we write wage offers of up to 8% are being rejected, for example, tram drivers in London, dock workers and bus drivers in Liverpool.
Rail workers, nurses and postal workers say they were treated as heroes (for working through COVID) but now they are treated like zeros. The strike movement also means a political break against the Tory government’s empty promises and programmes, for those workers who voted for Brexit, and then gave political support to Johnson because they had been betrayed by Labour since the miners’ strike in 1984/85. The first three RMT strikes were supported in polls averaging 58%.
Government crisis
The crisis of the British government will continue, no matter how many leaders they try. That crisis gave RMT workers more confidence to strike and increased their support dramatically. The week after the strikes, Johnson stepped down. No mainstream commentator linked the strike to Johnson’s fall, but it was an important factor, as Johnson sent his Cabinet poodles against the RMT leadership in a media war and lost. They were proven to be and were called many times “liars”.
The Tory make more attacks on our class, more laws against workers, immigrants and the poor, and more attacks by the police on Black communities. Workers are beginning to feel that it is time to strike to safeguard their wages, jobs, families and neighbourhoods.
The government’s main policy to face the international crises is to cut real wages as real inflation is above 10% and hits the poor even harder. The energy and other privatised companies are profiteering. Still, the Bank of England and the Financial Times say wages cause inflation –a lie – as if the Russian invasion of Ukraine or the deepening economic international trade and production problems do not exist in world capitalism and imperialism.
These strikes are taking place because workers have to fight for cost-of-living pay rises. Many workers, not only those on strikes, such as hospital staff (1.5 million workers), teachers (624,000), college, university, civil service workers and firefighters, are offered a combination of less than inflation pay increases, substantial job losses, worse pensions and conditions.
They should all be demanding a sliding scale of wages (as well as benefits and pensions) to keep up with inflation – as in Belgium. NHS staff in England have only been offered 5%.
July and August will see the first large national BT workers’ strike since 1987, and the RMT will take another three days of national strike making six this year. We support Mick Lynch (RMT General Secretary) when he calls for other unions to join the RMT in national strike action. We think the RMT, and other union leaders should go further and call on the TUC to organise a general strike. The rank and file of the unions should raise this demand at every level.
The TUC called the London 60,000-strong demonstration on 18 June but is not aiming to organise a national strike or even a national conference to coordinate the nationwide strikes. They must be pushed into doing so.
The government offensive is to hold wages down, attack conditions and remove workers’ rights. This means that while workers in one sector may win above-inflation wage increases, they cannot defeat the employers and government offensive themselves. They need to build joint strike actions, and all workers should demand that the TUC organise a general strike.
This government is hated, and the anger against them is increasing. The RMT strike helped bring Johnson down, a general strike can bring the government down.
Internationalism
Over three days of the previous strike, unions internationally showed their solidarity. Such as CUB Trasporti from Italy, CGT rail from France, CSP Conlutas from Brazil and the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggle, including Solidaire from France, calls on the 100 internationally affiliated unions to support the RMT strike.
This is the beginning of building international solidarity for the UK workers’ struggle and building common struggles with other countries. Rail workers and many trade unionists face a global struggle against international capital. For example, the owners of the rail system include Netherland State, Deutsche Bahn and the state-backed Italian firm Trenitalia Rail. According to the RMT, 70 per cent of Britain’s railways are now under foreign ownership to some degree.
The national and international owners exploit workers worldwide, so these struggles must be linked together as we have the same enemies their system of capitalism and imperialism is global. Workers fight for wages, against precarious work, privatisation and oppression worldwide against a harsh system of capitalist imperialism, including the IMF, World Bank and the G20 that demands no barriers to their capital.
Oppressing and stealing from workers
The unions say that the shareholders in the privatised rail and British Telecommunications (BT) pay huge sums to shareholders. Dave Ward, CWU general secretary, said, “While bosses rake in £758m in profit and shareholders take £400m, workers are expected to take a serious pay cut in real terms.
Companies give obscenely large bonuses to CEOs and increase prices. Workers and customers, in general, have had to endure rising costs on everything, including ‘public’ transport and telephones.
These attacks on workers, if not defeated, will lead to many safety issues at work, precarious jobs and unequal pay (that capitalism has never resolved). In contrast, some new attacks, such as on firefighters, move towards union de-recognition. All this is pursued by a capitalist system that keeps its greed on track and looks for every way to cut the cost of employing workers. They are determined to increase the amount of surplus value they steal from workers.
The UK now has 177 billionaires, six more than last year. The combined wealth of the UK’s 250 most affluent individuals and families has climbed to £710billion, an 8 per cent rise in 12 months.
Everyone knows new price shocks are coming as gas and electric bills, which have already risen dramatically in 2022, will increase 50% to 64% this October unless the government is forced to cap prices and stops profiteering.
Big business is using inflation as a cover for driving up prices because they want more profit. Since austerity, from 2010, and the COVID slump, labour’s share of income and real wages have fallen sharply. The UK has become a low-wage economy.
The Bank of England is going to hike interest rates, but it will have little effect on inflation and is more likely to cause stagnation in investment and consumption, thus deepening a recession or worse.
UK workers experience the most severe attack on wages among the G7 countries and pay is forecast to slump by more than 6% over the next two years, according to research by the TUC. The question now is, what is the TUC going to do?
Workers fight back
Organised workers are fighting back, encouraging many sections to fight, union membership is rising, and activists are calling for a general strike in union discussion lists. Many workers say it is profits, not wages, that is the reason for UK inflation.
It means the strike movement must be organised from below with continual demands from union branches and the rank and file on their union leaderships and through them on the TUC.
Don’t forget that in 2011 when there was a public sector national strike against pension attacks, the TUC organised just one day, and there was no great call from a group of left union leaders to organise another day. However, workers were asking “when is the next national pension strike” to defeat the Tory government. Eleven years later we can go much further so long as the strike movements are driven and controlled by the union base.
The rail unions are calling for public ownership of the railway. But that slogan does not say who will control the capitalist state or a worker’s state? We have experienced what capitalist state nationalisation means – creating services and companies in a sea of capitalism. To end all the swindles and corruption we need workers’ control without compensation, only the struggle for workers’ democracy and control can win against capitalism alongside a worker’s government.
What is the Labour Party doing?
Keir Starmer made it clear he did not support the RMT picket lines, which means he and Labour do not support the strikes against the cost of living. David Lammy MP continued the attack against Heathrow Workers. Starmer was opposed by 50 Labour MPs who supported or went to the picket lines. But the Labour leadership are hostile to the working class fighting back, and the MPs who went to the pickets are in the wrong party.
Starmer’s international policy proves that. He supports NATO completely, and when some left MPs signed a statement against NATO, he said he would discipline them if they did not remove their signatures. They all withdraw their support against NATO.
So, while workers and trade unionists are fighting the Russian invasion in the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, Starmer sides with the US and EU in increasing the arms programme, not for the Ukrainian people but to use against workers. There is no difference between the Tories and Starmer’s Labour.
Not Labour but a new Workers’ Party
In discussing the need for a new workers’ party with union activists one comment was, “what we want is a socialist party”. Our reply is that because of the setbacks for the working class by Stalinism and reformism; there is a great distrust of political parties.
We call for a new workers’ party because many workers are beginning to fight, and they may associate socialism with the British Communist Party or the Labour Party; at this moment they may not be convinced about socialism. A worker’s party can only be built based on workers’ struggle and democracy.
So, our primary call is to all the workers coming into battle and all the youth that want to fight alongside all the oppressed people in the country. It is the working class allied to all these sectors who can defeat not only a government but British capitalism.
The ISL would assist such a development with a class struggle programme to answer all the problems that exist today and fight for workers’ socialism, revolutionary socialism, inside such a Workers Party.
In the deepening problems of a looming recession and greater class attacks by a Tory or a Labour government, workers will go through many experiences, test them out in practice, and learn from their experiences. Neither leaders nor programmes can be imposed on such a party, and we would defend the maximum workers’ democracy.
To advance, we cannot go through the same process as Jeremy Corbyn. His retreats against Tory, Zionist and right-wing Labour attacks were never discussed or planned in front of the 100,000s that supported him. His retreats were decided behind closed doors. That is why he lost the last general election, as many workers did not believe he was a leader for them and did not trust he would change.
Unite and fight
Those from the social struggles such as sections on BLM, LGBTQ+ (and left Pride), Pakistani communities, students, pensioner organisations and those fighting for Palestine are supporting the RMT strikes. Let’s build strike support groups linked directly to the striking workers and build a truly great class fight against the government and employers.
It is for workers to lead this national fight, with all the oppressed, working-class neighbourhoods and youth who want to fight through the unions for a general strike, for real union democracy and action, and for a new workers’ party that will help build a mass movement on the streets of the UK against capitalism.
Build the International Socialist League
The ISL will fight inside all the struggles against the capitalist system which is determined to make workers pay for the crisis. We never stop believing that the working class – in close alliance with the working masses and oppressed people – is the only one who can transform society due to its social position in production. The working class are showing us that they can and will lead this struggle, take action and be the centre of political struggles and fighting industrially.
The ISL was created to fight for a new world where, as Rosa Luxemburg said; we are “socially equal, humanly different and totally free”. Hence our commitment from the very beginning in the struggles against all forms of oppression, as part of the class struggle and necessary to unite the working class on the road to seizing power, for a socialist revolution and a government of the workers.
In the ISL, we fight for the working class to enter into the struggle over the leadership of the struggles for its democratic demands, with a class orientation and perspective in the revolutionary struggle.
We are part of the International League of Workers – Fourth International (IWL-fi). We understand that an organisation whose goal is the working class struggle must be international. We exist as part of a revolutionary International to confront capitalist imperialism in all its forms: for the strikes, for international workers solidarity, for the Ukrainian working class, for the Sri Lankan mass struggle.
Victory to the UK summer of strikes!
TUC organise a national strike now!
Build strike support groups!
For a sliding scale of wages, benefits and pensions!
Impose price caps – stop profiteering!
Nationalisation under workers’ control without compensation of all public services and big private companies!
Build a new workers’ party!

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