Tue Nov 29, 2022
November 29, 2022

Britain | Don’t call off strikes and pickets

The Queen dies and the strike wave falters

Rebuild the strike wave!

Stop millions falling into destitution

By International Socialist League – UK

From 18 June to 7 September, the great strike wave was built by the RMT, Aslef, CWU, PCS, Unite and other unions. This mighty wave was due to continue on 15 and 17 September, as RMT said they would close the country. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Our members have no choice but to continue this strike action.” And in the last few days, repeatedly called for many more unions to join the strike action and for neighbourhoods to organise action to achieve a unity of class struggle. Let’s strike as one was the call.

Then the British monarch died on 8 September, and the wave collapsed within hours.

The RMT said it joined the “whole nation in paying its respects to Queen Elizabeth. The planned railway strike action on 15 and 17 September is suspended. We express our deepest condolences to her family, friends and the country.”

Anger began in the rank and file and activists who had done so much for the strike movement. The leadership of RMT and CWU called off the strike without any discussion with their memberships. If they wanted to call off the strikes on 15 and 17 September, they should have called for emergency union branches, city or regional meetings to discuss the issue and decide. Our position would have been to maintain the strikes.

Workers’ democracy cannot be kept to full-time officials, but it must be based on mass meetings when every member has the right to speak and vote. As the strike wave re-ignites (as we hope it will), much greater efforts must be made to base the strike wave on union democracy, as all the strongest strike waves in history, such as the 1934 USA Teamster union that started the strike wave, were extremely democratic. Workers were fully consulted, and they felt they were making decisions. This time the unions had three or four days to organise emergency meetings.

Some strikes are continuing organised by PCS, Unite and GMB unions, they are not national strikes, but it is imperative that they continue.

The TUC took a further measure, the TUC Congress was meant to convene on 11 September, but it has been postponed until “a later date”, perhaps even in the last half of October. That is a disgrace. Many workers are thinking about a general strike. The picket lines visited by ISL members across the country did not find any striker opposed to mass coordination of the strike or calling for a general strike. But a general strike has to be organised and, at the same time, welcome all the actions of workers and working-class neighbourhoods. Those union leaders who speak about this perspective could have voiced their opinion and fought for it at the TUC congress.

The vote was not unanimous; some unions opposed it. The PCS (state workers), CWU (postal and telecommunication workers), FBU (firefighters), UCU (university and college workers), EIS (Scottish education union) & Equity (actors and entertainment industry) voted against the congress postponement. So, not all union leaderships are in retreat.

The International Workers GB union (a parallel union to United Voices of the World) has maintained its Annual General conference for Saturday. It is the correct decision.

It has been announced that the CWU will strike on 1 October. We think it is imperative that unions name the strike days now. Strikes were spreading because they felt confident that the union leaders would not let them down this time. One of the sayings of the late 1920s and 1930s in the UK was, “leaders always let you down”. All union leaders must fight to ensure that all the big decisions are in the hands of the membership and not the top.

Principles of class struggle

Again, there are two great principles of trade union struggle: independence from the state and all the pillars of the state. The political role of royalty is to enshrine the idea that fabulous wealth, significant land ownership and privilege can happily exist in harmony with the millions of workers and their families who face destitution this winter while employers attack workers’ rights, wages and conditions furiously

Many families search for food banks and baby banks. They will search for warm banks this winter while royalty lives in palaces. No one can represent the “nation”. We are not all in it together, as Boris Johnson said. Nobody can represent the whole nation, as Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, said of the Queen, while immense inequality exists.

So, independence from the capitalist state and all its institutions and workers and union democracy are the two great pillars for the rank and file to build in the unions. From this, a programme to unite the working class in the struggle against all the attacks by employers and the government can be developed.

Rebuild the strike wave and union democracy!

End destitution for wages, pensions, and benefits linked to inflation!

End price increases and profiteering!

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