Is the Worm Turning?

Throughout much of mainland Europe and in the USA, debt-laden states are axing jobs and services. Here, literally hundreds of campaigns, lobbies, rallies, involving thousands of people are underway at any one time. The campaigning is as wide-ranging as the cuts themselves. From swim-ins to e-petitions and rallies outside parliament to reverse an endless chain of individual cuts. From court battles to halt library closures to appeals against local councils’ attempts to widen the council tax net. With NHS budget cuts now well underway, the campaign and 25,000 strong protest to save Lewisham hospital is only one of many similar protests country-wide. Alongside all this activity, workers facing wage cuts and job losses are also remembering the strike weapon.

Last November clerical and admin workers at Mid-Yorkshire NHS Trust were told of pay cuts and 74 redundancies. At the end of January they went on strike and burnt the dismissal letters outside the Trust headquarters in Wakefield. It’ll be interesting to hear what comes of this because it’s difficult for a small group of workers to win in isolation and the unions are busy keeping a lid on things. While clerical workers were burning dismissal notices the unions were ‘considering’ a strike ballot of nurses in the same hospitals.

Popular anger is reaching powder keg proportions. Labour and the TUC are flagging up the risk of ‘civil disturbance’

"as large swathes of our communities, especially young men, face long periods of unemployment and increasingly little hope of decent work as the economy continues to falter." (From open letter of Newcastle, Liverpool and Sheffield (Labour) council leaders issued in a briefing by the Northern TUC 28 January)

The last thing the Labour Party wants is ‘civil disturbance’. That might disturb the parliamentary game and Labour’s chances of winning next time round. Sadly, as we saw a couple of years ago, rioting is an expression of anger and indignation from those the system is permanently excluding but it is neither a challenge to the system’s values nor a pointer to the way to fight back.

Meanwhile battles against the cuts remain fragmented andlocalised. Partly this is due to the government’s calculated policy of pushing as much of the axe-swinging as possible onto local councils. This year the situation is worse than ever. With diminishing cash from central government, the official auditors reckon at least 12% of councils are “at an ongoing risk of being unable to balance their budgets”. Not surprising then that so many battles begin as local ones. So far this is how most have remained: isolated, self-contained, only coming together for the TUC’s highly regimented street processions.

But with endless announcements of ‘austerity’ lasting for years to come the gravity of the situation is hitting home. The unions may have honed their ‘campaigning skills’ and turned themselves into anti-cuts campaigners but everyone knows both Labour and the TUC accept the need for cuts. That’s like fighting with one hand behind your back. Within the localities people are starting to come together in the search for more effective ways of resisting. That means organising collectively from the ground up. There is some evidence that this is beginning to happen. In Stocksbridge, South Yorkshire for example, we hear “there have been two meetings from which a local assembly is emerging: Open to anyone, now independent of the Town Council, still bottom-up”. Anyone else got more like this? It is heartening because it is only through experience of organising our own struggles that the basis for a higher form of democracy, workers’ democracy based on mass assemblies with instantly re-callable delegates, can emerge to show there is an alternative to capitalist parliaments … and capitalism itself!

Saturday, February 23, 2013


What an encouraging article. "Popular anger is reaching powder keg proportions. Labour and the TUC are flagging up the risk of ‘civil disturbance’." I am amazed to hear this because, living abroad, I had the impression nothing was happening. It's lovely to be wrong! And the point about organizing our own struggles - as not just an alternative to parliament but to capitalism itself - is excellent.

Aurora (en)

Aurora is the broadsheet of the ICT for the interventions amongst the working class. It is published and distributed in several countries and languages. So far it has been distributed in UK, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Colombia.