Class Struggle is Back on the Agenda!

The capitalist crisis is intensifying and with it come the inevitable attacks on the working class. Cost of living and fuel protests have broken out in more than 90 countries already and the UK is no exception here. Nearly 2 million workers (one in sixteen) are expected to be balloted for strike action in the coming months. The struggle for wages to keep up with inflation is on. Even before the pandemic, which killed more than 200,000 in the UK, finally eased up, and the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in February 2022, the first signs of the coming resistance were making their appearance.

Strikes and Protests

In January there were strikes by scaffolders calling for better pay. In February there were strikes over pensions at schools and universities, and small protests about the cost of living and the desperate situation in the NHS. In March, the London Tube strike began over threats to jobs and pensions, and there were protests in support of sacked P&O workers. April saw strikes by oil refinery workers over an insulting pay offer. In May, postal workers went on strike as they had their wages frozen for the previous year, followed by a wave of wildcat strikes. Refuse collectors in Welwyn Hatfield, construction workers in Hull, offshore oil workers in the North Sea, workers at a food plant in Bury, all took matters into their own hands and did not wait to go through the official process. In June, there were more strikes in the Royal Mail, a barristers’ strike against stagnant fees and, of course, railway strikes.

At this point the establishment media began to warn of “class war” and ran a vitriolic campaign to discredit striking workers. In July, BT workers started their strikes, the first nationwide action at the company in 35 years. There were also strikes on the buses, and further action in the Royal Mail and on the railways. In August, council workers went on strike, and there was another wave of wildcat action, this time by Amazon workers at various sites, and contract workers, including scaffolders and maintenance workers, at various refineries and chemical plants. In September, offshore oil workers in the North Sea, despite condemnation from both the unions and the employers, went on strike again, organised by their own strike committee. That month there were also strikes by dockers at Felixstowe and Liverpool ports (with impressive 24hr pickets). Finally, October saw the continuation of many of the previously mentioned strikes, and the resignation of Liz Truss as her government collapsed following the unveiling of the disastrous mini-budget for the rich.

This summary is not even exhaustive. Clearly what we are looking at is the biggest revival of class struggle in the UK since the anti-austerity movement of 2009-2013, maybe even since the 1980s. And more is yet to come this winter, as rising energy bills truly hit home. Sectors of the working class are demonstrating they will not be pauperised to pay for the capitalist crisis.

Workers Can Pose their Own Alternative

Appeals to the capitalist state to resolve this crisis are bound to end up in disillusion. All over the world the ruling class parties, whether left or right wing, are out of ideas – the political chaos in the UK is not unique, it is only a symptom of a system in freefall. The ruling class has only two things on offer: more attacks on workers to boost their profits and, ultimately, war. Dreams of a return to the past, of decent wages and welfare of the post-war boom, are in the current crisis just that, dreams. So what is to be done?

The current resistance is an important starting point. But if we let the ruling class isolate us sector by sector, workplace by workplace, we will lose. The offensive of the bosses, who have money and the law on their side, calls for thinking outside the box. We can already see examples of that. When unions in the North Sea were reluctant to take action, workers set up their own strike committee to lead the way. When ships were rerouted from Liverpool to break the strike, dockers in Southampton refused to handle them. It is this kind of self-organisation and solidarity that can level the playing field and act beyond the limiting framework of the unions (which, as we saw during the Queen’s funeral, can suspend our actions without even consulting the membership). On picket lines across the country the chant “the workers united will never be defeated” is resonating, but it needs to become more than a slogan. And if looking to the government to save us is a dead-end, then workers need their own political alternative. Without such a vision, we are looking at a future of gradual immiseration on a planet of collapsing societies and ecosystems. We believe that only in a world without classes, states, money, and borders, can economic crises, wars, and climate disasters be averted. To that end, we are building a political organisation fit for the task, a reference point for the global working class. If workers play by the rules (set up by the bosses) or delegate their power away (to parliamentary parties) this better future can never come.

The above article is taken from the current edition (No. 61) of Aurora, bulletin of the Communist Workers’ Organisation.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

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.