Workers Respond to the Bosses' Class War

For decades workers have paid for the capitalist crisis in declining real wages, austerity and job insecurity. Now all over the world price rises of basic goods are at last triggering strikes and protests. In the UK, BT workers have been on strike for the first time in more than thirty years. More strikes by rail and tram workers, airport and airline workers, barristers, bus drivers, tube workers, baggage handlers, postal workers and refuse collectors are planned, or already underway. Ballots are in the pipeline for teachers, doctors, nurses and civil servants and even junior barristers. The working class cannot stand the onslaught any longer. For workers in their 30s, who have lived through more than a decade of austerity and falling real terms pay, the inflationary crisis threatens to eat up their already pitiful savings. Many are at a breaking point.

The bosses know it, but they are preparing for the new stage in the class war. Their policies have created inflation but if workers demand wages to meet its costs then they become the villain of the piece. Our rulers (of all parties) blame inflation solely on the war in Ukraine and tell us it is our patriotic duty to accept “sacrifices” to “defeat Putin” (whilst awarding the captains of industry and finance multi-million pound wage rises). And they promise yet more laws against striking. In short, the class war has reached a critical point. Our strength as a class lies in our numbers, and our response has to become a collective fight across the entire working class.

In this many are naturally looking to their union for leadership. What are they paying union dues for if they get nothing in return? All of the strikes and ballots alluded to above are being organised through the trade unions, and the rail strikes in June have pushed some union heads to centre-stage in the media. Yet, as we said, the working class as a whole — employed, unemployed, white collar or no collar — is under attack, yet a union struggle, by definition, is a sectional one. And as is evident today, a variety of simultaneous union actions does not make for building a serious class-wide resistance. A one day strike by one group of union members here, a half-day walk-out by another group there. Sure, this is a sign of discontent and a readiness to ‘do something’. But, truth to tell, when it comes to showing the bosses that their members are not ready to back down and are massing for a real fight, a few pickets standing around in statutory union bibs is not much of a warning signal to the bosses, much less an encouragement for broader working class solidarity.

But why are the unions so bad at what they’re supposed to do? Many on the left will say that this is due either to a lack of solid leadership within the unions, or because of the draconian nature of the trade union laws introduced in the 1980s, stifling the unions into weak action. But really, it is due to the nature of the unions. Their role within capitalism is as a negotiator of the sale of labour-power, and that this position as negotiator has been codified into law. In other words they are part of the problem, not the solution.

What’s needed now is real, practical class solidarity based on our shared situation in life: the necessity to work for a wage, or else exist on a government handout. Despite our various life experiences, and never mind our personal identities, we are united by our shared condition as an exploited class. It is the ‘extra’ work we do — the unpaid effort put in over and above what covers our wages, which creates capitalist profit. It is this profits system which is rotten to the core. We have to get rid of it before capitalism completely destroys life on the planet.

We Can Make a Start

To break free of our current conditions, we must organise beyond the unions and the rules imposed by capitalism. We need to organise directly to express our interests and overcome the isolation and divisions we face. We need mass strikes not sectional ones. Strikes which are coordinated by struggle committees made up of delegates elected at mass assemblies and recallable at any instant. If workers take control of their fight back, they have a chance of winning in the short term, and above all gaining valuable experience in organising for themselves.

Ultimately, we must move our aims beyond mere survival and take control of production and distribution so that human beings can provide directly for society’s needs. The experience of struggle committees and mass assemblies based on working class direct democracy will be the basis for human social organisation in the post-capitalist world. But, let’s make no bones about it, before that world can come about there has to be a political struggle to overthrow capitalism. That means political organisation, and since capitalism is global it means we have to have a world revolutionary organisation with a clear programme to present to workers of the world. That programme, of course, will not be the product of some sort of revolutionary ‘think-tank’. In fact the basis for it already exists in the lessons drawn from the whole history of workers’ struggles and the historical dead-end which capitalism itself has reached.

In line with this approach, the Communist Workers' Organisation shares a common platform with the Internationalist Communist Tendency. We cannot claim to be the world revolutionary party, but that’s what we are working towards in the confidence that from the struggles which surely lie ahead new political elements will emerge to join forces with those on the revolutionary political path. Never a better time to join us!

The above article is taken from the current edition (No. 60) of Aurora, bulletin of the Communist Workers’ Organisation.

Monday, August 29, 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.