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Resistance issue 151 - May 2013 May 03 13
How can we beat the cuts?
ireland / britain | community struggles | opinion / analysis Friday July 08, 2011 22:25 by Liberty & Solidarity - L&S
“Should strikes impose serious damage to our economic and social fabric, the pressure on us to act would ratchet up. ” said Vince Cable at the GMB's annual conference, laying down the gauntlet to the left and the labour movement with the thinly-veiled threat of tougher anti-union laws. Now more than ever the question of “how can we fight back?” needs desperately answered. The left has responded to this question in different ways, from the civil disobedience of UK Uncut to the March 26th mass demonstration in London called by the TUC. Much of the focus was on the June 30th strikes, arguing for even greater, more militant action. But after June 30th, what next? Clearly a single day of action, no matter how militant, has not and can not change government policy, what should our longer-term strategy be against the cuts? [Italiano]
How can we beat the cuts?
“Should strikes impose serious damage to our economic and social fabric, the pressure on us to act would ratchet up. ” said Vince Cable at the GMB's annual conference, laying down the gauntlet to the left and the labour movement with the thinly-veiled threat of tougher anti-union laws. Now more than ever the question of “how can we fight back?” needs desperately answered.
The left has responded to this question in different ways, from the civil disobedience of UK Uncut to the March 26th mass demonstration in London called by the TUC. Much of the focus was on the June 30th strikes, arguing for even greater, more militant action. But after June 30th, what next? Clearly a single day of action, no matter how militant, has not and can not change government policy, what should our longer-term strategy be against the cuts?
Fighting to winDespite what the hyper-optimistic sloganeers of certain far-left groups might have us believe, the working class is largely demoralised, unconscious of its own potential power. In order to build morale and a belief that we can beat the cuts, something presently only the far left is convinced of, we need to start small and build up. Yes the cuts are national issues, the results of national policy, but right now in spite of huge enthusiasm from the left and trade unions, the anti-cuts movement is not strong enough to take on these battles and win. Whilst some cities have vibrant and diverse anti-cuts campaigns, many have only lacklustre tokenistic ones, attended by few out with the far left.
To turn this situation around we need to concentrate locally, building up anti-cuts groups in each city, using campaigns against smaller, beatable cuts to build confidence and our anti-cuts groups. The same applies to trade unions, whilst national struggles over pensions are kicking off and we should of course be supporting them, we have no guarantee that these struggles will be well-lead. We need to be using more localised, winnable struggles in which we can engage the whole membership of our branches to help build confidence and bring yet more workers into our unions.
This approach has been pioneered by numerous anti-cuts group, for example Save Our Services in Reading. As this article goes to press, RSOS have won their first victory. Concessionary bus passes for disabled people were withdrawn by Reading ConDem administration earlier this year. RSOS, identified this issue as combining both the most public support, whilst also being relatively low on the book-balancers priorities. This therefore became RSOS’s priority and a petitions of just a couple of hundred people, delivered with an impassioned speech quoting various disabled members of Reading’s community, has persuaded the new administration to re-introduce these bus passes.
RSOS has also succeeded in bringing new young members into the UCU, Unison and Unite, as well as their new local Trades Council and the IWW. They are also succeeding in quickly providing training to these new young activists, as well as encouraging people to get involved with their local tenants or residents group, fighting to re-invigorate these and position them against the cuts.
A similar success story can also be found in nearby Surrey, where Save Our Services has won significant victories through localised campaigning, saving both a local primary school and further education college. Similarly to Reading, in Surrey the anti-cuts movement has succeeded in bringing together community activists and trade unionists in defence of services.
Only when we're in a situation where this level of organisation has been accomplished throughout the country, and where a large section of the population has seen for themselves that cuts can be beaten, should we move onto more ambitious targets. The various national anti-cuts bodies such as Right To Work and Coalition Of Resistance have put the cart before the horse in this regard, creating national bodies before the establishment of the local groups so key to winning this fight.
What's more, these groups seem doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, mimicking the tactics of Stop The War Coalition in focussing almost exclusively on large public rallies and demonstrations. Whilst these no doubt have their place we need to note that two million on the streets failed to stop the Iraq War. A more effective strategy can be found in the defeat of the poll tax, where local organisations, federated together, mobilised a huge section of the population to beat the tax.
LegacyMuch like the poll tax movement, we need to also make sure we leave a legacy. Win or lose we need to use the anti-cuts movement to build on working class strength, to create organisations that will fight on, even after the battle against austerity is concluded. The anti-cuts movement presents us with the opportunity to sweep a generation of new militants into long-term working-class industrial organisation, and allows us to train and educate swathes of new organisers and activists. But whilst trade unions are permanent structures, capable of fighting multiple battles, we need to argue within localised anti-cuts groups that there is a need for similar permanence within our communities, to fight for our interests in years to come.
The anti-cuts movement will also create opportunities for better cross-union work at the base of the unions, as well as at the top. We should be aiming to utilise on-the-ground cooperation not only to battle austerity but as the basis for more permanent cross-union organisation, capable of holding union leaders to account where necessary.
The battle against austerity is only just beginning, and none of the strategies put forward by the left or the trade unions have yet been tested thoroughly in the white-hot heat of class warfare. We can however hope to learn from past mistakes and create a lasting legacy of the struggle, not just on the consciousness of the working class but in broad and powerful organisations of our class. The working class has the latent power to destroy this government and its cuts agenda, it is within our gift, as socialist militants, to see that this power is exercised, as Marx himself stated, we have nothing to lose but our chains.
Wed 11 Dec, 20:35
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