The success of the marches against Austerity that took place in London and Glasgow could be measured in the number of people who took part in them. In London it was not only trades unionists represented, nor the usual suspects from various leftist groups, but also a wide cross-section of young and old involved in activist organisations who are finding common cause with unionised workers.
The Labour Party was notable for its absence. It took the likes of Caroline Lucas and Charlotte Church to address some salient facts such as: “It wasn’t people on job seekers’ allowance who brought down the banks. It wasn’t nurses and teachers who were recklessly gambling on international markets,” yet it is they and poorer workers whose rights and benefits are being slashed. The disabled are being terrorised by existing regulations and those to come. Labour, meanwhile, was referred to as “cowering in unlit corners;” more concerned about their next leader than any constructive opposition.
Trade union leaders gave their usual well rehearsed speeches and some, like others, called for civil disobedience. Calls for General Strikes are a reflex action among some of our class. Meanwhile, Osborne’s budget on 8th July will herald a new attack on workers. Tax credits and housing benefits are likely to be the most affected.
The government has its own agenda well mapped out. We, in comparison, have not. We can shout all we like about solidarity and action, but without a thorough-going debate within our unions as to the next steps to turn inertia into defence and then to attack, we will always be the victim and not the victor. Trade unions have an opportunity to build resistance but our organisations are becoming weaker. If our unions are not opposed to the EU then how can we have the will to win? Let us not condemn ourselves to fighting old battles, thinking no further than the election of a discredited Labour Party. How many more times do we repeat the past?