Unite & coordinate our strikes – Unite the strikes with community struggles
To fight poverty we must fight racism, anti-immigrant prejudice & fascism
Build elected rank & file action committees
For automatic pay, pensions & benefit rises linked the rate of inflation
Stop job loss – Share the work on a full week’s pay
Make polluters pay to stop global heating, expropriate & shut down oil, gas & coal
1st October 2022
The past 12 months have witnessed an inspiring resurgence of trade unionism. Trade union membership has grown steadily over the last few years, and this year’s strike-wave is the biggest rise in working class struggle since the 1980s. The spirit of these strikes is as impressive as the number; time after time we are seeing strike votes of over 90%, on turnouts of 90% and more. Many of this year’s strikers have never taken industrial action before, many are young, and we are all part of a workforce that is more diverse and integrated than ever before. We are all fighting to win. The Movement for Justice is confident that together we can win.
The current strike movement is a response to declining real pay, an increasing cost of living, cuts in jobs and working conditions – and to broken promises or a racist, bullying or abusing manager. At the same time it is a response to a government and ruling elite that embody the arrogant privilege of wealth with all its cruelty and corruption.
We have government ministers who think and act as though they are above the law, while they trash our legal protections. They have trashed workers’ rights, immigrant rights and human rights. They have trashed public services and turned them into financial assets for their friends and supporters. At every stage in the Covid pandemic they have put private profit above the safety of the people, with the result that Britain has the worst Covid death-rate in Europe.
Throughout all this, the government that “Got Brexit done” has relied on whipping up the racism and immigrant bashing that was central to getting Brexit done, only to find that the majority of people in Britain are opposed to its mistreatment of refugees and its plan to deport cross-Channel refugees to Rwanda.
The truth is that the resurgence of trade unionism and the inspiring strike wave are as much a political struggle as they are economic. This is a movement against a hated government. That is why we are taking to the streets of Britain on the first day of this year’s Tory conference. Our spirit of resistance has been reinforced by Kwasi Kwarteng’s recent budget that takes from the poor and gives to the rich on an unprecedented scale, like Robin Hood in reverse.
We can’t live with this government any more than we can live with the poverty, the growing insecurity and the destruction of public services it is responsible for. It’s the view of Movement for Justice that our aim must beto Bring Down the Government – and bring it down as soon as possible. We can’t wait for an election in two years’ time, while the government and the employers continue their attacks through the coming winter and a deepening recession. We can’t wait while people are starving, freezing, dying and losing their homes, and while thousands are condemned to destitution because they have no legal immigration status and ‘No access to public funds.’ We can’t wait while the government continues to detain & deport thousands of men & women, or dumps them in Rwanda, and while the police have licence to harass, brutalise & murder black, Asian & Muslim people.
The rise of the Far-Right depends on the collusion of ‘democratic’ politicians
The election of Boris Johnson as Tory leader and Prime Minister confirmed that the Conservative Party had become a Far-Right party. A few months later, Johnson’s general election victory in December 2019, with an influx of more pro-Brexit MPs, consolidated a Far-Right government. It was a victory for the forces that won the Brexit referendum in 2016.
Brexit was always a project to use racism, xenophobia and the scapegoating of immigrants as the means to complete the destruction of the democratic and social gains of the working class and the black & Asian communities. Not surprisingly, the main backers of the Far-Right project have been the most ruthless and parasitic capitalists – the private wealth funds, financial speculators, and privatisers, like the chief executive of Serco who described the Covid pandemic as an opportunity to insert the private sector into the public services.
From the referendum campaign onwards, the biggest advantage of the Far-Right was not its own strength or the depth of racist sentiment among white people. It was and remains the weakness and cowardice of ALL the main parties, and especially their leaders. They all understand the methods and aims of the Far-Right Brexiters, but they consistently refuse to expose and challenge those methods and aims.
Most of all those parties and leaders refuse to speak the plain truth about racism, because that racism is fundamental to their political and economic system. Through their complicity and cowardice they have ‘normalised’ the Far Right. That is the approach of the present Labour leadership under Keir Starmer.
From Far-Right to Fascism – the lesson of Italy
To call a government ‘Far-Right’ is not just a description of its extreme opinions. A Far-Right government has concluded that traditional forms of democracy are no longer compatible with capitalism’s ability to maintain and increase the wealth of the rich and powerful. The basis of the democracy that developed in the world’s richest countries from the second half of the 19th century rested on an implicit deal between the capitalist ruling class and the working class & lower middle class. The capitalists continue to make huge profits through the exploitation of the workers, not only at home but in colonies & neo-colonies; they and their political and professional allies (MPs, bureaucrats, judges etc) control the state. In return the working class gets the right to vote, the right to organise and strike, and a series of welfare benefits (pensions, sick pay, health insurance etc).
A Far-Right government is a crisis government. It sets out to end and destroy that deal and establish a far more authoritarian form of government. That is what Johnson and his allies have been doing for two & a half years, and what Truss, Kwarteng etc are attempting to take even further. If any rationale can be discerned in Kwarteng’s ‘mini-budget’ it is this: through huge tax cuts and the need to repay the loans, the government stops funding the services that the poor and oppressed rely on for their survival, effectively starving those services and destroying them.
To go through with that plan would mean a transition to fascism or a close alliance with it. Any Far-Right government is effectively a kind of transitional stage to fascism.
In Italy, over the last few decades, the traditional parties of the working class and the Left – along with the leaders of the main trade union organisations – have betrayed and demoralised their own supporters with unceasing concessions to the big corporations and international financial institutions. As in Britain, they scapegoated immigrants and refugees and introduced a series of racist laws and decrees. The betrayals, disillusion and racism led to the rise of reactionary Far-Right parties – and to an election this week that has put a fascist party (the ‘Brothers of Italy’) in power, as the dominant group in a Far-Right coalition.
The supposed defenders of democracy fear our inspiring strike movement and the power of the working class and the poor far more than they fear the Far-Right government. They fear a working class uprising more than they fear fascism.
We see that fear of working class struggle and appeasement of the Far Right every time Keir Starmer wraps himself in the Union Jack, sings God Save the King, sacks MPs who try to speak out against racism, expels Jewish members who criticise Israel and Zionism, expels left-wing delegates before they could take their place at this week’s Labour Party Conference, and orders MPs not to join picket lines or support strikes. It is a lesson that the Left in the Labour Party must learn if they hope to play any progressive role in history.
The instability of the Far Right
The biggest defeat that the poor and oppressed have so far inflicted on this Far-Right government was the resignation of the Home Secretary, Priti Patel. She was driven out of office by the action of tens of thousands of refugees who have continued to cross the Channel in small boats to seek asylum in Britain, despite knowing about Patel’s new Borders Act and the deal to deport cross-Channel refugees to Rwanda. They kept coming and opening the borders of the UK in order to resolve the real, material problems in their lives. And Patel couldn’t prevent communities, friends & neighbours stopping immigration raids and arrests. She jumped before she was pushed, because she knew she would be the scapegoat for the failure of the government’s inhuman anti-asylum, anti-immigration policies.
The cross-Channel refugees, everyone seeking asylum in Britain, and immigrants with or without papers are our brothers & sisters in the fight against Britain’s racist, imperialist ruling class. Open the Borders is in reality the only alternative to the world of tyranny, barbarism and fascism that our Far-Right government and the similar governments around the world are creating.
The determination shown by the cross-Channel refugees should be our aim, as the only realistic response to the threats and suffering that are all this government has to offer. And we need to understand the weakness of this government and the emptiness of its threats, just as the cross-Channel refugees have done.
Because a Far-Right government like the one that was led by Boris Johnson and is now led by Liz Truss is a crisis government, aiming to destroy an old order and potentially transitioning to fascism, it is inherently unstable, with contradictory elements, and relying on the cover provided by the treacherous ‘champions’ of democracy. Keir Starmer is playing that role when he claims that the Labour Party is now the centre ground of British politics. The ‘centre ground’ is actually a swamp that will ultimately swallow him up.
Meanwhile divisions are already appearing in the 3-week old government of Truss and Kwarteng, while the Tory Brexiters are tearing their party apart.
Workers, and poor people generally, can see that there is a serious crisis among the people ‘at the top,’ that the politicians and the ruling class are divided, uncertain and devoid of any plan to resolve the problems people are facing. They don’t deserve respect, they look weak, and so growing numbers of workers believe that the bosses and the government can be defeated. That mood has proved highly infectious. It is the basis for a movement of action that is able to Bring Down this Racist, Anti-Working-Class Government.
The way forward – unite the strikes, mobilise our communities
The importance of today’s nationwide strikes and marches is that they enable an emerging movement not only to be seen, but to see itself, feel its own power, and encourage the wide range of workers who are about to join us and already balloting for strike action.
As this movement grows it will have to respond to new and bigger challenges, because the economic crisis will inevitably deepen. The British economy has been in recession for six months and that will get worse, whatever happens to Kwasi Kwarteng’s plans and whatever policy the Bank of England adopts, because the economic crisis is global. The working class, wide sections of the middle class, renters, the sick and elderly etc will face higher inflation and/or higher interest rates, job loss and evictions, a health crisis. The need to bring down the government will be more urgent.
To meet these challenges we will have to go beyond the ‘guerrilla war’ tactics of repeated, short strikes in different sectors of the economy at separate times. As a start we should bring the strikes together – united strikes by workers in all the different sectors and unions at the same time, and for more prolonged periods – everyone out at once and on the streets!
Those strikes should be used creatively to build closer connections with the wide population in our communities, through demonstrations, marches, rallies, local conferences, community tribunals etc., and organising solidarity action to defend the poor and needy, joining community action to stop immigration raids etc. Our unions, our strikes, and our fight to bring down the government will be many times stronger if, at all levels, they become champions of all the poor and oppressed.
In many ways we will be reviving a tradition rather than inventing something new. In the past the local trade union organisations have been at the centre of their communities and there have been many examples of unions taking action to defend people in their communities, against evictions for example, or fascists attacks, as well as solidarity action with workers in other sectors, like the industrial workers who went on strike and marched to support striking health workers in 1980s. In the present political & economic context, reviving and extending those traditions are a vital part of bringing down the most dangerous government in modern British history.
Fighting inflation and poverty – Fighting unemployment
The working class, and the growing strike movement in particularly, are already facing the increased cost of living because of inflation. The recession will increasingly threaten us with unemployment. It is essential that this movement is able to put forward and fight for a plan to counter these twin evils, and a plan that meets the essential needs of the poor and oppressed.
Inflation is at the highest level since the 1970s, but wages, though under attack, were higher then and the trade union had more to get wages rises. Now, inflation was set to rise to higher levels even before Kwarteng’s ‘mini-budget’ sent the value of the pound tumbling to the lowest level ever and pushed prices to even higher levels. Since the biggest prices rises are affecting food and energy, inflation is hitting the poorest people hardest of all.
Almost every wage rise that workers have got this year is really a wage cut, because the cost of living is rising faster and higher. It is simply not possible for new pay claims and strikes to keep up with this rising inflation. So far, the talk of ‘inflation proof’ wages is just empty words.
The only way we can actually inflation proof wages is by securing automatic increases tied to the rate of inflation in the cost of food, energy, housing and transport. That should be decided independently of the employers and the government and agreed with the unions and workers. Adjustments should take monthly, or weekly if inflation increases at a faster level.
The same system of automatic adjustments must be applied to all pensions and benefits (Universal Benefit etc). Without that arrangement millions of people will be driven to destitution, starvation, ill-health and death.
A prolonged recession will inevitably mean that employers try to defend their profits by laying off workers, in a situation where new jobs are becoming more and more scarce. The jobless workers and their dependents will face destitution. That is unacceptable. We must fight for job-sharing on full pay – the available work should be shared out between the workers, while they continue to receive what they would have got for a full week or month. The workers did not create this crisis. It was the capitalists who created it and they must pay for it.
Fighting the causes of global heating must be a workers’ struggle – Make the Polluters Pay
At the same time we are demonstrating, striking and picketting today, thousands of climate crisis activists from the Just Stop Oil coalition are marching through London from many different directions, holding speak-outs, and converging on Parliament, where they intend to start continuing ‘Shut Down Westminster’ events. They are marching on this particular day for the same reason we are – because it is the first day of the Tory conference and because they know they are in a political fight with this government.
Prime Minister Truss plans to re-start fracking in Britain and open up new oil fields in the North Sea. The Secretary for Business, the very rich super-snob Jacob Rees-Mogg, has announced that he wants to see “Every cubic inch of gas” got out of the North Sea (a cubic centimetre would be an even smaller amount, but that would be too ‘European’ for this arch-Brexiter). This dangerous government would rather let the planet burn than see the capitalists lose a penny of profit. On that issue it only speaks for a tiny minority of the British population.
Our movement and the wider trade union movement must take up this existential fight. We must take the same approach as inflation, wages and unemployment – the people responsible for the climate crisis, the people who are blocking any effective measures to resolve it, must be held responsible. We must make the polluters pay!
We must fight for the expropriation of the oil, gas and coal companies – they must be taken into public ownership in order to shut them down. Their vast wealth must be used to fund a rapid transition to sustainable energy, repair as far as possible the damage that has already been done, and to support and retrain the workers in those industries. Further investment in fossil fuels should be made a criminal offence.
We will be told that the proposals on dealing with inflation and unemployment are unrealistic, just as we will be told that Opening the Borders is unrealistic, and we will certainly be told that expropriating and shutting down the fossil fuel industries is unrealistic. In fact these are the only realistic solutions to the present crises that we face. They are ‘unrealistic’ only if we live and think by the rules of a morally and politically bankrupt system – parasitic, ‘neo-liberal’ capitalism.
It is necessary to build a rank-and-file workers’ movement
To move forward on any of these struggles we must raise our level of struggle and organisation to remove the most immediate obstacle, the Far-Right government, whoever is leading it next month or next year. To achieve that, it is essential that the rank-and-file of the strike movement organises and asserts its authority and builds its own leadership. We need to create strike committees, workplace committees or action committees in all sectors, which should be inter-union bodies wherever that is appropriate. In every city or locality there should be inter-union committee strike committees to coordinate action and build community links.
The development of this movement needs a secure base and it cannot be left to ‘Head Office’ or to ‘Regional Office,’ or to outstanding national leaders, however skilful their organising abilities or however powerful their speeches.
The fact is that as the fight becomes more intense there will inevitably be points where the full-time leaders and officials become too cautious – where they are afraid of some legal issue, or being fined for ‘unofficial’ strike action, when they want to cool things down because they think it will help with some negotiations, or in some cases, because they don’t want to damage their relations with the Labour Party.
The rank-and-file must be strong enough and confident enough to correct those mistakes or to act independently, and that will only be possible if elected rank-and-file leaders are already working together and have the confidence of their members.
The road ahead – building the political power of the working class
If the mass movement succeeds in bringing down the government there will inevitably be a general election, but it will be in the context of a victory for mass working class action. A new government will be confronted with the power of the poor and oppressed. There will almost certainly be a Labour government or a Labour-led coalition, and there will probably be a section of more left-wing Labour MPs who, from the start, put pressure on Starmer or come out publicly against his right-wing policies.
On the other hand it is possible, though perhaps unlikely, that the present government simply collapses in the near future. If that happens there will be a general election that will most likely lead to a Labour government. Starmer will Prime Minister.
Neither outcome will end the crisis, and either way it becomes Labour’s crisis. Either way the fight to build the movement remains on the order of the day, and in many ways it will be more urgent. Either way we will still face the threats of greater poverty, accelerating global heating and fascism.
The task facing the movement will be to create a new power structure. The movement and the rank-and-file organisations must grow stronger and become more representative of the broad layers of the working class, impoverished middle class and all the oppressed. They will assert that power over and against whatever crisis-ridden government is presiding over a broken political system and trying to defend capitalist profits.
Then the working class will be in a position to create an economy that meets the needs of everyone on a basis of equality.
Movement for Justice by any means necessary