07.02.2023 – Picket line at St Georges’ Hospital

Save the NHS

Defend Public Education: end the hated SATS system

Fight for art, music, and drama and extra-curricular programs

Reverse Brexit

End all racist police brutality and fascist attacks against our black, Asian, Muslim, and immigrant communities 

All-out indefinite strike action

Strike to Win 

On 1 February, 500,000 strikers led by the teachers’ unions and joined by tens of thousands of other striking workers, took to the streets of major cities and small towns. The teachers call for a national day of strike action to win a pay raise, to stop the government’s Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, and to save education was joined by students and community supporters eager to join what felt more like a celebration of the power of Britain’s working class and oppressed and less like another day of union strike actions. This was a rare day in the maelstrom of huge strikes that began in the late summer of 2022, because it was one of the tiny number of strikes in which strikers from a single sector of public workers were unified and fighting together. 300,000 teachers from every level of education starting with primary schools and continuing up to  university teachers from 150 universities across Britain were acting on the founding principles of trade unions: unity, solidarity and power in numbers. 

The wall-to-wall teachers’ strike was joined by 100,000 public sector workers, rail and transport workers, and other strikers. There were special rallies embedded in the day of strike action to protest the government’s union-busting Strike (Minimum Staffing) Bill written specifically to stop the strike wave that is electrifying the UK. 

In London, a spirited and defiant demonstration of 40,000 people led by teachers started their rally at Portland Place and then marched to Downing Street. Throughout the day, professionally made union banners and flags including a lead banner saying “Save Our Schools, Children Deserve Better” could be seen flying high and proud. Students of all ages and community supporters carried tens of thousands of homemade placards in support of all the strikes. The overwhelming popular support for the strikes is based on the common understanding that the government is responsible for the hyperinflation that is instituting pay cuts, and its attacks on the NHS, Education, the Rails and all public sector jobs must stop now.

Less than a week after the February 1 Day of Action, nurses and other NHS workers in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland held the biggest days of strike action in the 75-year history of the NHS. These strikes were just as euphoric, exhilarating, powerful, and popular as the teachers’ national day of strike action. In the next few months there will be an array of new strike action. The six-month strike-wave that has been sweeping the country has the potential to unite and change Britain forever. We are speaking for the great majority of people who hate the Tories and want to see them defeated.

The government’s declaration of war against our strikes

Our strikes are not typical trade union struggles. Despite the claims of our top union leaders, the government, and the press that our strikes are only about winning a pay increase, our strikes are inherently a political challenge to the program of the government.

Every one of our strikes is objectively both an economic and political fight. Every victory for our side is a defeat of the government’s austerity and privatization policies. Every wage increase we win that keeps us ahead of inflation makes it possible for the 47,000 openings for NHS nurses and the tens of thousands teacher vacancies to be filled. Winning pay increases and increased staffing levels for striking NHS workers, teachers, and other public sector workers will be a blow to the government’s austerity and privatization efforts. Winning safe working conditions and pay increases for rail workers, ambulance drivers, firefighters, bus drivers, refuse workers and all other striking workers whose lives are being placed in jeopardy every day, will make clear that government’s murderous COVID-19, immigration, and policing policies will no longer be tolerated and must end now. 

Our strikes are strong, but to beat the government we need to create a broader movement that gets our passive supporters and other activists into the streets fighting with us.We have broad public support that can be mobilized and strengthen our strikes. We are fighting for our patients, students, passengers, and anyone who benefits from the public sector. Right now, as a matter of fact, our union struggles for health workers are struggles to save the NHS and the healthcare of the overwhelming majority of the people of the UK, which the current government is attacking. Right now, as a matter of fact, the struggle to win a better contract for fire brigades is a struggle to prevent entire blocks of houses from  burning down. However, those broader political and social demands are being left implicit. In a situation in which the stakes are so high, these demands must be made explicit. 

Women demonstrate against closure at South London Women’s Hospital (1984-85)

This means that under these conditions, the current demands of our strikes are too narrow. We need to place demands on the government that go beyond contract demands and present our struggles explicitly for what they really are: struggles to save the NHS and  the other essential public institutions we are defending. If we start fighting for the reforms we need to win to assure the survival of the NHS and to improve education, our strikes will be transformed into a bigger, stronger movement that can defeat the government’s plans to privatize the public sector or chop away services from the NHS and the other public institutions whose services are essential for the majority of the people of the UK to lead a decent human life. 

We can draw students and youth into our movement if we include the demands to improve education that young people are passionate about. Ending SATS and creating more academic and extracurricular programs are two demands that students will fight for and can be won through our teachers’ strikes. Students organized their own strikes prior to the pandemic to fight for policies to stop global heating. A joint struggle of all the education unions and student unions would scare the pants off of many government MP’s. All of modern history has shown that a fundamental rule of thumb for any serious mass struggle is that the role of youth is essential to the possibility of victory.

We have already marched to defeat the government’s new Strike Bill. But that is not enough to kill the bill. All of the striking unions should make the government withdraw its new pending Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill. In reality, it is part and parcel of a whole series of new laws designed to attack the whole range of the democratic rights of the whole working class. All of these reactionary, anti-democratic, proto-fascist laws that are now before Parliament or have already been passed by Parliament are being fought against by community members who support our strike. These attacks on basic human rights range from giving police unlimited powers to commit crimes, including murder, without suffering any consequences, to locking refugees in new detention centers/concentration camps. 

If we stand together and fight jointly, our strike will be much more difficult to defeat, and we will be able to defeat some or all of the government’s repressive and dangerous laws. If we take up the demands of campaigns against police brutality and defending the rights of immigrant communities and asylum seekers and the whole Tory integrated and intertwined proposals to foster racism and anti immigrant bigotry we can build a united movement committed to winning equality, respect, dignity, and justice for the working class, the poor, and the oppressed. 

Defeating one or more of the Tories’ policies will inspire more people to join our fight. We can defeat the ability of the government to institute any aspects of their plan to privatize the public sector. Every victory we score against the government will literally preserve human lives. We know how ruthless and indifferent to life this government is. We have witnessed and are still witnessing the needless deaths of thousands of people because of the government’s put-profits-before-people COVID-19 policy. 

Our strikes and the movement we help build are the fight for a future that is far better than what exists today. Our union members and the students, patients, commuters and communities we serve are the lifeblood of this society. Our lives are intimately intertwined with the different communities we serve. We know we are fighting for so much more than pay raises. We just need to make that explicit by placing demands on the government that must be met for us to settle our strikes.

The sooner we take the steps we need to win, the better. Time is a friend of the government and an enemy of ours. The longer, more drawn out our strikes become, the greater the chance of demoralization and scabbing on our strike. If the support of the community is based on building a movement together, our support will stay strong for longer. If community support is based solely on supporting our contract fight, it will tend to wane more if it feels to some people it is taking too much time for us to make headway. We have taken on a big responsibility. We need a winning battle plan that ends in victory. We have the power to win. Our problem is we have too many leaders afraid of our power. Therefore, in order to win, we are going to need some new leaders to step forward who are not afraid of winning. 

Strike to Win

In the coming weeks, there will be many national, regional and local strike days, and although these struggles are important to maintain our movement, in their current limited form, they will lose in immediate terms. The strikes are too short, sporadic, infrequent, drawn-out, fragmented and uncoordinated. The on-again-off-again strike dates, the local and regional schedule of partial one day actions of different teachers, NHS, rail, and other union strikes, make it impossible to follow which union is on strike on any given day and to know what services will be affected. The Guardian, The Scotsman and other media sources regularly publish strike calendar spreadsheets to explain who, where, and which workers are on strike. These strike calendars are constantly revised. The strikes that do take place are primarily used to get the government to return to the bargaining table. In most cases, as soon as bargaining begins again, strike action is indefinitely suspended. This means that the government, not the unions, is controlling who, when, and where strike actions will take place. The policy of one-day rolling strikes that divides strikers in the same union into small and weak brigades of an army that could win fighting as one is, to put it mildly, crazy and stupid.

We cannot continue to engage in these losing tactics. The basic premise of trade unions is that there is strength in numbers. The two principles that every union is built on are unity and solidarity. But now when we need to be acting on those founding principles, our union tops are rejecting them for no good reason.

We need to use our numeric strength to win. We need all-out indefinite strikes by each of the unions to win. We need to demand that every one of our union leaders call for all-out strikes of each of their unions. We need to remove the roadblocks that our union tops, who are managers of each of their respective union’s bureaucracies and privately empathize more with our bosses than they do with us, are putting in the way of our strikes. We need to demand that TUC leader Nowak, who is the dutiful lapdog of the Labour Party, which is opposed to our strikes, step down now. Anyone who supports Nowak’s anti-labour, pro-government strategy to our strike action is our enemy. The last thing we need is a traitor leading the TUC. 

The strikes of education workers led by the teachers and teaching assistants provide an example of how to squander our power and passion to win. We know that the teachers’ strikes are popular and well-organized, but are achieving next to nothing because of their flawed tactics. Teachers in Scotland just finished sixteen days of continuous rolling strikes which ended without a better contract settlement. University teachers have already carried out strike actions. They want to wage a national all-out strike but are being prevented from doing so by General Secretary Jo Grady. The union is 70,000 strong and represents teachers at 150 universities throughout the UK. There are 2.6 million university students. In November, the National Union Of Students (NUS) endorsed the University teachers’ strike. The NUS is campaigning for free education, available to all, including every community member regardless of age, formal qualifications and availability to take classes in person. It is seeking larger student stipends so that working-class, poor, black, immigrant, and asylum seeker students can get a university education without the mental health problems these students face because of their economic status.

The university teachers’ strikes are planned for three days a week during the month of February. The university teachers’ strikes, which are the largest strikes in the history of higher education, provide students with the vehicle they need to win their demands. Both university teachers and students have the same goals and meet the economic demands needed for both teachers and students to flourish and improve and broaden access to higher education. If they unite and strike together in an all-out indefinite strike, everyone could win. Right now, the limited demands, intermittent character of and needlessly enforced isolation of the University teachers’ strike, are diminishing the power of the strike and setting it up to fail.

The strike strategy of our union leaders makes us look weak and scared. We can not win if we continue to follow the agreed-upon, losing tactics of leaders of each and every union. Obviously, if  our aim is to win quickly, every union should be participating in coordinated strikes, so we shut down Britain and keep it shut down until every union wins.

We have been given two reasons for the intermittent, fractured tactics for conducting our strikes. The first is that we should believe in the infantile Christmas Eve strategy. If we are good, respectful workers, then we will wake up and see that the government has collapsed and granted our demands. This is about as likely to happen as Father Christmas shimmying down a chimney with a sack full of gifts. The second is that patients, parents, commuters will continue to support us if our strikes cause minimal disruptions. This makes no sense, first because anyone that relies on one of our striking institutions would prefer that we have settled on all-out strike dates, and that teachers, nurses or rail workers will take indefinite strike action together throughout the UK to win quickly. It is much easier to arrange collective babysitters and/or teacher-run strike schools in libraries or churches than it is to scramble for childcare on a strike day that may not occur. 

The NHS is the beloved crown jewel of the British social welfare state.The aim of our strikes is to strengthen and preserve it. In the 1980’s when the government was carrying out a series of hospital closings and other attacks on the NHS, nurses led hospital occupations and, with the help of doctors and other staff, ran the facilities themselves. The workers escorted managers out the door, fortified the entrances to the hospitals so that the police could not break their occupation/ strike. Ambulance workers and other hospitals coordinated services with the occupied hospitals to assure that patients were kept safe and received the care they needed. The attacks we are facing now are much larger and more dangerous. We have an answer to the government’s anti-union Strike Bill: keep the hospitals open under worker control. Our strikes that are walkouts have a great deal of public support. If our strikes become occupations, they will galvanize and inspire the nation. The rank and file NHS workers who know how to run health care must take charge of our strikes so that we can implement a winning strategy for our strikes.

We must elect rank-and-file workers’ leaders to negotiate our contracts

Our current bargaining process is a charade. Our union bosses set new strike dates every month to initiate more bargaining sessions with the government. The government negotiators are intransigent. Our so-called leaders drop our demands the moment they sit at the bargaining table. They are always prepared to capitulate.

Days or weeks go by and nothing is accomplished. At some point, the government decides to shut down the free-lunch- joint-management-banter-sessions and demands that union members revote on a reshuffled version of the contract offer which they already rejected. This  preposterous charade ends with the union managers stating that they are “disappointed” that the government is so insensitive and did not offer more and then they usually try to shove the contract down their members’ throats. Like every other boss, the union managers expect workers to never question management decisions and do what they are told. On occasion, the union managers do not make a recommendation on the settlement, especially when they know that they lose their authority and influence with their members if they try to orchestrate a yes vote that has no chance of winning. During the time period that union members are voting, a government minister/ blowhard bully lies, claiming he/she will not return to the bargaining table. This theatrical production, sponsored by the government, which we have seen too many times already, can be easily defeated.

The NHS struggle in Scotland shows how to beat the blustering government ministers. The last round of NHS negotiations in Scotland, which began last summer, and continued into late November and early December, involved a number of NHS unions bargaining together. However, these unions did not strike together. The unity they shared at the bargaining table was undercut by their leaderships’ obsequious posture before the government. Unison and Unite’s poorly paid unskilled NHS workers voted for the contract, which allegedly will give them a 7.5% raise.  

Three unions, the RCN, the GMB and the RCM (midwives union) members overwhelmingly rejected the contract. SNP Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, Humza Yousaf, responded to the no vote of nurses, ambulance drivers, and midwives by puffing out his chest and publicly declaring that he would impose the new contract on all the NHS workers. His dictatorial declaration was quickly defeated by the nurses and ambulance drivers and midwives, who refused to accept his sweeping anti-union pronouncement. The RNC and GMB simply set new dates for strike action in January. This was a victory for the unions.

Unfortunately, this victory was squandered when the RCN canceled the January strike dates because Yousaf backed off his threat and returned to bargaining.

The bus drivers showed how it was possible to resist the strong-arm tactics of their union managers and make sure their bargaining charade ended. After their union bosses tried every scurrilous trick they could think of to engineer a yes vote on a bad contract, the bus drivers turned down the contract twice.

There are only so many times that anyone can watch a bad play. We need the rank and file members of every union to take the bold step the Abellio bus drivers took. Our strikes are about winning wage increases, but they are about so much more. Every one of the ongoing strikes poses the same question: who will decide what the UK looks like a year from now. We can not let the Tories win. We need our strike movement to humiliate them and force them to back off their policies and resign in shame.

Save Britain from the rising tide of fascism

We are in a fight for our lives and for the promise of hope we owe to the next generation.

Our movement must use its power to shift the balance of power now and take control over determining and implementing the political policies we know will save Britain. If our strikes lose and our movement has no other plans to keep the struggle moving forward, then the Tories will move quickly to implement the laws they are passing to crush union rights, to eviscerate democracy and diversity, and to give the police unlimited powers needed to create an authoritarian one-party government in Britain. If the Tories succeed, war is on our national agenda.

The Tories’plan to exploit their control of Parliament now to do what Mussolini’s fascists did in Italy and the Nazis did in Germany and Italy, manipulate ostensibly democratic processes and institutions to create a fascist government. Mussolini and Hitler did not come to power through a coup. They assumed positions of power on the basis of the supposedly democratic constitutions of Italy and Germany, and then used those positions to create “legal” dictatorships. On the basis of these “constitutional” processes, they used their parties’ domination of Parliament to empower police, the military, the SS, border patrol, intelligence, and secret service agents etc. to crush all dissent and opposition. The fascists never could have won in Italy or Germany if the mass actions of workers and other oppressed people had crushed them when they were weak and unpopular. If months of mass actions fail to resolve the hyperinflation and economic crisis because they have lost because of bad leadership, the ideology of racism, immigrant-bashing, sexism, anti-LGBT+ and white nationalism can triumph. We are in a position to stop this from happening now while the Tories are divided amongst themselves and hated by the majority or people of the UK. 

Our union misleaders have a different policy for defeating the government. Their aim is to replace the current government with a Labour government. This means in all likelihood waiting for the next elections in 2025. They assume that every victory for the current government increases the chances of a Labour parliamentary victory in the next election. But if we wait until 2025 to defeat this government, it will be too late. If the Tories have the next two years to establish a fascist regime, then it is highly unlikely that new elections will take place. 

The other road to a new quick election would hypothetically be a general strike. The Labour Party opposes our strikes and our union managers are so scared of the power we possess that they are fighting to lose – not win. If we take control of our strikes, then we can force the Tories to accept a partial or total defeat, which could lead to the resignation of the government. Everything rests on what the movement can win. And that in turn means we need new leaders to take control of our strikes and to lead our movement to victory.

Join Movement for Justice

The aim of the Movement for Justice is to develop new leaders.

The working class and oppressed must win and win quickly. But that means we need new leaders to come forward. For most of us, becoming a leader is not a choice, it is a necessity. We lead because there is no other way to win. Being a leader is nothing more than the task someone assumes as a part of the division of labor that is required to make it possible for our organizations and movement to win. 



Strike to stop the Tory Strikes Bill!

All Out on 1st February Day of Action

Unite & extend the strikes – No one settles until everyone settles  

Indefinite nationwide strike action in key services         

Build elected workplace & inter-union action committees                                       

Unite the strikes with community action – Build Strike to Win Committees

“The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle…. If there is no struggle, there is no progress…. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.”                 (Frederick Douglass, 1857)

18 January 2023

No-one should under-estimate the threat of this government or the destruction it has already inflicted on our lives, our rights, our public services – and on democracy. It is a fundamentally weak government because the racist Brexit project – which is the one and only reason for its existence – has been an economic disaster for working class and struggling middle class people. The Movement for Justice (MFJ) believes that the main reason for the government’s survival is that its opponents have been unwilling to acknowledge the reality of its dictatorial, proto-fascist character – and because the Labour Party under Starmer has become its pale shadow (e.g. the Tories rip up the NHS and try to crush hospital staff with even more work – so Labour leaders, who refuse to support the  strikes, attack doctors as running hospitals for their own convenience and say NHS staff must accept ‘reform’).  

The Tories’ new Strikes Bill [the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill] should be an over-due wake-up call.

The growing wave of strikes by over-worked, under-paid public service workers is the most significant fight against this government and its policies. The strikes are popular with the victims of those policies – the millions of working class, poor, oppressed and immigrant people. The most outspoken union leader, Mick Lynch of the RMT, is more popular than any politician. The government is seriously alarmed; the new bill is an attempt to destroy workers’ ability to take effective strike action in the public services.

The government changes the law in order to attack public service workers

The Strikes Bill comes after 40-plus years of legislation that has trapped trade unions in a monstrous set of undemocratic procedures and restrictions – the most oppressive anti-union laws in Europe. This Bill takes that to a new, more dangerous level.

It must be one of the shortest and least detailed bills ever put before Parliament because it is basically a form of  ‘Enabling Law’ – the kind of law that gives would-be dictators very broad, open-ended and undefined powers to pretty much what they like.

This Bill applies to health services, fire and rescue services, education services, transport services, decommissioning nuclear installations and radioactive waste, and border security. The first four obviously cover vastly more workers – but exactly how widely those categories they apply is deliberately left vague.

For example, could ‘transport’ apply to a strike in the company that prints Oyster Cards, or in an aircraft factory? The government could potentially do that if it wanted to.

The Bill would….

  • Allow the government to set whatever ‘minimum level of service’ it likes on public service workers who are taking strike action. Any workers who breach that minimum level can be sacked. In past and present strikes by health workers, the unions have set a ‘minimum level’ to deal with acute emergencies and protect the most at-risk patients. The purpose of this law is to allow the government to set ‘minimum’ levels that are so high and so general that strikes in public services would become impossible or totally ineffective.
  • Allow an employer – such as a railway company or the NHS – to sue a trade union for any loss they suffer because workers didn’t co-operate with the new law. You can imagine the government organising Tory students to sue their universities if there was no teaching, and then the universities could get the money back by suing the teachers’ union.

This is charter for victimisation on a mass scale. It is effectively forcing public service workers to scab on their own strikes. It would be worse than the situation that impelled the trade unions to set up the Labour Party 123 years ago, after a rail company successfully sued a union for the money it lost because of a strike.

Break the Stalemate!

This is a battle for survival between public service workers and the most anti-democratic government in modern British history. If parliament passes this law, and if the government is able to enforce it, it will lead to mass victimisation of union activists, massive job loss, cuts and closures, and even more privatisation, deregulation and profiteering. The public services will end up in the same situation as the care homes – carved up into financial assets for private wealth funds, hedge funds and the rest of the parasitic tax-dodging millionaires and billionaires.

But the government and the billionaires have not won yet. The strikes remain strong and they are growing. Public service workers are in no mood to submit. We are more united than the Tories. We can win. One way or another, the outcome will be decided in action – and that will decide the fate of the Strikes Bill.

The present situation is a stalemate between the government and the public  service workers. The Strikes Bill is the government’s plan for breaking that stalemate. The striking workers need their own plan to break the stalemate and win.

For just over a year the public service unions have followed a policy that has been called ‘Lots of small fires everywhere.’ Different unions and different groups of workers in the same unions striking separately on different days and for different periods. The trade union leaders and full-time official devised this plan as a way to manoeuvre round the minefield of anti-union laws, but it has proved inadequate to win more than partial and temporary compromises in local disputes. It is time to throw away the small arms and bring in the artillery.

Unite the strikes – ensuring that strikes are co-ordinated so that there are much large numbers of workers on strike at the same time. Really big conflagrations will have a far more powerful impact than a lot of small fires.

Indefinite strike action – there has already been talk about this in some quarters but it needs to happen now. If several large national trade unions combine to take indefinite, nationwide action – on the railways and post and in education, for  example – the balance of power in this class war would immediately swing in favour of the working class. (For the Border Force, which is paid stop or turn back refugees, we recommend an eternal strike!)

No one settles until everyone settles – United we win, divided we fall! The most successful action last year was the dockers’ strike at Felixstowe. They won an above inflation pay rise because most of Britain’s container traffic goes through Felixstowe, meaning that the dockers could strangle much of the economy and damage business profits. By settling that dispute the government reduced the pressure it was under to settle the other disputes. That’s why there needs to be an agreement between some, at least, of the public service unions that they won’t sign-off to an agreement with the employers until they have all secured satisfactory settlements.

“It’s better to break the law than break the poor”

That was a popular slogan during the fight against the Poll Tax at the end of the 1980s. A Tory government had brought in a profoundly unfair system of raising money to fund local services, which fell overwhelmingly on the poorest families. It was estimated that 11 million households refused to pay the tax, or even register for it. There were riots all over the country and collective mobilisations to stop people being evicted or arrested. This was all illegal action – and they won! The prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, had to resign, and the poll tax was scrapped.

The workers are striking to win, so we have to assess the scale of action needed in order to win. The level of action so far has led to a stalemate, a war of attrition, so workers must raise the level of their action – regardless of its legality under the anti-union laws.

That applies with even greater force to the Strikes Bill. Anti-union laws will not be stopped or abolished by this government or any government that is currently conceivable. Those laws will be stopped by collective mass action that makes them unenforceable.

Establish elected workers’ committees in workplaces, localities etc.

It is possible that sufficient pressure from workers in the various unions will compel some of the leaders to agree to unite some of the strikes, or to agree to indefinite strike action. However, that is as far as they will go and some won’t go that far. That isn’t simply because they are worried about breaking the anti-union laws. The general secretaries and full-time officials, even the more left wing & militant of them, can be considered as the management of the trade unions. Like all managers they are professional ‘in-betweeners.’  In a workplace the managers are the intermediaries between the owners and workers; in a trade union the officials are the intermediaries between the members and the employers.

The present struggle is now past the stage where leadership can be left to that union management. This movement needs a more secure base. To achieve that, it is essential that the rank-and-file of the strike movement organises and asserts its authority. We need to build our own leadership in every workplace and every locality. We need to elect strike committees, workplace committees or action committees in all sectors. Even a union leader as popular as Mick Lynch can’t substitute for that – or organise it from above.

These committees should be inter-union bodies wherever strikes involve members of different unions. Striking workers in every locality should set up city-wide or district-wide committees to coordinate action and build community links.

We need rank-and-file leadership because that is the most effective way – often the only way – to build the strong and close connections with local poor and working class communities. That unity between worker & communities, is now more necessary than ever for both sides – to defend public services, by occupations if necessary, and to stop evictions, block immigration raids etc.

MFJ believes we must build Strike-To-Win Committees and is already putting this into practice. STW committees include the elected shop stewards (or equivalent workplace represents) and other worker/activists in the strikes, as well as community supporters, family members, activists in other union groups, local renters’ unions, anti-raids networks, climate crisis groups, refugees, students and other community based-movements – all of whom have a material interest in the success of the current strikes, the defeat of the Strikes Bill and bringing down the government. That is the most effective way to sustain the strikes and support the many new leaders who are becoming active in the strikes and in the wider resistance to the most dangerous government in modern British history.

The rank-and-file must be strong and confident enough to give direction to the ‘official’ leadership – and to act independently. That will only be possible if elected rank-and-file leaders are already working together, have the confidence of their members, and have strong connections with struggles in their communities. There will be many times when victory depends on that.

18 January 2023

After the Election – Build a mass movement to defeat racism & Brexit

Defend & extend the free movement of people – No new immigration controls – Speak the plain truth about racism
Build an independent, integrated, youth & immigrant led movement to unite the struggles against racism and poverty  

Whatever election result awaits us on Friday, some things are certain. Firstly, there is a greater need than ever for a mass movement against the racism and anti-immigrant bigotry that have been the driving force of Brexit. The Tory election campaign has given fresh impetus to racism and xenophobia, while the other parties have stayed silent. Secondly, the election will not get Brexit ‘done.’ The Brexit crisis, and the political and economic disorders that led to Brexit, have not been resolved. Thirdly, the political system remains broken and the two main parties remain divided, while the general population, on all sides, is more disengaged from the present political system than at any time since world war two.

The chief lesson of the election is that we have to build an independent, integrated mass struggle to defend the free movement of people and stop Brexit. The current system can’t fight racism or offer a future of integration and equality. There can’t be an effective movement against poverty and inequality without a real, practical fight to overcome racism – and there can’t be such a fight without black, Asian, immigrant and youth leadership. Building that leadership and movement is the purpose of the Movement for Justice (MFJ).

Free movement banner

Brexit’s test for Labour

Brexit has been a critical test of the Left’s attempt to restore Labour’s traditional role as the party of the working class and a force for social progress. In 2015, hundreds of thousands of people joined or re-joined the Labour Party and propelled Jeremy Corbyn into the leadership. A high proportion were young people. They rallied to Corbyn’s campaign because he pledged to reverse the cutbacks and neo-liberal economic policies, supported the Palestinian struggle and had opposed Blair’s Iraq war. The following year those supporters defeated an attempted coup by right-wing Labour MPs and re-elected him with a bigger majority. They had a strong sense of their collective power to change history.

This year’s manifesto promises to build many more council houses, rebuild the NHS, extend public ownership, and abolish Universal Credit, benefit caps and student fees. It has gone beyond the party’s 2017 election manifesto and represents the party’s most significant break from the ‘neo-liberal’ economic policies of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and ‘New Labour.’ They reflect the continuing aspirations of the ‘new wave’ that rallied to Corbyn – and they are widely and rightly popular.

However, the most politically significant feature of the manifesto is that it did not repeat the language of the 2017 manifesto that gave an unconditional commitment to Brexit, with the blunt assertion that “Freedom of movement will end when we leave the European Union.” Labour’s members and supporters made those positions untenable.

Labour’s rank-and-file are to the Left of Corbyn and using their power

Since 2017 Labour’s overwhelmingly anti-Brexit and pro-free movement base has become increasingly frustrated by the leadership’s fudging, indecision, delays and parliamentary manoeuvres on Brexit. Even when the leadership finally accepted the idea of a second referendum with a ‘remain’ option, it felt like drawing teeth and was repeatedly called into doubt. Nevertheless, it was the discontent and pressure of the Labour rank-and-file that forced change and encouraged more MPs speak out.

In last May’s local government elections and the elections for the EU Parliament in June, a majority of Labour Party members and supporters felt unable to vote for their own party; a large proportion actually voted for one or other of the anti-Brexit parties. They were not generally leaving the Labour Party, but they ‘went on strike’ against the leadership and sent Corbyn a sharp warning message.

That pressure on the leadership was demonstrated again at Labour’s national conference in September, when delegates sent a strong anti-racist message to the leadership by voting almost unanimously for a motion (Composite 20), that was originally drawn up by the Labour Campaign for Free Movement, calling on Labour to include a set of policies on immigrant rights in its election manifesto. Among these were:

  • Maintain and extend free movement;
  • Ensure the unconditional right to family reunion;
  • Close all detention centres;
  • End “no recourse to public funds” policies;
  • Scrap all Hostile Environment measures, use of landlords and public service providers as border guards, and restrictions on migrants’ NHS access.

Not one delegate spoke against this motion; it was (and remains) a major victory for the progressive instincts of the party’s rank-and-file. Within 24 hours, however, leading front-benchers were publicly playing down the significance of this vote, and Len McCluskey – leader of Unite, the country’s biggest trade union – was soon taking every opportunity to attack it.

It made it clear that Labour’s base and its activists are to the Left of the leadership on Brexit and racism.

The election and free movement

The Movement for Justice (MFJ) brought out an Open Letter to the Labour leadership ahead of the ‘Clause 5 meeting’ where they drew up the manifesto for the current election. It called for the inclusion of the Composite 20 policies in the manifesto, and MFJ members lobbied the meeting. We said in the Open Letter that,

“There are very good reasons why the great majority of black, Asian, Muslim and other minority ethnic voters, youth and students, and significantly more women than men are opposed to Brexit – because it is racist and reactionary and driven by anti-immigrant prejudice. We are experiencing its impact and we will not be silenced while our rights and futures are destroyed by the Brexiteers’ backward-looking, chauvinist project. You, the Labour Party and trade union leadership, cannot stay silent on this. You must listen to our voices. …

“You can’t afford the illusion that Labour will unite ‘Leavers’ and ‘Remainers’ and win this election just by focussing on the NHS, public housing, Universal Credit, privatisation, the minimum wage etc, while saying as little as possible about Brexit or being neutral on it. Such a policy means being evasive, neutral and inactive on the continuing rise of racism and hostility to immigrants. It means ignoring the voices and the experience of black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, immigrants and youth.”

The Clause 5 meeting did not make the Composite 20 policies part of the manifesto. The only direct reference to free movement in the manifesto boils down to a restatement of Labour’s pledge that EU citizens already living in the UK will be able to stay here. Only one of the ten practical demands in Composite 20 made it into the manifesto – extending the right to vote to all ‘UK residents.’ That is a welcome progressive measure, but the manifesto endorses managed migration in the interests of employers and ignores the most pressing injustices of the present immigration system.

The challenge for Labour’s pro-free movement, anti-Brexit activists

Hundreds of thousands of members who have flocked to the Labour Party since 2015 believed that Corbyn’s election as leader would reverse the history of increasingly racist immigration laws introduced by the Tories, Labour and Lib. Dems. That was the clear desire of Labour’s national conference when delegates voted for Composite 20. They will be deeply disappointed or downright angry at its exclusion from the manifesto.

Those members have, however, put their concerns aside for now and are working all out to get an anti-austerity Labour government elected, or at least to deny Johnson a majority. The general election campaign has, for a time, changed the balance of power between the leadership and the rank-and-file. Labour activists feel they must unite around the leadership when it is under a ferocious attack from the right.

MFJ understands that response, but we don’t politically support a Labour leadership that consciously refuses to take a stand for the right of free movement and against the racism of Brexit in the middle of Britain’s biggest peacetime political crisis for a century.

The issues and conflicts around immigration, free movement and Brexit will re-emerge in the Labour Party after the election, because really nothing will have been settled. Whoever is in government, Brexit means a constant crisis.

Whether Labour is in government or opposition, there will be a struggle over free movement because most Labour MPs and trade union bureaucrats think it is too difficult and dangerous to challenge racism, except in abstract moralistic terms. They are unwilling to undertake the kind of struggle that could overturn the material discrimination of racism and the divide-and-rule policies that are deeply rooted in Britain’s political and economic system. A leadership, like the present Labour leadership, that seeks ‘consensus’ among the MPs and trade union bureaucrats at the top of the party is trapped by those attitudes, whatever their own personal opinions.

MFJ therefore welcomes and supports the stand taken by 55 Labour candidates, including thirteen MPs seeking re-election, who have already issued a statement committing to continue the fight for free movement and all the policies in Composite 20[1]

The challenge for Labour’s pro-free movement, anti-Brexit activists (including the MPs who signed that statement) is to take the fight beyond Parliament and the internal politics of the Labour Party, to be part of building a mass movement to win – regardless of whether Labour is in government or opposition.

Building a fight to win

Genuine progressive change always comes from developments and struggles outside parliaments and independent of governments. The most urgent task now[2] is to overcome the toxic division of the working class based on race and attitudes to immigration, and to stop the rise of the Far Right that is based on Brexit. The Brexit crisis has broken the British political system and may yet break up the UK. It is unrealistic to rely on that system to defend and extend the free movement of people, end detention and deportation, and stop Brexit. That task requires the action of a mass movement led by immigrants, youth and the black and Asian communities.

MFJ will continue to support every struggle in the Labour Party to win free movement of people, defend immigrant rights and put Composite 20 into effect – but winning those struggles is conditional on the growth of that movement.

That comes down to building action that makes the current anti-immigrant regime unsustainable: marches and protests in and by the black, Asian, Muslim and immigrant communities and by youth, including on the demonstrations that will certainly be needed at Parliament in the coming months; weekday marches to shut down major cities; joint demonstrations inside and outside detention centres; school and college walk-outs; community organisation to prevent immigration raids; occupations and strikes in workplaces and universities to stop deportations.

This movement can win because it mobilises the social power of the most oppressed and most dynamic members of society, and that can inspire wider struggle and break down barriers, threatening the racist hierarchies that the system of divide-and-rule is based on.

This movement can’t just be wished into existence, nor can it be left to spontaneity; it has to be built and prepared. There are actually many thousands of people who can potentially be part of that work – organising meetings, building links, speaking to community and workers’ organisations, or in schools, colleges and universities. They need to be organised, whether they are in the community groups, the Labour Party, the trade unions or elsewhere.

The Movement for Justice

MFJ exists to build a movement of and for the poor and oppressed that can win a truly progressive and fulfilling future for all those struggling with the injustices of present-day society. To achieve that aim we seek to extend the struggles of the present until we win.

We call for an immediate, unconditional Amnesty for everyone who does not have a legal immigration status in the UK, because that is the only way to begin clearing up the mass of cruelty and injustice created by half a century of racist immigration and nationality laws.

We call for Opening the Borders of Britain and Europe because that is what immigrants are doing in their hundreds of thousands in order to resolve real material problems in their lives – problems that have mostly been caused by the actions of western imperialist powers. The alternative to Open Borders is an escalation of the barbarism and tyranny that we already see in the Mediterranean, in Libya, on the US/Mexican border and all around us.

We call for equal citizenship rights for everyone who lives, works and studies in the UK, because in an increasingly inter-connected world there is no democratic future for Britain, or any country, except as a multiracial, multinational society that is integrated on the basis of the equality of all its members, as the people we are.


[2] Of course, there are two ‘most urgent task,’ the other being the climate/ecological crisis, but these are linked in many ways and have a common enemy, and without an integrated movement against the racist scapegoating of immigrants there is no real possibility of building a movement to win action on the climate crisis.

Labour Conference policy on Free Movement & immigrant rights must be in the Election Manifesto

This election is about the future direction of our society…

Movement for Justice Open Letter to the Labour Party leadership

(sign on to this open letter here)

Dear Comrades,

This year’s Labour Party conference ended on a high note of political aspiration. On 25th September, delegate after delegate spoke in enthusiastic support of Composite 20: Free movement, equality and rights for migrants are socialist values and benefit us all. Those delegates spoke from their own experience and the experience of their black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, the communities that are battling against racist Home Office policies and the increasing racism and anti-immigrant prejudice that has dominated the campaign for Brexit. They spoke as immigrants, as the children and partners of immigrants, and as Labour councillors and activists. Nobody spoke against the motion. At the end of the debate Composite 20 was passed unanimously, to loud acclaim. That vote sent out a message of struggle and hope against the threat of a government led by Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Dominic Raab and Priti Patel.

With that vote, conference delegates presented you with a huge opportunity to change the dangerous direction in which this country and its political system are moving. If you put the inspiring programme of equality set out in Composite 20 at the heart of Labour’s election campaign, you will inspire millions. It will represent a decisive break with the disastrous racist policy that has been followed by politicians of ALL the main parties for decades – the policy of scapegoating immigrants for the social problems created by government policies and capitalist greed.

There are very good reasons why the great majority of black, Asian, Muslim and other minority ethnic voters, youth and students, and significantly more women than men are opposed to Brexit – because it is racist and reactionary and driven by anti-immigrant prejudice. We are experiencing its impact and we will not be silenced while our rights and futures are destroyed by the Brexiteers’ backward-looking, chauvinist project. You, the Labour Party and trade union leadership, cannot stay silent on this. You must listen to our voices.

On Saturday you will gather to finalise the Manifesto for the forthcoming election, in the ‘Clause 5 meeting.’ It is imperative that you include the policies in Composite 20. A clear commitment to fight for those policies can only benefit Labour in this election campaign and on 12th December.

Composite 20 called for Labour to include the following 10 points in the Manifesto:

  • Oppose the current Tory immigration legislation and any curbing of rights.
  • Campaign for free movement, equality and rights for migrants.
  • Reject any immigration system based on incomes, migrants’ utility to business, and number caps/targets.
  • Close all detention centres.
  • Ensure unconditional right to family reunion.
  • Maintain and extend free movement rights.
  • End “no recourse to public funds” policies.
  • Scrap all Hostile Environment measures, use of landlords and public service providers as border guards, and restrictions on migrants’ NHS access.
  • Actively challenge anti-immigrant narratives.
  • Extend equal rights to vote to all UK residents.

These are the policies of hope, and Labour is nothing if can’t inspire real hope. They are the policies for Britain to move forward as a progressive, democratic society that is integrated on the basis of equality for all. For nearly a decade, British governments have ratcheted up divide-and-rule, anti-immigrant policies, while imposing poverty and insecurity on working class and struggling middle class people of all races. The Tories and the Far Right are using Brexit to spread this racist poison. They must be stopped.

You can’t afford the illusion that Labour will unite ‘Leavers’ and ‘Remainers’ and win this election just by focussing on the NHS, public housing, Universal Credit, privatisation, the minimum wage etc, while saying as little as possible about Brexit or being neutral on it. Such a policy means being evasive, neutral and inactive on the continuing rise of racism and hostility to immigrants. It means ignoring the voices and the experience of black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, immigrants and youth

We are traditional Labour supporters if anyone is, and we will not be ignored, side-lined and taken for granted in order to appease the misplaced prejudices that Johnson and the Tories have spent their whole political careers encouraging. We will keep fighting for the progressive demands of Composite 20, and we will fight to win.

Moreover, Labour can’t win unless it challenges those divisive prejudices. The opinion polls make that clear. When asked what they regard as the most important issue in the election, most people put Brexit at the top of the list, especially among those who are not already planning to vote Labour. The NHS, the economy etc come much lower down the list of priorities. This is not surprising. At times of profound crisis – and Britain is going through its biggest peace-time crisis for a century – political direction and action become the decisive issue. It subsumes and determines the economic and social policies. It becomes a question, as many Labour supporters are saying, of what kind of country do we want this to be.

In reality, Labour will get more respect from the majority of Leave voters if you make it clear that you are taking action based on Composite 20, than you ever will by avoiding the very issues that are dividing the country. For decades, politicians of ALL the main parties have told voters that immigration is a threat. There are millions of people in impoverished, working class and struggling middle class (and predominantly white) communities that voted ‘Leave,’ who are not ideologically tied to the Far Right, and they deserve some political honesty and leadership from the Labour Party.

When you put the policies of Composite 20 at the heart of the election campaign you will send out a direct political challenge to everything the Tories and the Far Right stand for, you will inspire millions and multiply the numbers and commitment of Labour campaigners. You will encourage thousands of Labour Party members and voters to engage in a debate with their Leave voting friends, family members, neighbours and co-workers – tens of thousands of conversations that can change minds.

The stakes in this election are high. A victory for Johnson will not ‘get Brexit sorted,’ but it will establish the most reactionary British government since World War Two. It will mean an increase in racism, a deepening of the hostile environment for immigrants, greater repression, insecurity and inequality, and a bonfire of workers rights and human rights, along with tax cuts for the rich. The outcome of this election will shape the future direction of our society for years and decades to come. Labour must act boldly and without equivocation on the political issues of racism and immigration that have dominated discussion on Brexit, just as much as when you talk about the economy, public services or housing.

We urge you to seize the opportunity that the Labour conference provided you with when it unanimously backed Composite 20.

Movement for Justice

12th November 2019

MFJ Demonstrate at Labour Party Conference
MFJ at Labour Party Conference calling on the Labour Party to stand up for immigrant rights.

The left must reverse Corbyn’s commitment to campaign for Brexit

Defend the Free Movement of People – Stop racist Brexit! 
Labour must hold an Emergency National Conference    –   Bring Down the racist, anti-working class Tory Government

Betrayal! There is no other way to describe Corbyn’s blunt declaration in a Guardian interview on 21st December that, if there is an early election, Labour under his leadership would campaign for Brexit. Movement for Justice condemns this betrayal of the hopes invested in Corbyn’s leadership. Labour’s left-wing, anti-Brexit majority must support the call by Manuel Cortez – general secretary of the TSSA and the foremost trade union supporter of free movement – and demand an Emergency National Conference of the Labour Party.

Corbyn’s unequivocal support for Brexit is a direct consequence of his commitment to ending the free movement of people – which means continuing the racist policy of scapegoating immigrants. Those policies can & must be reversed. They are opposed by the great majority of Labour Party members and supporters. They are opposed by the hundreds of thousands who joined or re-joined the party because they saw Corbyn’s leadership as an opportunity to transform Labour into a democratic force to overturn capitalist-imposed austerity, fight against racism and stop imperialist wars. And those racist Brexit policies are opposed by the great majority of Labour-supporting youth and black, Asian and Muslim people, whose hostility to Brexit has only increased during the thirty months since the referendum.

In September, the Labour Party conference voted overwhelmingly for a motion on Brexit that was an attempt by the membership to push the leadership towards accepting free movement, and taking a more internationalist position towards Europe.

  • The motion called for, “A relationship with the EU that guarantees full participation in the Single Market” – ‘full participation’ means, and was understood as, maintaining the free movement of people.
  • It declared solidarity with, “All progressive and socialist forces confronting the rising tide of neo-fascism, xenophobia, nationalism and right wing populism in Europe” – in full awareness that Brexit is a major part of that ‘rising tide.’
  • It declared that if MPs defeat the government in a Brexit vote, it “Would constitute a loss of confidence in the Government,” which would be an opportunity for, “An immediate General Election that can sweep the Tories from power” – in reality a call for a motion of No Confidence to bring down the government.
  • Nowhere in the motion was there any statement that, in the event of an election, Labour would campaign to maintain Brexit – if that had been proposed in the conference it would have been defeated.

An emergency conference is needed to reaffirm, and where necessary clarify, everything that was progressive in that motion, and to commit the party to fight an early general election, or a second referendum, on a platform of defending free movement and stopping Brexit. It must explicitly reject the measures and language that present immigration as a ‘problem’ and scapegoat immigrants for the inequality, insecurity and poverty that are caused by the neo-liberal policies of the capitalists and successive governments. If Corbyn is not prepared to lead the party on that basis he must resign and make way for someone who will.

The danger of Corbyn’s Brexit policy and the responsibility of the Left

Labour can’t win an election on the basis of Corbyn’s pro-Brexit position, because its effect would be to undermine the forces on which real progressive struggle and a future of equality and integration depend. Racism and xenophobia are the most important political weapon of a ruling class that is determined to impose ongoing hardship on the poor and oppressed. Labour can’t reverse decades of neo-liberal attacks on the working class while, at the same time, continuing the anti-immigration policies that have been an integral part of those attacks.

The growing anti-Brexit Left in the Labour Party and the trade unions gets that connection; it is why they supported Corbyn in the first place. They must fight for a radical change of course now or face a Blairite take-over of the party and an upsurge of the Far Right, which would be a betrayal of historic proportions. The Left must recognise its power and its responsibility, and use that power to reverse Corbyn’s pro-Brexit, anti-free movement policy and Stop Brexit – and build the mass struggle of youth, students, immigrants and the black, Asian and Muslim communities that will unite the struggles against racism and poverty.

Corbyn tried to maintain a position of delays and ambiguity between his commitment to implement Brexit and the anti-Brexit sentiments of his base. That was always unsustainable, and on 21st December he abandoned ambiguity. The Left, identifying Corbyn’s leadership with their hopes for a more socialist direction in the Labour Party, had adopted a similar ambiguity when they built coalitions in an attempt to steer the leadership towards their own views. Now that he has rejected those attempts, the Left must replace ambiguity with clarification. An emergency conference must put the Left and the Labour Party on firm political ground.

Internationalism v. Nationalism

Across Europe, youth and immigrants are at the forefront of growing struggles against the poverty and cuts imposed by every EU government, against racism & the rise of the Far Right and fascism, against detention and deportation, attacks on workers’ rights, on immigrant communities and on the right to education. Our hopes for the future are based on the power of these struggles to defeat the governments of the rich and powerful, to open the borders of Europe and within Europe, to remove the restrictions on free movement and extend free movement to Europe’s non-citizens, with and without papers.

Brexit sets up political and physical barriers to uniting in struggle with the poor and oppressed, the immigrants and working class across Europe, in a united international movement.

Corbyn’s blunt commitment to Brexit is a nationalist betrayal of those struggles. With regard to Brexit, the central political issue facing British society, he has put himself on the right, and as a result he has provided Labour’s pro-corporate Blairite wing with an opportunity to look ‘progressive’ and ‘internationalist’ on the EU, while in reality they are just as committed to ending the free movement of people as Corbyn is, but believe they can engineer that by working with the rightward-moving ruling elites of Europe.

The left-wing supporters of the September conference motion on Brexit understood that Labour has no future except as an internationalist and anti-racist party and must assert that in an emergency conference.

Fighting racism and anti-immigrant prejudice

There is no progressive, socialist future for Britain or Europe except as integrated, multiracial & multinational societies, with full equality and justice for all who live, work and study here, as the people we are. Brexit and the rise of the Far Right pose a direct threat to that future.

The whole history of working class struggle demonstrates that defeat follows wherever and whenever people respond to poverty by relying on some real or imagined privilege – skin colour, national origin, religion, citizenship status – instead of joining with other working class, poor and oppressed people to struggle against their exploiters. That is the story of Brexit.

It is not enough to hope that voting together against austerity, or striking together against low pay will be sufficient to overcome those divisions. The privilege always has a political character – a real or imagined connection with the ruling class. That has to be fought politically. The anti-Brexit Left knows that Brexit is racist but has generally been reluctant to spell it out, for fear of undermining Corbyn. His direct and open commitment to Brexit makes it all the more urgent for the Left to declare directly and openly that Brexit must be stopped because it is racist.

Immigration and racism are the decisive, central political issues for the future direction of British society and for progressive struggles throughout the ‘western democracies.’ In an increasingly unequal world, the free movement of people is the most basic human right – fundamental to workers’ rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, the right of asylum and to life itself. The rich and powerful regard free movement as an exclusive privilege for themselves and their money & trade. There is a global labour market for bosses looking for cheap labour, but not for people looking for work and safety. Mass migration is a rebellion against that injustice. Crushing that rebellion would mean barbarism and a resort to Fascism.

To repeat an earlier point, immigrant workers and their families, immigrant communities, refugees & asylum seekers are on the frontline across Europe and in the USA, fighting for justice, equality and human rights, against racism, fascism and poverty. They have opened borders, harbour the fewest illusions in our political system, have the greatest hopes, and have not experienced the decades of demoralising betrayals suffered by the European labour movement. Along with the youth, immigrants are feared by the rulers as the most determined and conscious fighters.

In order to build the fight against racism and Brexit, and for a progressive future, the Left and the labour movement must recognise and turn to these forces as the most important allies, fighters and leaders, because it is only the mass action of an integrated, immigrant and youth led movement that will overcome timeworn prejudices and inspire hope that another and better future is possible.

An emergency Labour conference must be the start of this turn.

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