Monday, February 13, 2012

What is happening to the fight against cuts?

I spoke this evening to a Council Cabinet meeting which, when I had addressed it last year, had sat in the presence of a large, loud and angry lobby of workers and community activists as it agreed to make deep and painful cuts. This year, similarly horrendous decisions were made in the all but silent presence of very few observers.

This difference has arisen not for want of effort of local trade union and community activists. Our local anti-cuts campaigners (where I work in Lambeth _ http://lambethsaveourservices.org/) are a model to be emulated elsewhere.

There is obviously a danger of fatalism in each year after a first year in which a vicious right-wing Government has imposed its cuts, but we have to think also about what we - as socialists - need to do to avert this.

One important problem has been the failure of attempts to coordinate anti-cuts campaigns nationally.

So we have the Coalition of Resistance (http://www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk/) - a good idea which has yet to realise it's potential, anti-cuts activity from the National Shop Stewards Network (http://www.shopstewards.net/) - a good idea which lost its way, and Unite the Resistance (http://uniteresist.org/) - an idea which may yet turn out to have been good. All the while, the Peoples' Charter (http://www.thepeoplescharter.org/) continues to be available as an organising tool to anyone who cares to pick it up.

The left is left offering this range of options to activists as a result of our marginalisation after decades of decline. The (somewhat sorry) lesson of the pensions dispute thus far is that, in the continuing absence of a vibrant and effective rank and file movement, trade unionists can be won to support strike action when - and only when - they are called upon to do so officially.

This means that the struggle to assert democratic authority over the leadership of the trade union movement is of vital importance. The same principle, it seems to me, applies to the Labour Party, whose local leaders are not irrelevant to the level of popular support for ant--cuts mobilisations.

Trade unionists need to demand of Labour politicians that, rather than prioritise the administration of expenditure reductions required by the Tory Government, they lead local opposition to those reductions.

Our most important task in relation to Labour Councils is not so much to condemn the universal capitulation to the Government which (given its universality) is hard for any individual Labour Group to reverse - what we need to demand of all Labour politicians, in office or opposition, is that they join our fight against the Tory cuts.
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