WRITING in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper the general secretary elect of Unite, Len McClusky, was forced to use the dread words ‘general strike’ in the context of defending the welfare state against the Tory-led coalition’s ‘unprecedented assault’ on the working class.
Before anyone gets too carried away with this more militant posture by the leader of the biggest industrial union in the country, we must examine what he actually said.
Starting by praising the struggle by students and youth against the destruction of state education, and his recognition that this mass movement of youth had galvanised the trade union movement and put its leadership on the spot, McClusky wrote:
‘The response of the trade unions will be critical. While it is easy to dismiss “general strike now” rhetoric from the usual quarters, we have to be preparing for battle.’
McClusky is being too coy here.
Only the WRP, YS and News Line have been calling for a general strike to bring down the coalition regime, and he knows it.
Our demand has consistently been for a general strike to bring down this coalition government and replace it with a workers government that will carry out socialist policies.
It is a policy that has at its heart the struggle for power by the working class and the overthrow of capitalism and the expropriation of the capitalist class.
It is a demand that is increasingly winning widespread support amongst workers, youth and students who are seeing their future destroyed by a bankrupt capitalist system that intends to ensure the survival of the bankers through the brutal pauperisation of workers and whole sections of the middle classes.
The March for Jobs and Free State Education in November by the Young Socialists had this at the centre of its demands, and they met with overwhelming support from trade unionists and youth.
This has created conditions where McClusky and his fellow trade union bureaucrats can no longer ignore the call for a general strike. They are now trying to gloss over it and substitute a vague call for unions to prepare for battle.
This preparation entails a special meeting early in the new year of the TUC to discuss co-ordinated industrial action.
This sounds very militant but again the devil is in the detail.
What will be the aim of this co-ordinated industrial action?
Certainly not to bring down the government, McClusky is quite clear about that.
In common with every other reformist and Labourite politician, he insists that the savage cuts being imposed by the coalition are ‘ideologically-driven’.
While the Tories are ideologically disposed to hate the welfare state, what is driving them is the objective crisis of world capitalism.
This crisis requires the capitalist class to try and dump its collapse onto the backs of the working class – it has no alternative.
As the Greek prime minister succinctly put it at the weekend: ‘This is class war’.
These attacks are not something that can be stopped by a bit of a campaign to get the Tories to modify their ideology. Yet this is precisely the dodgy goods that McClusky and the rest of the TUC are trying to peddle to their members.
On the same day that McClusky wrote his article with its militant sounding call for action, it emerged that a secret meeting had been arranged that day between Tory leader David Cameron and leaders of the biggest unions in the country, along with the TUC.
McClusky to his credit did not attend it.
He is working hard to at least convince the world that he is a different kettle of fish from the to-be-early-retired Woodley, who is notorious for selling out, especially the disgraceful sell-out and betrayal of the Gate Gourmet workers in 2005, when 800 were sacked by megaphone.
The best way to convince workers that he is different, lies not in using left phrases, but in meeting with the sacked Gate Gourmet workers, and taking action to right the wrong that was done to them in 2005 by Woodley and co.