THE reformist trade union leaders are once again, on the pensions issue, showing that they are organically incapable of defending the basic gains of the working class, whether it is on jobs, wages, or pensions.
Faced with a ruthless ruling class which is stating quite openly that there can only be a future for capitalism if the Welfare State, the benefits system, and public and private sector pensions are smashed, the instinct of the reformist trade union bureaucracy is to capitulate, after putting up a bit of a show of resistance.
They were forced into the November 30th strike action by the enormous anger of their members at the arrogant attempt at a pensions diktat by Cameron, Osborne, and the Star Chamber boss Maude.
When Maude threatened that the November 30 strike would see the Tory-led coalition bringing in anti-union laws that would make strike action impossible, the trade union bureaucracy shivered with fear, while the attitude of the mass of the workers was ‘Just let them try.’
Now after the massive success of the November 30 strike, the Tories are making even more threats, and leaders of the trade union bureaucracy are secretly agreeing that ‘enough is enough’ and that it is time to surrender and behead the resistance of the working class with a collapse of its leadership.
This response is not a surprise. Surrender is in the genes of the reformist trade union bureaucracy.
After all, it broke the 1926 general strike after nine days because it was getting stronger and stronger, and kept other trade unions from joining the year-long miners’ and printers’ battles allowing the Thatcher gang and the capitalist state to do its worst.
Now the word is that TUC leader Barber and Prentis, the Unison trade union leader, have decided to betray their members and accept the massive Tory pension cuts.
At the 15 December meeting of the TUC’s Public Service Liaison Group, Barber urged the unions to sign up to the government’s latest offer which is not a real offer at all.
This would allow the government to declare that the struggle is over, that the unions are powerless and to proceed pell-mell to save British capitalism with ever more draconian measures against workers.
Such a capitulation will also allow the government to deal all the more viciously with any of the trade unions that refuse to call the pensions action off.
It will also allow the right wing media to preach to workers that there is no point in being in a trade union since unions will not defend your interests!
Unison leader Dave Prentis has joined Barber in recommending acceptance of the shoddy deal.
The issue is to be discussed at the TUC public services liaison group meeting in London at the TUC headquarters starting at 3pm today.
There must be no sell out of public service pensions at this meeting. In fact Unison members must demand that Prentis quits at once, and all workers must demand the resignation of Barber, who will sell out the pensions struggle in the same way he betrayed the Gate Gourmet struggle.
The Liaison Committee meeting must show its mettle and decide on a week of strike action in the New Year. It must also invite workers in the private sector – at Unilever, GEC and the countless number of other industries which are having their wages cut and their final salary pensions destroyed – to join the action.
This meeting must declare that pensions both public and private will be defended, as will be the entire Welfare State.
Further, the Tories must be warned that a new pensions action in the New Year will be followed by an indefinite general strike to bring down the coalition and bring in a workers’ government.
This is the only way forward for the working class.
Central to this struggle is the building of a new and revolutionary leadership inside the trade unions, one that boldly states that the lesson of the capitalist crisis is not that the welfare state must go but that capitalism must go and be replaced by a socialist society where the bosses and bankers will be expropriated and production will be planned to satisfy people’s needs.