The announcement by the Tory media, culture and sport secretary, Jeremy Hunt, that cabinet ministers are actively discussing the introduction of Ronald Reagan style employment laws marks a decisive point in the class war being waged by the coalition against the working class and its trade union organisations.
The immediate cause of Hunt’s outburst on a BBC sports programme was the decision by members of the civil servants union, PCS, to take one-day strike action on Thursday in opposition to government plans to privatise whole chunks of the civil service and impose compulsory redundancies on PCS members, along with cuts to pay and destruction of pension rights.
The strike, which involves PCS members employed by the UK Borders Agency, has been denounced by both the Tory and Labour Party leadership under the slogan of ‘unite behind the Olympics’ in an attempt to whip up public sentiment against workers fighting for their jobs.
In fact every worker, especially those in London, is only too aware that the Olympic games are nothing more than a huge corporate jamboree that is being used as a pretext for locking down the capital, moving armed troops onto the streets and giving unlimited powers to private security companies.
In short, it has become a massive exercise in the state attempting to intimidate the working class at a time when workers and youth are up in arms at the savage cuts and unemployment resulting from the capitalist world crisis.
But even this show of strength is not sufficient, such is the depth of the crisis that this weak, feeble government is now forced to go for all-out class war against the unions, to smash them up completely as independent organisations of the working class and transform them into ineffectual ‘friendly societies’.
This is what Hunt meant when he talked about ministers going for ‘the Ronald Reagan approach’.
He was referring to the former US president, who in 1981 ordered the sacking of over 11,000 striking air traffic controllers and passing a law that they could never be re-hired.
The leader of their union, Patco, was dragged off to jail in chains – this is the future that the coalition ministers are going to try and impose on the trade unions today.
That is a future where all strikes are illegal and any worker daring to combine with fellow workers in withdrawing their labour or taking part in any industrial action, deemed by the government and the state to be detrimental to the interests of the capitalist system and the bankers, can be fined and dragged off to jail.
With the Tory Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, leading the demand for striking to be made illegal by imposing impossible demands on strike ballots and now Hunt’s revelations about ministerial plans for sacking strikers it is clear that all-out war on the most basic right of workers, to withdraw their labour, is imminent.
When the trade unions faced a similar attack in 1901 in the form of the notorious Taff Vale judgement – which made unions liable for losses incurred by an employer caused by strike action and thus made striking impossible – the working class was forced to take the political road to defeat this attack on their organisations.
In 1901 this meant the historic struggle to found an independent political party, the Labour Party.
Today this attack on the very existence of trade unions can only be defeated through the building of a very different type of party, a revolutionary party that will lead the working class to power through the organisation of a general strike to bring down the government and go forward to a workers government and socialism.
This party is the Workers Revolutionary Party – Join today