The Communication Workers of America once produced a t-shirt featuring a rising cobra and bearing the legend “When Provoked Will Strike”. A fitting motto maybe for the Unison members who took strike action on 16-17 July over a pitiful pay offer which capped off years of relentless attack on public sector workers.
The massive wave of strikes demonstrated once again that when capitalism enters into crisis, those who can least afford it will be first to be called on to make sacrifices. But it also demonstrates that, no matter how many defeats and sellouts, workers will still be prepared to fight.
However, the heartening stories of vibrant picket lines, successful action and union recruitment have to be balanced against the continuing problems the labour movement faces: workforces divided between different unions, and the lack of solidarity from the GMB in particular; widespread fatalism as to the likelihood the struggle will be sold out by highly-paid union leaders and come to nothing; Thatcher’s anti-union laws, upheld by Labour, holding the threat of sequestration over the kind of action required to win.
In the light of this attempts to rebuild a militant rank-and-file movement in the unions is crucial. This will be the main subject of the third meeting of the Cardiff Radical Socialist Forum on Weds August 6th (7.30, Model Inn). Introducing the session will be NUT activist Jason Travis, who will report on recent strike action in the Manchester area and progress building the grassroots national shop stewards movement. Jason was also chair of the renowned Sukula family anti-deportation campaign, a campaign in which trade unions played a key role in securing a landmark victory.
There is no hidden agenda to the socialist forum. Cardiff PR initiated it in order to maximise left unity around those actions upon which we can agree, while debating the issues which matter most to socialists in an open-ended, constructive and informed manner. Already a range of socialists and anarchists from different groups and no group at all have been involved, and our intention is that CRSF, once established, will become the property of all its participants with its own website.
We welcome everyone concerned with the trade union question to the August 6th meeting, the last but one forum before the Convention of the Left in September, which hopefully will launch many more unity initiatives across the UK.
Stop press (6 Aug) Unfortunately Jason Travis has had to cancel at the last minute due to unforseen circumstances – many apologies but the forum will go ahead as planned.