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Pension strikers should go beyond resistance

Whatever the Murdoch press may say ("Union leaders are off their heads" – The Sun) it is pressure from members, rather than the not-so-steely resolve of union bosses, that forced the TUC to act over pensions.

Finally, they had to do something to express the anger of public sector workers whose living standards have been cut to the bone and who have seen jobs cut by 110,000 in less than a year, with more to come.

Workers from 14 unions – including local government workers, nurses, care workers, civil servants, teachers, prison officers and firefighters – are planning co-ordinated action on pensions in the biggest joint union mobilisation since the "winter of discontent" in 1978/79.

Actions will range from a one-day strike on November 30, involving around 3 million people, to lunchtime meetings, rallies and joint events with community groups, service users and private sector workers.

Throughout New Labour, the major unions convinced members to accept sub-inflation pay rises, making many reliant on tax credits – which have now been cut. They stood by while services were contracted out, and both the public and private sectors cut pensions for new entrants.

Even now, union bosses pray the Coalition government will save them from acting. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "Hopefully the government will see the anger and perhaps take a step back, be a little bit more flexible and less intransigent."

He wishes! But there IS no flexibility and the government is ENTIRELY intransigent. The attack on pensions is driven by the economic and financial crisis. Without cutting pensions the Coalition can't eliminate the deficit.

And as this bankers' government knows, the market will punish any country going soft on cuts. Nick Clegg explained: "Markets have stopped believing that all European governments can service their debts. We simply cannot afford to let that happen to us too."

As the general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, Patrick Roach, said:

The attack on pensions is only one element of the assault on ordinary working people, on the public sector and on the welfare state. Be in no doubt – we are in the midst of a perfect storm. A perfect storm of assaults on pay, on jobs, on rights at work, as well as on pensions.

But the lesson from the perfect storms in Greece, Ireland and Italy is that one-day strikes do not force governments caught in the gravest global crisis in capitalism’s history to change course. The big question is what follows?

Why wait for negotiations which are a total fraud? Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander, announced the detail of the pension cuts back in June and nothing has changed since then.

If ever there was a time to defy the anti-union laws, it is now. Ballots are costly, time-consuming, open to endless legal challenges and give the government and their pet media in the BBC and newspapers, the initiative.

Better to just call members out now and save the cash for strike pay. All the unions, including those like the rail union RMT who are not directly involved, should call an indefinite strike to bring down the Coalition.

RMT leader Bob Crow told the TUC Congress that forms of civil disobedience beyond strikes would be necessary, uniting unions with others fighting to defend jobs and services. This is good but cannot be more protest.

At the end of the day, we need to find a way to go BEYOND resistance to a political solution. Otherwise what are we fighting for? To put a Milliband-led Labour, pro-capitalist government in office? No thank you!

This solution can be developed in the course of building People's Assemblies in every community, where union members unite with others – especially those in the private sector – not only to co-ordinate support for strikes and other actions, but also start building an alternative democracy.

Rejecting a state committed to the power of banks and corporations, they can plan a transfer of economic and political power into the hands of the people. Looked at in this way, November 30 can be a springboard to a real social transformation.

Penny Cole
15 September 2011

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Jonathan says:

An essential call against not just this government but the essential crisis ridden economic system it represents – the added necessity of the NUS and the non-organised student youth to join with all these activities in an organised way – already having demonstrated their mettle and leadership draws in communities deserted by any economic expression over decades.

The devil is in the detail: the interest on the debt. Clegg's words give this away – the key word being 'service' i.e. the interest on the 'loans'. The working treadmill and deplorable community decay is here to stay unless a stand is taken, and to the ends of the above. 'They' can not cut the deficit to zero, nor even to within 'manageable' limits. The key word here being 'they'. What they can do is aid the new masters in drawing 'wealth' unto itself. A great new transfer has been taking place. It is only the mammoth size of the world economy; markets, production, state machines, and so on, that give it the appearance of a slow motion train wreck. Within all this, two differing processes seem to occur. And what would that mean – servicing – borrowing off the markets at equatable rates through bonds and long term loans? Insider dealing has been the making of those that set the political agenda. Small change, a few backhanded chips to keep with a gaming metaphor.

The markets have changed qualitatively and drive to a new squeeze. Greece was sucked into the Euro by tricks and manoeuvres of the likes of Goldman Sacks ( Bankers plan to bankrupt Greece) and as put in Corinna's 'say' to the same who then bet against it Banks Bet Greece Defaults on Debt They Helped Hide : enough for blindfolds to be ordered. One would think this high science or at the very least good cardsmanship – but no it is low down dirty dealing and aces up the sleeves: card sharps one and all. It doesn't depend on cunning – one of their better skills – but on secrecy. To those in the markets it has the appearance of a matter of participants in a game; one and all – on the side. That it may attract this or that 'rogue' trader changes the essence of what goes on not a jot: more than this or that house foreclosure in that it tipped over into that qualitative change what is based on the nature of the system. And it must be said on the idea that this is high science, or specialist knowledge on their side: but not so – it is the distribution and redistribution, and again the redistribution, of the total product, they left high science behind over a hundred years ago.

And then the creditor banking class base use all this as leverage for plunder – as also the loan to government for 'aid' i.e. loans at interest – paid out now for 'the Arab spring' – we are all involved in a race here. They thereby feed the section of the 'movement' or rising sections that would then be ensnared with them – perfidy thy name is capital; diplomacy and military manoeuvre their cunning application. The rock of contradiction showed itself for many of us in the issue of Libya.

Miliband and all are manoeuvred in the political sphere – to stay in the political expression of the game they keep mumbling semi agreements – anything but a peek behind the curtain. And keeping the working class – organised – and the communities – disorganised – out of 'the game' is for them essential – keeping the same blind to 'the game' was just as important. As to the middle-class it was drawn in continually on the promise of 'profitable' – activity: what was called in the 1920's 'clipping': Oh how 'hope lies slain'.

We must note, we must keep in our minds at all times, that these going-ons involve what has been skimmed and scammed off of productive labour and the labour of all those involved in the production and sustenance of that labour power, i.e. workers – culture and all – world wide. The military budget; state machine itself; the bonuses, all these are but asides, internally the real issue is what that ever smaller holders of the 'property' can keep for themselves. The setting in motion of the next phase of production – and this last seems not to worry certain 'players' – is the role of the political elite.

The governing class promise recovery, bluff, hide 'tells', pretences at 'negotiation' and necessity – in their world; and demand cuts – all a front of words behind which they prepare and portray the semblance of decency – Until a strike, until a demonstration is organised, is called, then it becomes as the Sun portrays it, or as the state 'tools' up. A naked and serious matter – as it always is for communities as a whole throughout. The truth is, the hidden reality behind this semblance is that it can be no other way – the surfacing confrontation is but the outward expression of the internal contradiction needing to be resolved. There really is no choice either side.

Are we to believe that all leaves social relations outside – that the commodity and all that goes with it is not a social relation? During these times of crisis the economy determines more and more, penetrates as a factor more and more into nearly every factor of life – and that includes the planet as life; yet just about everything is both fed by this and feeds the crisis itself: it is nearly a constant state of tension and therefore a constant state of siege. This is not the time either for ballots or half measures.

All their attempts to emulate the natural historically developed organisations of the working classes for themselves, and the youth of the working classes (student unions did not get going until this link was made – the Bullingdon Club is more their forte with the sports dependant on upper class rule) – all these attempts behave and sound like a damp squid – dropped from a rooftop. Only the penetration of culture given sharp edge by these same revolutionary wellsprings draws them in, along with the implications of revolutionary science – itself driven by productive development. The ruling class is organised as a parasitic class. Other than that it rests on the state nakedly.

Governments have never reduced a debt to zero – and the 'secret' of this crisis is within the laws of productivity as a science, of what is reflected in the mind scientifically and abstracted into laws – and of distribution; and the social consequence of these expressed laws – one could almost say 'indomitable' expression. By the pumping of credit they hid the diminishing profit levels caused by the kernel of the contradiction held within the production of commodities and therefore its distribution and expression as money as numerous AWTW blogs have demonstrated, covered, alluded, and implied this. That money has hived off more descendants, more species, than the ancestor primate – even of some apparently 'died out' but as that special science has shown leaving within 'us' DNA makes it a good analogy, this 'money' issue confuses many: but in the last instance the contradiction expressed as the falling rate of profit must out. And must out in reality – and this confrontation is its outing.

Behind all this is the basic contradiction of production. It is not one soluble in the mind – which is why it is expressed so sharply in reality. Twist and turn, cry themselves to sleep at night – have nightmares as to it. Wake up it is still there. And the 'feel' of their side of this contradiction – for they are but a personification of ownership of production – make the other side an itch that drives them mad with anguish, bitterness and hatred: the political expression of their attitude to the working class and the communities from which they come is never so clear as when 'their' system is in crisis. At this stage of their crisis they feel mortal and that brings with it greater and greater hatred. Enraged and 'righteous' as if the working classes are not behaving according to 'reality'.This is quite distinct than when they felt some growth possible and made concessions after the last great war.

They are organised in clubs and as a political class sucking in all they can reach with the aid of a suppliant, a supplicant media – cringing and limited in ownership and control; in social networks more claustrophobic than would be healthy. They oppose the whole of society in body and mind; with the state it recruits from within the working class and runs from its networks – placemen. Now is so sharp, so deep a crisis the communities must organise and not just spin off from the shape determined by production. In this master slave relationship there is only one side that is indispensable – only one that is dispensable. Within that world to win is an immanent world to develop.


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