Going on the offensive is the only way forward

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20 October 2009

If and when the national strike goes ahead, let us draw the lessons of the past 4 months of rolling strikes in London and the regions.

The "clever, economical" tactics of splitting our ranks - again, for the national strike called for this Thursday and Friday (!) - and limiting action to 24 hours at a time, have already proved useless! Most of us have lost between 15 and 17 days' pay and the backlog which is due, primarily, to the very job cuts we are fighting, has increased beyond all proportions. How does that help us?

Has any of this allowed us to make our voices heard or to expose the lies of the government's slander campaign? Has this helped us to measure our mobilisation and strength? No! Nor have these rolling strikes stopped Royal Mail from implementing even more job cuts and "revisions" in between strike days!

Had these rolling strike days all been combined into one single all-out strike from day one, our problems might be resolved by now. Let us not waste any more time!

Spelling out our demands

We need to be clear about the demands we are fighting for. The CWU leadership, however, is not.

Billy Hayes is quick to complain about Royal Mail bypassing the CWU and calls on us to "defend the union". But what he means by that, is that the CWU leadership should not be by-passed by Royal Mail - that it should have a "say" in the "modernisation" process. However, he stops short of saying what sort of "say" he wants to have. So how that would help to "defend the union", is anybody's guess. Isn't RM's "modernisation" agenda precisely in order to cut the branch (that is, our jobs) on which the union rests?

So, defending the union, yes, we're all for it. But provided this means fighting tooth and nail against every job cut and subjecting all "revisions" to the agreement of those of us who have to do the work. Above all, it means stopping Royal Mail from generalising casual employment across the whole service. Because if we don't, then yes, there won't be a union left to speak of!

In any decent society, "modernisation" should result in improvements, for both workers and users of the service. Instead, because of the profiteering craze of the bosses' cronies in government, this "modernisation" is merely a vicious weapon against all concerned - and this must stop!

So the line-up of our demands is clear: no more job cuts; those already cut should be reinstated as permanent full-time jobs; all casuals to be made permanent; no more "revisions" unless put under the scrutiny of all workers concerned and agreed; in fact, and full reversal of all the unfeasible "revisions", enforced so far.

Banning job cuts and imposing our direct control on all aspects of the job - this is the bottom line. Anything short of this would mean letting RM push us even further down the drain!

All out now!

The means to win these demands are in our hands, provided we do not allow any more slicing up of our collective strength by the CWU leadership: no more sectional action and no more one-day-at-a-time strikes. And yes, we can win.

Who can believe that those government ministers who squandered over £200bn in public money to fill the pockets of profit sharks, could not find a few dozen million to ensure better postal services for the public and better jobs and working conditions for us? Of course, they could!

Last weekend's papers headlined RM's plans to recruit 30,000 temps to "break the strike" - as if 30,000 temps who do not know the job could do the work of 120,000 experienced strikers!

But this does tell us what our first priority in the strike should be - winning these casuals over to our side. Because, in fact, their best chance to get a real job and our best chance to win this strike, is to be in it together - one for all and all for one!

Whatever the government and Royal Mail may be cooking up against us, there are at least two things that they can do nothing about: we represent a very large battalion of the working class, spread out across the country - and we enjoy the sympathy of large sections of the working population.

So, our second priority in this strike should be to address the many tens of thousands of workers currently facing similar threats against their jobs - like at British Airways, Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant, and Bosch in Cardiff where cuts in jobs and wages were just announced. They are our real allies against the bosses, their government, and its job slashing.

The capitalist class must pay for its crisis instead of being allowed to play bingo on the stock market with public funds! But the capitalists and the government will only give ground if they fear a general backlash from the working class. By convincing other workers to join the fight, with their own demands, we could spread a real wave of panic among the profit sharks and their government puppets! And win!