By now, no-one can deny that the economic and social situation is deteriorating. So much so, that all the empty talk about a "recovery" and the private sector making up for the jobs cut in the public sector has been forgotten.
This summer's rioting came as a stark reminder of what was going on in the real world. It was an explosion waiting to happen, but no-one in the politicians' world wanted to see it coming. And when it did come, their only response was to dismiss the rioters as "criminals", to divert attention from what it revealed.
Because the riots were a symptom of a deteriorating situation, but by no means the only one. The impact of the benefit and job cuts announced by the Con-Dems have already begun to feed higher joblessness and rising poverty.
A matter of urgency
In the background, the speculative bingo machine of the capitalist class had been taking its toll. In August, stock markets nosedived, threatening more job cuts in the real economy. Meanwhile, speculators were betting on increasing financial difficulties for governments, this time in some of the world's richest countries, like France and even the US - thereby prompting every government to announce even more austerity measures against its working populations, including here.
Over the past 4 years, the capitalist parasites have been feeding the crisis of their own system, because, in an economy which is wholly dominated by the financial sphere, speculation is a necessary condition for capitalist profit. This is why there is no end in sight for this crisis, and why it keeps getting deeper and deeper.
During these years, the attacks of the capitalist class and their politicians against the working population have been gathering pace. But while the mechanisms of the crisis are built into the capitalist system, this does not mean that the working class is defenceless against the bosses' offensive.
Even in this world dominated by a few large banks and financial institutions, which can shift billions from one end of the planet to the other, the working class still produces all the wealth, its labour still makes everything work and it still represents the majority of the population.
Armed with this collective strength, and provided it learns how to use it, the working class remains the only force capable of offering a way out of the crisis, by challenging at every level the greed of the profiteers and the attacks of their politicians.
Today, the necessity of this collective fight back of the working class, using all its forces, is raised by the very depth of the capitalist crisis. It is a necessity and a matter of urgency, that no-one can ignore without taking the risk of an even greater social catastrophe.
Raising our own "alternative"
Given all this, one would have expected the urgent need for a fightback to be at the forefront of this year's TUC conference. But there was no sense of urgency whatsoever, in its speeches and resolutions.
In the final statement of last year's conference, union leaders had announced a national day of action and "co-ordinated strikes" against the Con-Dems' cuts. As it happened, the day of action did take place, producing a huge mobilisation on 26th March. But precious little was organised in the way of "co-ordinated" strikes. In fact, only some sections of the public sector were called out for a one-day strike on 30th June. And although some unions talked about holding ballots in the public sector in the Autumn, their plans are still unclear.
This year, the TUC leader Brendan Barber has announced "an ambitious two-year plan" to build a "movement for the Alternative". What this will involve in practice, what forms of action, how this will help to fight the rise of unemployment or the fall in workers' living standards - is anybody's guess. The TUC leaders did not bother to tell us.
But what workers do know is that they cannot wait for another two years, taking one blow after another, without doing something about it. Nor has the working class anything to expect from the kind of "economic alternative" that Barber promoted at the conference - a vague, toned down version of capitalism, designed to serve as a platform for Labour's future election campaign. As if capitalism, with its chronic chaos, or Labour, with its record of defending big business' interests, had anything to offer to the working class!
The future will tell what the union leaders really intend to do. In the meantime we can prepare ourselves to seize any opportunity of collective action they might offer, but with the aim of raising our own "alternative" - the urgent, vital necessity of a general fight back of the working class.