The need for a fighting working class movement

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
3 December 2014

There will be no surprises in Osborne's "Autumn Statement" this Wednesday. Just more of the same. We will hear that (1), Osborne's anti-working class policies are "working" (for whom is another question, of course!); and (2), that the government "has no money", meaning that we're supposed to carry on footing the bill for the bosses' crisis.

Meanwhile, in the real world, NHS workers staged a second 4-hour walk-out last week, asking for the very modest 1% pay increase recommended by their pay review body, but which the government refused. Never mind that this 1% is not only well below real inflation today (October's RPI=2.3%), but is offered in the context of 2-year pay freeze. Indeed, NHS wages have fallen in real value by 12% since 2011! Firefighters, on the other hand, will be striking for 24 hours, on December 9th, over attempts to increase their retirement age and increase their pension contributions to boot. It will be their 48th action in a dispute which has been running for 3 years already!

The need for a general fight back

Isn't there something crazy in all of this? Of course, NHS workers and firefighters are right to strike: workers should remind employers that without our labour, no services can be provided and no wealth can be created.

But what is not right, is that union leaders should go to employers with a begging bowl in our name, instead of raising demands that really address the problems we face. Nor is it right that these union leaders should squander our collective strength by keeping strikes within rigid sectional boundaries, at a time when the entire working class is facing the same predicament and would be far more effective if it was fighting back collectively.

There's no shortage of reasons for such a collective fight back, across all sections of the working class, public and private.

Official figures show that the fall in real wages over the past year is the highest on record for 17 years. They also show that real wages are now back to the level of the early 2000's. In other words, for us, the bosses' crisis amounts to turning back the wheel of time, 14 years into the past!

But there's more - and worse. First under Blair and then under the ConDems, in every industry, casual employment has been allowed to sneak in, in every possible form. These second class jobs are merely devices to allow the bosses to by-pass collective agreements and ignore the legal rights we have, while weakening our cohesion as a class.

And, in this too, unions leaders bear a heavy responsibility. How many deals have they signed behind our backs, endorsing the transformation of real jobs into such non-jobs - under the pretext of "saving jobs"? Never mind that in the end, selling out these real jobs only served to "save" company profits and allow the government to increase its handouts to big business!

Yes, we need a fighting movement!

Not only is a substantial wage increase long overdue for the entire working class, but also a system indexing wages to real prices, so that our standards of living are not constantly eroded by inflation. But don't hold your breath: you won't hear a peep from union leaders about this!

And yes, it is high time the demand to share out all available work between all available hands, on the basis of decent wages for all, was raised by the entire working class.

There is nothing utopian about these demands. After all, the crisis may still be there, but the capitalists have rebuilt their profits - to record levels, in fact!

Take Helge Lund, the new CEO of British oil and gas group, BG. After a "shareholders' rebellion", he's been awarded a £12m salary package for each of the next five years. This means that this parasitic character will "earn" - mostly by sitting in board rooms - as much as around 600 workers on an average wage, who are actually producing wealth and providing a real service! And Lund is not an isolated case. This year, shareholders will receive £100bn in dividends from British companies, for doing nothing!

Yes, this society is overflowing with wealth. Except that the money which bosses and ministers claim is so scarce, that there's none left over to pay the working class, is in the hands of a parasitic minority. Our problem is how to take this money out of their hands. And while the union leaders are far too respectful of this system to do so, we, workers, have the collective ability to build a movement capable of doing just that.