The 140,000 protesters who joined the TUC October 20th marches in London, Glasgow and Belfast, certainly went back home with the sense that, collectively, they would be holding a very powerful lever in their hands if they were to seriously fight back together, against the bosses' and their government's attacks. Not only was every section of the working class represented on these marches, both from the public and private sector, but all marchers had the same demands - a job and a living wage for all, no public sector cuts and for the capitalists to foot the bill for their crisis.
It is the working class which produces all the wealth in this society - that is, those workers who were marching on October 20th together with their workmates - not the fat cats sitting in company boardrooms, nor their politicians in government or parliament. If the working class really used its collective strength there is no limit to what it would be able to impose on the capitalist parasites.
However, preparing for such a fight back was not even on the agenda of the few union leaders who did talk about "coordinated strikes" or about a "general strike". They all stopped short of making concrete proposals that the marchers might have taken back to their workplaces and acted upon. How and when would these strikes be taking place; who would they involve; how would they have to be prepared? They didn't say. As if a successful fight back could ever be built up without formulating clear objectives and a well thought out plan to achieve them!
Miliband's address to the City
As to the TUC leaders, fighting back was not even on the horizon for them - and certainly not part of the "Future that works", which their march was calling for. Their only concern was obviously to promote the Labour vote as the only option on offer for workers in order to get rid of the ConDem's austerity. Ironically, they had made a point of bringing along Ed Miliband to the final rally of the march, instead of him staying safely in his office - as he usually does during trade-union marches, for fear of being accused of being in the pay of trade-union donors. Ironically, because his speech from the platform gave anyone who didn't know already, the gist of of Labour's real plans for the future - and they are plans for a future that definitely can't work for working people any more than the ConDem's future can.
There was nothing new in what Miliband had to say. How many times has he already said things like: "With borrowing rising, not falling, today, I have said that whoever was in government now would have to make some cuts... I do not promise easy times. But I do promise a different and fairer approach". "Fairer"? Coming from a party which bailed out the bankers with tens of billions of public money and, in order to plug the black hole it had created, launched the austerity policy against the working class that the ConDem have subsequently continued? No wonder Miliband was jeered by the marchers. Did he really think that anyone would believe him? Not likely! But what did he care?
No, what was really significant about Miliband's performance was that he made a point of putting it on at this rally, in Hyde Park. He made a point of speaking Osborne's and Cameron's language in front of 100,000 marchers who had come there, precisely, to oppose the ConDem cuts, among other things. This was not a speech addressed to the marchers, it was a speech addressed to the City - to show, once again, to the big companies and their shareholders that they have nothing to fear from Labour, nothing at all.
In fact, one of the features of Labour's policies these days is that the more the Tories shift their policies to the right in order to pander to the prejudices of their electorate, the more Labour rushes to follow suit, in order to show that it can't be out-Toried by Cameron.
So, we had Miliband's adoption of the Tories' "One Nation" motto at this year's Labour conference. Then we had shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, taking on Osborne's mantle to insist that there would be no reversal of the ConDem public sector pay freeze under Labour. Then, after Tory Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, announced that he wanted to "reform" public services by introducing "private sector conditions" (without the wages), there was Miliband's brother, David, aping Maude, by declaring in a newspaper interview that "Labour must look at public service reform". Then there was Ed Milliband himself again, who, being apparently impressed by Theresa May's latest attacks against migrant workers, went on record to say that there were too many non-skilled EU workers in Britain. Whatever next? How low will Miliband and the Labour leadership get, in their efforts to demonstrate to the capitalist class that they can be at least as anti-working class as the Tories themselves?
The future can only depend on workers' struggles
No, workers have nothing to expect from a party which is proving so determined to keep the profiteers happy, whatever the cost may be for society in general and for the working class in particular. And even if Labour wasn't what it really is, could the working class afford to wait until the 2015 election - thereby allowing unemployment, wages and services to deteriorate even further?
Yes, the working class needs "a future that works", as the TUC called for. But it won't get it through the ballot box. This society has far enough wealth to cater for the needs of all, instead of pushing the poorest into worse poverty and forcing all workers into a race to the bottom, in terms of wages and conditions.
But this wealth, which has been accumulated over the past decades thanks to workers' labour, is in the hands of a tiny minority of rich companies and capitalists - who have been both the cause and the beneficiaries of the present crisis. They must be made to pay for the chaos they've created!
This is the only "future that works" for the working class - a future in which those who live a fat, parasitic life out of workers' sweat, pay their debts to society in general and to the working class in particular.
In this respect, the 20th October mobilisation could be a starting point. This was never part of union leaders' plans, but there is nothing stopping workers from building on the sense of strength which came out of it. Unwillingly, the TUC leaders, in their attempt at giving credit to the ballot box and their friends in the Labour leadership, have demonstrated how much stronger the working class can be when it acts collectively, ignoring sectional and industrial barriers, and joining ranks behind common objectives.
This is where the only "future that works" for the working class lies - in breaking the artificial barriers which split its ranks and joining forces across all sections in a common struggle, in the workplaces and in the streets, behind demands which can really address the problems that it is facing today:
- that today's delinquent banking system should be nationalised and centralised without compensation to shareholders
- that job cuts should be made illegal
- that all available work should be shared out between all available hands
- that cuts in socially useful public services should be stopped immediately
- that a large-scale programme of social home-building should be organised directly by the state