David Cameron has threatened to use troops to break public sector strikes, according to The Times newspaper. The report appeared on the same day that trade unionists at the TUC in Brighton were voting for more strikes against the government public sector pay freeze, and for investigating the practicalities of a general strike across the whole of industry.
This challenge to the right to strike came the day after the Olympics victory parade, which Cameron and Tory mayor of London Boris Johnson tried to milk for as much political capital as they could. Politicians and media joined in a chorus of disapproval at the very thought of strikes.
Millions of trade unionists, on the other hand, feel that they are suffering in their third year of pay freeze which has lowered their living standards by more than 10 percent. They do not see why they should suffer while bankers and industrialists have enriched themselves, and while the gap between rich and power has grown greater.
When they are told that there is no money for public services they look to the cost of war that is escalating. The Afghan war will cost £20 billion over the next four years -- exactly the amount that the government is trying to cut from the NHS through ‘savings’.
But opposition to war reaffirmed at last year’s TUC is not just about its financial or even human cost. It is about Britain’s role in the world as a major imperial power, and the damage that has done both abroad and at home.
That is why there has always been a tradition inside the British trade union movement of international solidarity: against apartheid South Africa, the Vietnam war, in support of the republic in the Spanish civil war, against the slave owning south in the American civil war.
The anti-war movement has been supported by the trade unions from the very beginning. Most major unions are affiliated and have mobilised on all the big demonstrations.
The same people who have brought us war over the past decade and more are now bringing us austerity. They lavished public sector money on the Olympics and on bailing out the banks but now denigrate the role of the public sector in every other area of life. They highlighted and praised the role of the military during the Olympics, and now hope that this will make the public sympathetic to soldiers breaking strikes. They also hope people will forget the effect of war.
Hundreds of thousands of trade unionists will march through London on Saturday 20 October to protest at cuts, austerity and unemployment. The anti-war movement will be there as well, part of an international contingent from across Europe who are fighting austerity.
International solidarity is not just about opposing cuts in Italy, Spain or Greece. It is about opposing wars in Asia and the Middle East which have helped create misery abroad and Islamophobia at home. Sending that message loud and clear is a priority for us all -- because our government’s domestic policies are directly connected to its foreign policy, and we have to fight them both.
First published on the Stop the War Coalition website
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