Aslef picket line

1 February will be the biggest day of coordinated strike action to date with many more needed to topple this bankrupt government, says train driver Eamon J Fletch

One thing you can guarantee amidst the current economic and industrial mayhem is the blundering and dark hand of our callous lords and masters in Westminster. Any government that thinks it’s a cute political strategy to cheese off nurses, ambulance staff and our humble and friendly postie is displaying a total lack of empathy with public opinion. With a backdrop of dodgy inside deals designed to line the pockets of their chums, flagrant lies and now, courtesy of Zahawi, tax dodging on a mammoth scale, the current Tory Junta are becoming increasingly isolated.

Hardly surprising therefore, that so many workers and their trade unions are building up to a crescendo of disgruntlement. 1 February will see the biggest day of co-ordinated strike action in the many disputes to date. And judging by the ever-increasing picket lines and strengthening resolve, it will be the first of many such days for many thousands of workers.

What is now beyond question is that the government is hell bent on extending a political attack on the country’s workforce. What on earth the rest of the planet thinks of the disunited kingdom is anyone’s guess. Once proud communities based on mutually owned industries, services and utilities are looking like a sad and broken land led by a bunch of grasping desperados. The cupboards are bare, we’ve flogged off what we all owned and there’s nowt left. The only wealth and power left for the Tories to attack are our employment and human rights. And that’s exactly what they’re doing. Should we be surprised? Of course not. With right-wing administrations comes a history of savage and unrelenting hatred of organised labour.

Topple the government

Remember the shipbuilder’s, dockers, miners, printers or car workers? All attacked by successive Tory governments. And now it’s our generation’s turn. It’s no accident that railway workers are firmly in the target of the right-wing and reactionary Tories. The last of the awkward squad, both the RMT and ASLEF are extremely well organised, powerful and can readily call on their members’ support. Attacking such workers isn’t the cleverest of ideas in all honesty. Recent admissions that Downing Street are happy to spend more on extending the rail strikes, rather than pay for a settlement, is very telling.

But where the current government differs from its predecessors, is its seeming joy in attacking those workers who the public hold in high esteem. And that ultimately may be its undoing. It’s a political fight that the government have orchestrated and it’s a political solution that will win the fight for workers.

With public support rising and the loathing of anything Tory gathering pace, its good old-fashioned solidarity that will eventually topple the government. It won’t be an overnight victory, but that’s why February 1st is so important. The focus of the country will be on the scale of the disputes and the callousness of government there for all to see. Many of us in the dispute have not only turned up for our own picket lines but visited other groups of workers on strike also. And that’s important. It means a lot to share experiences in the current dark times, and what is abundantly clear is that we have a common enemy. The state has embarked on a concerted war against decent ordinary people facing truly awful economic and employment circumstances. It’s the state that picked the fight and its us collectively that can make it retreat.

1 February: Make some noise

Much more time is needed to assess the strategy in defending against the blatant anti-trade-union ‘minimum service levels’ legislation along with the civil-rights attacks on the right to protest, but all options need to be on the table. Workers and their families and communities weren’t gifted anything for nothing, everything we have took the struggles and sacrifices of our predecessors, employing tactics from both within and outside of the law. That’s the real territory we’re in, and it’s as clear as day that we’re witnessing creeping fascism.

For the future, we need many more dates like 1 February either co-ordinated between unions or via the TUC. We may have a Tory government with a more than healthy majority, but they’re morally and politically bankrupt. Their citizens are enraged, it’s a growing movement of support for workers in struggle. Keep that solidarity and let’s make some noise on the 1 February.

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