National Demonstration Against Austerity. Photo:  Marienna Pope-Weidemann National Demonstration Against Austerity. Photo: Marienna Pope-Weidemann

As millions strike and march together, we need to develop the alliance between unions and the majority who are under attack argues Chris Nineham

How can we win?

More than a million workers across the public sector will strike and marching together on Thursday in a fantastic display of united action.

This action is the best possible answer to the government’s ‘all in it together’ spin. Official figures show that in the last year the richest fifth were the only ones whose income rose. Everyone else got poorer. The bottom fifth lost out most.  The bankers who made the crisis are cashing in and making cleaners, nurses, dinner ladies and the rest pay the price.     

Standing reality on its head, the media portray public sector trade unionists as selfish. In fact most public sector staff are desperately trying to hold together basic services already half-trashed by the government.

Strikers are uniting to fight for increases for some of the lowest paid. Winning would mean more resources and skills for the public sector which in turn would protect and strengthen services.

This is why, despite the best efforts of the media and the politicians to scapegoat strikers, strikes have become popular. Many people admire workers who stand up for themselves. More and more understand that a fight is necessary, especially as the Labour leadership is not challenging the government’s free market dogma.

A movement for change

This is a pointer to how to take the fight against the government forward. We need further co-ordinated strike action. But at the same time as pushing for further strikes we need to develop the alliance between unions and the majority who are under attack.

If we are divided there is a danger that the government can force through austerity despite the anger people feel. If the unions keep up the action and build stronger and stronger links with the wider public, they could be in a position to spearhead a great movement for change.

A new role for the unions

This model of social movement trade unionism is beginning to pay off in the NUT, Unite and other unions. Teachers have been out with other activists campaigning in the streets and getting great support for their action. This in turn strengthens confidence to strike. Unite has been reaching out to the unemployed and others in their community branches.

The People’s Assembly was founded one year ago to help make this alliance happen. It brings together trade unionists with activists from a wide range of campaigns and with socialists, Labour Party members and many others. It is a movement with one simple aim; to smash austerity.  Last month the assembly organised an impressive national anti-austerity demo. In August the People’s Assemblies will be welcoming the 999 for the NHS march to cities and towns around the country.

Most important, the assemblies can mobilise to turn the 18 October TUC demonstration into a truly massive display of popular anger. If we bring the unions together with every section of society that is suffering from the twisted priorities of our rulers, we will throw the government on the defensive, change the terms of the whole debate and open the way for more, decisive, action.

To do this will take a big effort from thousands of activists. But it can be done. Now is the time to get involved. Get in touch with your local People’s Assembly now and help make it happen.

Chris Nineham

Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.

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