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After 26 March: demand for general strike grows

by Viv Smith

On strike in Tower Hamlets—and talking about taking it further (Pic: Kelvin Williams)

On strike in Tower Hamlets—and talking about taking it further (Pic: Kelvin Williams)


The mass demonstration against cuts on 26 March lit a fire under the working class.

As people went back to work, there were widespread discussions about taking the battle forward—including the possibility of a general strike.

Dean Harris, a youth worker based in Kings Cross, London, told Socialist Worker, “Usually we come in to work on a Monday and talk about what we did at the weekend and the latest episode of Coronation Street.

“But last Monday was different. All everyone wanted to talk about was the demo.

“We face funding cuts of around 45 percent. People were asking, ‘How can we be involved in coordinated strikes if it happens?’

“That is amazing—I never thought I would have that discussion here.”

In Tower Hamlets, east London, last week a group of striking teachers from Morpeth School took part in a march against cuts. Their handmade placards called for “general strike now: defend education”.

Placards

Katrina Rublowska, a special needs teacher at the school, was holding one of the placards.

She told Socialist Worker, “It’s a message of what I want to happen. For me, I can’t really imagine a general strike happening at the moment—but I think we’re going towards it.

“As the cuts start to bite, people are realising that they are affecting every area.”

By the time they had marched and come together at the rally, most of the workers in the room felt confident enough to chant “general strike” (see page 5).

And when the chair asked people if they would “take joint strike action with public sector unions to fight for our pensions, our services and our jobs”, almost everyone in the room put their hand up.

These are not isolated incidents. The Scottish committee of the Unison union, for example, has backed a motion calling on the TUC to organise a general strike. The committee supported the demand under rank and file pressure after the Edinburgh branch of Unison passed the motion a few weeks before.

Elsewhere, Mike Killian, a local government worker from Manchester, told Socialist Worker, “When we got back from the demo our Unison branch announced two initiatives to keep up the momentum.

“There will be a big protest when the Tories come to Manchester in October and an anti-cuts march in June during Unison conference.

“That’s fantastic. The branch has also agreed to ballot if there are compulsory redundancies.

“I don’t see how they can make the planned cuts without this, so I think we are in for a fight.”

Colin works in the voluntary sector in north east London. He said that his small workplace was electrified by the demonstration on 26 March:

“Our workplace isn’t unionised, people haven’t felt convinced that there is a need to be in a union. But after the march people agreed we need to form one.

“People were saying, ‘We can be hit by the cuts too. How can we fight if we aren’t in a union?’”

Bothered

Henry Rajch is a GMB member who works as a gardener for Barnsley council. “When we got back to work nobody bothered about the violence that the media were obsessed with,” he said.

“They talked about how brilliant the demo had been.

“One of the guys is very worried about his pension. He is normally a placid person who never gets involved. But he is now saying that it’s a step too far.

“It’s the first time he is talking about taking action to fight back. People are saying coordinated action nationally can win.”

It is vital that the momentum from 26 March is not lost. Hundreds of thousands of workers went home that day more determined to resist every swing of the Tory cuts axe.

Now we need to organise locally and nationally to build the resistance.

The argument for strikes, and a general strike, is there to be won. Everyone can try to persuade their co-workers, pass a motion through their union branch, and work where they are to unite the fightbacks.

Download the general strike motion at www.bit.ly/gstrike


Article information

News
Tue 5 Apr 2011, 18:23 BST
Issue No. 2246
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