Friday, 10 June 2011

Further thoughts on June 30th

The coordinated strikes on June 30th loom closer. The ballots from the affected unions have not yet been counted, but all evidence indicates that this is merely a formality. "Vote yes" campaigns are in full swing and, more importantly, there is a growing movement to generalise the strikes beyond the unions. What matters now is that rank-and-file and grassroots movements keep ratcheting up the pressure and momentum.

The signs are looking good on this front. On Monday, an Atos recruitment event was met with a 50-strong picket in Glasgow. More are planned in Cambridge (today, though there is as yet no report out) and Manchester. On Tuesday, a "Making Work Pay" conference was cancelled in the face of demonstrations. The next significant step needs to be linking workplace struggles to this action. PCS represent workers at Atos, and with the union having recently released a new pamphlet in defence of welfare this would be an opportune time for workers in the firm to take action in opposition to what is happening rather than effectively being complicit in it.

I've already reported on the HMRC strike action Tuesday and Wednesday, with a significant turnout from lay members despite the confusion wrought by GEC instructions. Soon afterwards, postal workers in London won the reinstatement of a suspended colleague through unofficial action. Such rank-and-file militancy can only be welcomed as we look to go beyond the limitations of the official "coordinated" action.

Since the middle of last month, Unite and Unison members in Southampton city council have been taking part in indefinite, rolling strike action - an innovative strategy next to the well-worn formula of the one-day strike. This could well continue to the end of the month, adding to the numbers out on the day.

The RMT have announced a number of strike dates around the end of June and beginning of July including, crucially, one which takes up half of 30th June. Though the importance of this should not be overstated - and there certainly shouldn't be suggestions that what we are seeing amounts to a general strike on the day -  it does add to the overall sense that the working class are ready for a fight. Of course, the ruling class are too, as demonstrated by Vince Cable's thinly veiled threats to the GMB conference, but that only adds to the climate of struggle and the will to make a stand.

As I had hoped, there are a couple of UK Uncut actions now planned for June 30th and as we get closer to the time it seems likely more will be announced. There are also going to be student walkouts on the day in support of the teachers' strikes.

There are still potential pitfalls to the 30th June strikes happening at all. A "no" vote is the least likely of them, but remains a possibility. Far more pressing a threat are the unions reaching agreements in their talks with the government, or injunctions taken against at least one of the unions so as to derail the "coordination." We should not be blind to these potential outcomes, and in the instance that any do the job of militants and activists is to ensure that they don't bring down the entire anti-cuts movement.

The other side of this is that, assuming all goes to plan, there is still a fight to be had once we come into July. Barring some entirely unforeseen occurrence, a single day of action no matter how widespread will not bring down the government. We have a task not only to build for June 30th, but also beyond it. This is not about set-pieces, but advancing the class struggle in favour of the working class.