United Kingdom: a summer with discontent that brings about changes

By Julio Santana, ISL – United Kingdom

There is still no prime minister and whoever is chosen will apply reactionary policies. Living conditions are rapidly deteriorating. Summer is ending with more struggles and symptoms of recomposition of the labor movement. We need a general strike and to build a new left political alternative.

Struggles grow

There are strikes planned or in the making by transport workers, firefighters, lawyers, doctors, postal service workers, teachers, council staff, civil servants, BT engineers (the largest telecommunications company in the country) and nurses. The workers of the port of Felixtowe, the largest British cargo port, are coming out to fight. And the University and College Union (UCU) has warned that universities should use their £3.4bn surplus to raise staff pay and help offset cost of living, instead of investing in “shiny new vanity projects,” meaning new buildings, or face strikes. The struggles grow and show a prospect of spreading and deepening in the fall.

Sympathy with the strikers

The strikers have received more sympathy from the population than the government and the media expected. According to a Savanta ComRes poll, as many as 38% of Tory voters believe the rail strikes were justified. Among the youngest, the support was much higher: 72% of those under 35 years of age supported the actions. These high levels of support come despite the fact that three-quarters of British employees, and an even higher proportion of the self-employed, are union-free. Strikers’ complaints about worsening pay conditions and workplace pressures reflect widespread discontent. (Andy Beckett, The Guardian 07/24/2022).

The institutional regime continues to party

There is an unprecedented situation in many years. From the (mis)government, the candidates for prime minister continue at their appointment party, without contributing anything to respond to the just demands of the workers. Their concerns center on how to convince conservative affiliates (mostly white men in their 60s from the country interior) that they are good disciples of Margaret Thatcher. And, in the face of the economic crisis, they promise billions in tax cuts that, of course, will favor companies and workers and pensioners will end up paying for.

Recomposition of the struggle and organization

Historically, the labor movement in the United Kingdom has been the protagonist of great struggles. However, for several years it felt the blows received from the ultra-conservative government of Margaret Thatcher. This situation began to show signs of change some time ago. The transport strike confirmed this tendency to recompose the struggle, which must be deepened with the recovery of union organization and affiliation, with new democratic and militant leaders. The continuity of the demands from different industrial and service sectors pose a perspective in which the working class could place itself in the vanguard of the struggle in Europe.

Mobilization and general strike

At the end of the 1970s, a series of strikes took place that mobilized around 4.5 million people. Thanks to that struggle, salary raises were achieved that exceeded inflation, the acid that corrodes income like another tax on the people. For this reason, mobilization and a general strike are needed as a means to achieve a response that respects wages, pensions, jobs and proposes an emergency plan so that the capitalists pay for the crisis. This responsibility rests with the Trades Union Congress (TUC). It is necessary to start by supporting the struggle of the unions that are striking, to strengthen the unity that is needed to strike as one fist. All unions must join the demand for and the preparation of a general strike.

We must build a new left alternative

The government and the regime are in trouble. It is the best time to impose the resolution of the working class and popular needs by promoting the mobilization. However, the leadership of the Labor Party is only thinking of diverting discontent towards the elections. It is necessary to confront the Tory Party in power, without placing any trust in the Labor Party, which is an active part of the regime. The old bosses’ parties were, are and will be managers of capitalism and the monarchy. The regrouping of revolutionary socialists could give impetus to the goal of setting up a new left wing radical anti-capitalist alternative, to support the struggles and propose the strategy of a government of the workers and the people with a fair system, without anachronistic monarchies, in which life will be worth more than profits, without exploiters or exploited, without oppressors or oppressed, that is, a socialist system.