Radical political analysis, commentary and discussion in Wales
Dadansoddiad a thrafodaeth radicalaidd o wleidyddiaeth yng Nghymru
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A shift in the fight against cuts

don't work and fight back
The London march on 26th March was the biggest mobilisation by the trade union movement for decades, followed on 30th June by the biggest one day strike seen for many years. Now the question is "Where next?" The talk of a co-ordinated mass strike in the autumn, with the big battalions of UNITE and UNISON joining the fray. How do we keep the heat up over the summer?

In terms of keeping the action going there seems to be little concrete coming from the unions. The PCS has called a months overtime ban, and is relying on a legal route in the meantime on the pension question and is upping its tax justice campaign. All unions are to a greater or lesser degree looking for opportunities to ballot for action, usually on pay or pensions.

Certainly the summer needs to see the impetus continued. This means supporting the unions in ballots for and actual industrial action. It means militants in the unions pressing hard and arguing for action. The anti cuts groups need to continue organising meetings and demonstrations, but more co-ordination is needed, on a Wales-wide level for a start. The groups need to open up to encompass far more people, including the unemployed and pensioners. It would be better if anti-cuts groups became community defence groups with interaction with the environmental movement. Climate change is still a huge challenge, and is exacerbated by the cuts in its effect on working class communities as the race for resources takes its toll, and the cuts leave communities vulnerable.

Its all moving forward and activists everywhere are out nights and weekends fighting back. Good, but to what end? The immediate reaction to such a question is to save pensions, public services and stop the cuts, or al least slow them down. Laudable, but a very narrow perspective. The pensions plan is to make workers pay more, work longer and get less pension. This has already happened with state pensions and was generally supported by Labour and the unions as much as any one else. The argument now is generally about the worth of pensions in the public sector.

The opposition is based on economic arguments. What about the implications that the elderly are termed a “burden“? what about quality of life? How can it be that working lives are to be so extended so you work until you drop? Why are workers working such long hours anyway? In the early 1900s, scientist and anarchist Peter Kropotkin deduced that with the advance in society then only 15 hours work a week per able person to produce all society needed. The advances since then have been beyond comprehension.

So should the argument be as much about the quality of our working lives? That there should be less hours worked, retirement earlier and yes sufficiently funded? That this should be for all, private and public? That instead of unemployment work should be better shared out? That being retired or unemployed does not make one a burden, indeed should there not be a right NOT to work, but to live and freely explore ones potential, contributing to society in different ways?

Public services should be saved, but for what? Workers have no real say in them, pay and conditions are low. Much of it, such as the UK Border Agency are hardly sympathetic to support from anyone on the left.

Should the argument not just be no cuts but looking at workers self management of public services (this doesn’t mean the shallow mutuals the coalition government are proposing) putting real power in workers and communities hands. Where society deems certain services to be untenable, say nuclear power, that there should be redeployment into socially useful areas. That we run society ourselves for ourselves.

It is time that those of us who want revolutionary and radical change start arguing on a much wider base. Marx argued we are free when, like artists, we produce without the goad of physical necessity; William Morris counterpoised useful work against useless toil. Such questions and ideas have been a rich part of the tapestry of the communist movement, too often now forgotten. So we raise the game, the aim is freedom from tyranny of everyday life and to ensure in our arguments and solutions we are not simply arguing for bigger cages and longer chains. The social situation world wide is fluid. There is unrest globally. We can support it best by solidarity and unrest here, though on genuine transformational demands, not just narrow economic and democratic reforms.

To end with a story that illustrates the point: Once upon a time a society lived in a huge structure, The only light and heat came from gas lamps. These were maintained and overseen by gas lamp lighters. Gradually the power of the gas lighters grew as they took more and more from the society , claiming how valuable they were, monopolising the gas lamps. Eventually the situation grew so intolerable that the society revolted and threw out the gas lamp lighters, taking power for themselves. During the course of this the violence of the revolt blew great holes in the lightless and cold structure, revealing an hitherto unknown land and light and warmth. Soon all power lay with the window makers!