John McDonnell – November 2010

We now know for certain what we are up against. The Coalition’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) is as direct a declaration of class war as you can get. As the details of the CSR are unravelled, we learn more and more about the scale of the cuts and their impact on our society, especially the impact on the poorest and the weakest.

During the statement in the Commons I stood opposite Osborne, Cameron, the Liberal Alexander and the Cabinet of multi-millionaires as, with their cuts in Housing Benefit and the destruction of council housing, they effectively ensured that many children in my constituency will never have a secure and decent home. The cuts in Child Benefit and the loss of over a million jobs will mean that many of these children will be brought up in poverty for the rest of their childhood. The schools in which they are taught will be underfunded, and if they dare to think of going to university they will be loaded with debt for the bulk of their adult lives.

While the vastly wealthy, upper class Tory Osborne was telling us how we were all in this together as he cut benefits to people with disabilities, I decided that I simply can’t put up with this. I am not willing to live in a society in which our children are treated with this brutality. Nor should you be willing to put up with this.

There is no alternative but to stand up and fight back. Our aim must be to halt the cuts. To do this we have to bring this Government down and ensure that its replacement is committed to an alternative economic strategy that rejects cuts as the solution to the economic crisis. Replacing one set of cutters with another is futile. The fight against the cuts is the place where we can forge the ideas and the determined movement that ensures any government that replaces the Coalition of Cutters adopts an alternative strategy.

We urgently need to arm ourselves with the weapons we need in this struggle.

The first is organisation. The largest, most experienced, best resourced and most representative organisational form that we have to build our fight back on is the trade union movement. Already individual unions are organising for and are engaged in industrial action against the cuts. The RMT and the FBU in London are taking strike action to protect jobs and working conditions. The PCS is balloting its members over the cuts to the redundancy payments of the hundreds of thousands of civil servants targeted for job cuts in the next year.

The nine unions in the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group (TUCG) are co-ordinating their campaigning and actions against the cuts and are working together to press the TUC to play its role in promoting a programme of protest and resistance. Despite the institutional pessimism of the TUC bureaucracy, the TUC’s successful lobby of Parliament demonstrated the willingness of trade unionists to mobilise.

The demonstrations blocking Whitehall on the day of the CSR showed the potential there is, especially among young people, to get involved in protest and resistance. Local trades councils are also often co-ordinating local resistance campaigns.

Although the trade union movement can be central to the resistance campaign, we will not win alone. That is why many local campaigns are reaching beyond the unions into the wider community, linking up with community organisations and broader national campaigns such as the Right to Work campaign and the Coalition of Resistance.

New organisations and social movements are also rising up to take action to resist the cuts, exemplified by the Black Triangle group, which represents people with disabilities; BARAC, the black resistance movement; and the emerging generation of radical students.

New and creative strategies for action are also developing, which use new forms of direct action and new methods of communication for raising consciousness and mobilising.

The role of the LRC in this struggle is to ensure that the Labour left is mobilised and participating in the various anti-cuts campaigns and actions. We should be using whatever influence we have at all levels in the Party to bring party members, local CLPs, and its regional and national bodies into the local and national anti-cuts campaigns and mobilisations. The LRC tradition of working both within and outside the Party enables us to play the role of the bridge between the Labour Party and the organisations working to build the resistance movement.

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