The mass marches on 20 October in London, Belfast and Glasgow reflect the scale of opposition to the coalition government. They also reflect the organisational strength of the labour movement to mobilise people. The hard work of union reps, trades councils, union officials and other activists, including many in the Labour Party, made it happen.
That should give people confidence that we can organise on a scale necessary to defeat this government. The march was a physical representation of what the opinion polls tell us, that most people oppose this government’s policies.
Neither opinion polls nor marches will be enough to stop this government though. We need to build mass coordinated action that disrupts the ability of ministers, councillors, and employers to implement cuts and remove our rights.
That action must take many forms. Strike action will play a pivotal role, but the direct action of groups such as UK Uncut, Occupy, Fuel Poverty Action, Disabled People Against Cuts and Black Triangle also holds lessons for trade unionists constrained by the anti-union laws: direct action works. We need to share our experiences – learning the lessons of what works and what doesn’t.
These struggles must be brought inside the Labour Party to shape a developing agenda that can inspire people to work for a Labour victory with enthusiasm. At party conference, members were successful in strengthening Labour policy on the NHS – and the unions put through bold policies on the economic alternative, banking, housing and employment rights. It’s now up to us to ensure these conference policies are publicised, that shadow ministers back them and that they end up in Labour’s next manifesto.
The key to our success is solidarity – supporting every action we possibly can locally and nationally, being on the demonstrations, picket lines and occupations to support those in struggle and ensure action is wedded to the debate and discussion of the society we want. This is a very different kind of social solidarity to the one-nation vision offered to Labour’s conference by Ed Miliband – we are clearly not “all in this together”.
The society we want cannot be limited to the slogan ‘no cuts’.
The attacks on people’s rights, from welfare to abortion, are ideological and constructed to try to divide us. In Scotland we see this manifesting itself in an independence campaign with one side wrapping itself in the flag of St Andrew, the other in the union flag. Whichever side people take, the central debate must focus on what is in the interests of the working class – and our sister comrades in the Campaign for Socialism are to be congratulated for injecting class politics into the debate.
We must also resist divisions based on bigotry. The left must be unwavering in its support for women’s rights and the full emancipation of all sections of our class – not allowing LGBT struggles or the disability movement to be relegated as secondary matters.
We are stronger together: united we stand, divided we fall.
These are not just clichés, but truths. If we allow divisions to fester, or fall into the trap of a hierarchies of oppression then we will be weaker. Challenging such views are essential to achieving the unity necessary to win.
If we have two watchwords for building a future that works – and that kicks the Tories out of office – they must be ‘unity’ and ‘solidarity’.