Trades Councils Play Central Role in the Struggle Against Austerity

Moz Greenshields, Communist Party Executive Committee Member and Secretary of Derby Trades Council, argues trades councils must and do form part of a grassroots movement that is fighting the battle against austerity and war.

The capitalist austerity and privatisation drive to reduce pay, pensions, conditions, benefits and services in the pursuit of renewed profit is felt at both local and national levels.

It finds its nightmare logic internationally as the US vice-president Joe Biden and European Union president Herman Van Rompuy congratulate Ukrainian fascists on delivering their people up to the EU austerity agenda as Kiev attacks those who oppose it.

As our trades union councils meet in conference today, austerity continues to create the obscenity of a growing wealth gap with escalating poverty for us and extreme wealth for them being the order of the day. Internationally austerity again threatens Europe with war.

Our trades union councils have an essential and unique role to play in building a deeply rooted anti-austerity movement across the nations of Britain. Its roots must reach down into every community and into all union memberships, involving thousands, tens of thousands and eventually hundreds of thousands of “ordinary people” — putting our trade unions at the heart and head of the People’s Assembly operating in all those communities, drawing strength and new vitality from each other, from solidarity and unity of purpose.

Such a movement would certainly go a long way toward resolving the long-running question of proper political representation growing directly out of the organised working class. As the Labour Party turns its back on us, the issue needs to be resolved and soon.

As our conference agenda suggests, we need to tie everything together — the struggles for local services with those for decent working conditions, to link the defence of the NHS to the fight against zero-hours contracts, to show how action against climate change is related to the demand for public ownership, to develop strong opposition to the EU bosses’ club and at the same time fight xenophobia and racism, to show how the fight for benefits and services demands that we stop the demonisation of the most vulnerable, to show how austerity and war go hand in bloody hand.

What links all these things is that they are all separate battles in the class war being waged against us — recognised as such in those very words by TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady speaking at the People’s Assembly.
But battles cannot be fought with good intentions and wishful thinking. They cannot be fought successfully without an overall strategy that identifies our own strengths and weaknesses and those of our enemy, a strategy that strengthens us and weakens them.

That strategy needs to broaden the battle lines in recognition of the fact that individual struggles will only rarely be won in isolation.
Only by bringing them all together politically and organisationally can we maximise our chances of success — and defeat the millionaires’ project of austerity and war.

That’s the importance of the arguments about co-ordinated strike action, generalised strike action and a one-day general strike. It’s also about community direct action, what to do in parliamentary elections and how to respond to the EU “race to the bottom.”

The question is not what might make us activists feel better, but what will mobilise and strengthen our class, and what will divide and weaken the capitalist class to the point we can inflict a decisive defeat on them, as they seek to do on us. And this strategy needs to work at local, national and international levels.

No-one will deliver security, progress, peace and prosperity for the working class except the working class itself — and the millionaire capitalist ruling class is determined to prevent that, and for good measure, destroy everything that we have gained so far.

Our trades union councils conference is another milestone in the developing struggle of our unions and communities. The next such milestone will be next weekend’s People’s Assembly demonstration in London. Another will be the co-ordinated strike action this summer.

But as well as milestones, we need to be sure that every step of the way the trades union councils and People’s Assembly at national and local levels are working together to reach deep into our communities and union memberships to develop a unstoppable grassroots force.

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