Junior Vice President of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) Hank Roberts (centre), addresses assembled Communist Party and trade union members on education, resistance to ConDem policies and strike action.
As Labour Party delegates arrived in Liverpool yesterday in preparation for this week's conference, another left wing party was meeting to outline its strategy for the future. A conference yesterday at the Bishopsgate Institute (HL) in the City of London, entitled "Trade Unions and the fight for Socialism" gathered Communist Party members and representatives from various trade unions to discuss how to "raise the level of struggle against ConDem policies".
The event, attended by about 50 people, drew attendees from as far afield as Manchester and Scotland. Issues debated were the use of Trade Councils, the European Union (and whether or not it should be supported by Communists), the government spending cuts, solidarity with the workers at Bombadier in Derby and planned for strike action on the 30th of November. The "mobilisation" in question was a planned "day of action" for unions over ConDem pensions cuts - what member of Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) executive committee Tony Conway called "in effect, a general strike on that day".
Speaking to me during the lunch break of the event, Communist Party executive committee member and President of Oxford and District Trade Union Council Gwayn Little, 30 explained that there were 20 unions balloting for action on the 30th of November and that he thought the action would be necessary to get the government to rethink its policy on pensions, on the cuts to public services, the attacks on jobs, rising unemployment.
He explained that the duty of Communists was now to "come together and start making plans" for the day of action.
"The unions that are planning on taking action are starting to come together and discuss, but action on this scale hasn't been seen for so long that the mechanisms in one sense don't exist or don't fully exist," Little said. "We're going to need to respond in every aspect of our lives, and certainly I feel that's going to need to be led by the organised labour movement, the Trade Union movement, but it will engage people on many different levels."
One reason that Communists and trade union officials are hopeful for the strikes is that middle and senior managers will also be affected by pension cuts and will go on strike as well. This summer, even the National Association of Head Teachers voted to ballot for strike action for the first time in the history of the organisation.
Hank Roberts, Junior Vice President of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) union criticised the government for making everything in education about business and entrepreneurship and for the academies scheme.
"Many many people are convinced that this government is a pile of c**p, that the ruling class are completely and utterly wrong, but they don't think they can do anything about it," he said. "Our task is to convince them that yes, they can do something about it."
Quoting Dirty Harry, he added: "Stop talking, start shooting. Keep shooting 'til they're all dead, then start talking."
Many in the Working Classes and Middle Classes feel disenfranchised by the current cuts programme of the current government. Indeed, with no party winning a clear majority of the votes, many have said that voters never gave a clear mandate for the (largely Conservative backed) cuts to be implemented. It is clear that many people feel frustrated at the government's stubborn push to implement cuts that will most heavily affect the poorest in society, while giving financial institutions that many blame for the current crisis tax cuts and benefits.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis told The Guardian this summer that unions were considering mounting the "biggest [industrial action campaign] since the general strike" of 1926, and the 30th of November strike looks set to be the first of many in a long fight against ConDem policies.
Said Little: "We hope that the November 30th Strike will persuade the government to listen -- if it doesn't persuade this government to change its policy, then we need to set about changing this government."