August 8, 2023
From Socialist Worker (UK)

Camden traffic warden strikers with purple and green Unison union flags and placards. Worker carries homemade placard 'Low pay, no way'

Camden traffic wardens are one of three indefinite strikes (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The world is in crisis. Governments demonise refugees and callously leave them to drown. Fires and floods caused by climate change sweep large parts of the planet. Poverty and inequality rocket.

And the competition between imperialisms sees a blood-soaked war in Ukraine and a possible brutal confrontation in west Africa.

In Britain, the Tories are ramping up racism by herding refugees onto barges and penning them in disused army camps.

And while wildfires burn, Rishi Sunak has had the genius idea of issuing 100 new drilling licenses in the North Sea.

Every licence, every day of delay in tackling climate change is a day won for shareholders and bosses, a day lost for humanity.

Workers’ struggle is the hope that can drag us out of catastrophe. The shift in resistance that happened just over a year with a resurgence of strikes has not yet stopped.

The fact that in the middle of summer tens of thousands of junior doctors in England are striking, there are three important indefinite strikes at St Mungo’s, Brighton university and by Camden traffic wardens, and 1,500 bus workers were set to strike in Manchester underlines the willingness of workers to fight.

But that doesn’t mean all is going well. Trade union leaders have repeatedly persuaded workers to accept deals that are far less than could have been achieved.

With inflation slightly lower, and increasing attention on the next general election, the union leaders will be less and less willing to carry through militant struggles.

That matters for the campaigns over pay, jobs and conditions. But it also has wider effects.

In the absence of such struggles, the left’s political world shrinks to the limits of Keir Starmer’s horizon. And that means disaster.

Just this week Labour said it had  “no choice” but to stick with the Tories’ foul plans to put refugees in barges.  It thereby backed the same cruel policy as the government but with a different party label.

A few days earlier the government announced more use of the private sector in the NHS.

Instead of rejecting it, Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said the government should have acted sooner to make more use of the profit-hungry firms.

“The Conservatives are failing to make use of private sector capacity,” he said and condemned ministers “dither and delay”.

Concentrating on parliament and elections is the road to disillusion. We need a complete break from the dead traditions that have held back workers for so long.

The strikers, the climate protesters, the pro-refugee and anti-fascist mobilisations are the real challenge to everything the Tories represent.