As a million public sector workers from across the country went on strike today, an estimated 2,500 walked through Liverpool town centre, and rallied at St George’s Plateau. They were from the National Union of Teachers, Unison, Unite, GMB, PCS, and the Fire Brigades Union, but none of that should matter – they were working class people in struggle. Many pictures and videos can be found here.
Hands down the best speech was given by Michael, a young teacher who is twelve days from giving up the profession he dreamed of as a child, as a result of pay cuts, paperwork, and Michael Gove’s relentless attack on everything that’s good about the education system. He spoke with passion, and a degree of knowledge which comes from working in the industry he was talking about. In contrast, almost every other speaker makes speeches and ‘organises’ for a living, and hollow cliche followed hollow cliche. One tried to get a chant going of “1, 2, 3, 4, we only ask for one pound more”. This timid request died in the air as soon as it left her mouth. No wonder, when public sector workers are a couple of grand per year down on the wages they had in 2010.
The marchers received great support from bystanders, and a survey published today show that even a majority of 2010 Tory voters back the strikes. Spirits were high, and a show of hands revealed a unanimous vote in favour of escalation to two and three day strikes. The potential is there for a working class movement to bring down the government and end austerity. But as ever, the obstacle to this is the union bureaucracy.
That’s why we felt it was so important for Liverpool IWW to have a presence on the march and at the demo, even though those of us in employment more often than not tend to be based in the private sector. We need to start showing that it is possible for working class people to control their own struggles. Our banner attracted lots of photographers, loads of questions, and quite a few interesting conversations with the labour historians in the crowd who had heard of the IWW of old. One of these was so interested that he agreed to join us on the spot!
A meaningful general strike will only come the day that rank and file workers call it. Until then, union tops will claim they support you as they stab you in the back.