Strikewave – Building on a year of industrial militancy #TUC23


“We need the right to fight for our class.”

Mick Whelan, ASLEF General Secretary

By Matt Willgress, Labour Outlook

On Monday lunchtime at TUC Congress, Carolyn Jones opened an important discussion on “Strikewave – building on a year of industrial militancy” hosted by The Morning Star by emphasising the need to bring together the different strands of resistance in the months and years ahead.

ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan was the opening speaker, and emphasised how even before the recent anti-strike legislation, we had some of the most restrictive laws on union rights in the world.

“Now is the time to fight for real change across the board, saying “We need the right to fight for our class..[that means] it’s time to have the right to strike.”

He concluded by calling for a unified struggle for a better society.

This fight won’t be easy, because we live under a political and economic system which is “a ‘democracy’ for the rich and the few,” that has seen more and more wealth go to the richest since the pandemic.

Nick Mead of region 2 of the BFAWU highlighted how “the last 12 months had seen workers staff together in solidarity and demand better.”

He emphasised the importance of reaching out to workers who are not yet organised, including through the Organise Now initiative.

Chris Peace of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign thanked The Morning Star and other alternative movement media outlets such as Labour Outlook for their ongoing support for the campaign as the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Orgreave approaches next year.

She reflected on key lessons of the Miners’ Strike, including the need for unity and solidarity in struggle,  and the poignancy of Arthur Scargill’s words during at the time that “If the Miners lose, you will all suffer.” As we fight the rotten neo-liberal system today, and an increasingly authoritarian state, we see how right he was.

The Miners were termed the ‘Enemy Within’ by the Tories and their corporate media buddies at the time, and today that any worker or union who is standing up is being termed in a similar way today.

She concluded by urging people from across the movement to join the annual Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign Rally on June 15th 2024.

GFTU General Secretary Gawain Little said the meeting was right to focus on the key discussion now of how we build on a year of industrial militancy.

We need to strengthen our movement was the immense challenges we face, from anti-union laws to privatisation.

This means translating industrial militancy into renewing and rebuilding the Labour movement, turning people taking action for the first time into the leaders of the future.

Education is key to this, including political education, economic education and understanding the history of our movement including the battles of the past.

As the daily paper of – and for – our unions, The Morning Star can play a vital role on this, as can initiatives such as Strike Map.

The RMT’s Eddie Dempsey started by saying our society is run “in the interests of profit and not the people.”

The unity in action and solidarity we need to change this are not buzz words, but concrete actions based on organisation and strategy, and speaking up for the working-class as a whole.

He said it was time to “democratise the TUC and organise around a common set of demands that resonate with the public,” with genuine and sustained co-ordination across our movement.

The ruling-class organises seriously for its interests and we need to do the same.

Final speaker Ben Chacko, Editor of The Morning Star, made an insightful contribution, highlighting the significance and size of the strikes we have already seen.

Many unions are now stronger from having taking action, and should seek to build confidence for further action in the year and years ahead. The pay fight also means a political fight as well as trade-union organising.

Keir Starmer doesn’t have clear policies to get worker’s pay up or to redistribute wealth, and is moving away from backing public ownership and other key elements of an economic alternative.

Socialist solutions to the crisis remain popular, with big majorities amongst the public for renationalising utilities for example.

Going forward, we need “sustained militancy” and to articulate these socialist solutions.

Featured image: Mick Whelan, ASLEF General Secretary addresses the Morning Star fringe at TUC Conference 2023. Photo credit: David Nicholson, The Morning Star/Twitter

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