All predictions point to how the current crisis will hit Britain much harder than Brown and Darling care to admit. Understandably, working people are angry at the loss of security, livelihoods and, for some, even their homes. Beyond doubt, however, is the fact that this cost will rise even further in the years to come as the state tries to force us to pay for the billions it has borrowed and is still doling out to the rich and powerful.
In what will amount to a gigantic wealth transfer, the state bails out the bosses with one hand, while with the other it calculates how best it might claw this back in the future. One thing is certain; no government, whether Tory or Labour, will inflict undue pain on the so called “wealth producers”, the capitalist class. So the tax rises, cats in wages, attacks on services and benefits and the rest will fall disproportionately on us, the working class.
Unless, that is, the British working class can once more forge itself into a force capable of resisting the bosses’ and the state’s attacks. Encouragingly, we may be witnessing the first signs of this. While bosses and the state expect us simply to roll over and meekly accept their decrees without so much as a murmur of protest, some workers have been showing us there is another way.
Back in February the Lindsey oil refinery workers kick started a wave of unofficial strike action in the energy industry as a response to the deployment of foreign workers. At the time, those bastions of conservatism, the right (and not so right) wing press welcomed the walk outs, opportunistically overemphasising the “British jobs for British workers” undercurrent to launch yet more attacks on migrant workers. In reality, the Lindsey strike committee’s demands were nothing of the sort, and are best summed up by one committee member thus: “Our action is rightly aimed against company bosses who attempt to play off one nationality of worker against the other…” Attempts to whip up nationalist fervour and play the race card have always been suited the bosses and the state, intent on dividing and ruling us.
More recently, there’s been a number of workplace occupations, attempts by workers to press for improved redundancy terms or to prevent job losses and closures. Workers at Prisme Packaging in Dundee and at Waterford Crystal in Ireland are notable examples of this. As we go to press (mid-April) the Visteon (aka Ford) car parts plants in Belfast and Enfield are also under occupation by workers responding to Visteon’s attempts to rob them of unpaid wages and proper pension contributions.
Lindsey, Prisme, Waterford and Visteon are all signs that workers can and will resist the bosses’ efforts to trample over us; that, in doing so, they can and will ignore the anti-strike laws and go beyond trade union structures that time and again have only acted as a brake to frustrate workers’ militancy. For workers to successfully resist the coming attacks as the state seeks to cover its borrowings such actions are not only inspirational, they are also necessary. In the face of a totally discredited and anti-working class Labour Party, this crisis presents us the perfect opportunity to begin to reverse the rolling back of class consciousness witnessed during much of the last century.