British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has launched a class war offensive against millions of workers suffering an unprecedented decline in their standard of living. The working class must respond to the Conservative offensive with a counter-offensive, turning a series of strikes and disputes already touted as a “summer of discontent” into a conscious political challenge to the Conservative government.
For more than six months, the Labor Party and the media have insisted that working people focus on the possible impeachment of Johnson as Prime Minister as a means of supposedly instituting a new period of “responsible” government. All the while, unions have done all they can to quell growing demands for industrial action in favor of similar calls for government clemency.
This came to a head on June 18, when the Trades Union Congress (TUC) organized a nationwide ‘We demand better’ protest. The TUC is calling for vague measures such as “a real pay rise for every worker and a real living wage for all” to be implemented by “a government that listens and acts to support workers”. This is intended to indicate the future perspective of a Labor government. But Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer made clear his unanimity with the Tories on all key issues, while limiting himself to calling on Tory backbenchers to ‘show leadership’ and sack Johnson.
On June 6, a vote of no confidence was finally held against Johnson in the Conservative Party, which Johnson narrowly won after 41% of Conservative MPs voted against him. Predictably, this has been met with a fresh wave of media speculation over whether Tory rules will be changed so that a second vote of no confidence can be held.
Meanwhile, Johnson continues to lead a government of political psychopaths who want him to step up his ongoing offensive against British workers and the UK’s key role in NATO’s proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. or that he is stepping down for someone better equipped to do so.
Johnson is doing everything he can to convince his deputies that he is still the man for the job. In a keynote speech on June 9 in Blackpool, he threw red meat at the Tory wolves who were biting at his heels. His pledge was to wage war in Ukraine at any cost, and to confront and defeat the developing strike movement in the working class and achieve the Thatcherite nirvana of a deregulated and brutally exploitative economy that Brexit was supposed to bring.
Lie upon lie, as Johnson claimed his government ‘let the bodies pile up in the thousands’ protected the British people and ‘overcame the far greater challenge of Covid’, before ‘progress was abruptly halted on 24 february. , when Putin decided on his disastrous and unprovoked war in Ukraine.
He warned that high prices would continue for oil, gas, grain, animal feed and fertilizer. But no price was too high to win a war against Russia. There must be no ceasefire, no “bad peace” – “we must continue to support the Ukrainians…for as long as it takes”.
The price of war and recession must be paid by the working class: “If wages continually drive up prices, then we risk a price-wage spiral…” Instead, there must be wage cuts. overturning ‘the fiscal meteorite of Covid’, combined with ‘supply-side reforms’ to reduce public spending and ‘costs to business’. The “era of phenomenal corporate welfare” must be replaced by economic deregulation, including “the opening of free ports across the country” and measures to “energize” the City of London.
This slash-and-burn program, he pointed out, demanded the sacking of 91,000 civil servants and ruthless attacks on railway workers, including the mass closure of “fully equipped ticket offices…across the entire transportation network.”
Johnson’s only ‘populist’ measure was a foolish ploy to extend Thatcher’s ‘right to buy’ policy for tenants of public housing and housing association properties to those on welfare, who could use housing assistance to pay mortgages and “turn benefits into bricks”. If implemented, it would eviscerate any remaining social housing. But Lindsay Judge, director of research at the Resolution Foundation, noted of this fantasy: “More than four in five families on means-tested benefits have no savings and are under high cost pressures for life” and would be unable to access any possible access. to reduce mortgage payments.
Johnson’s toxic stew of politics has not satiated the venal appetites of his conservative critics. The following day, former Brexit minister Lord David Frost insisted on the The telegraph of the day that Johnson to save his job as Prime Minister depended on reversing tax increases, future cuts, announcing “a Brexit Opportunity Bill which undoes large swaths of EU law” , the immediate elimination of “most British tariffs” and the development of a “Conservative 10-year plan to restore the viability of the British state, based on liberty and individual freedom and not on the collectivism.
The fight against Johnson and the Conservative government cannot be waged by parliamentary maneuver, but only by class struggle. The main target of Tory hate is the planned strike by more than 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union on June 21, 23 and 25. Train drivers’ union ASLEF sat on its members’ national action demands this week, urging them to drop a long-running dispute with ScotRail in return for a miserly 5% pay rise. But he was forced to announce strikes on Greater Anglia trains on June 23, Hull Trains on June 26 and on Croydon Tramlink on June 28, 29, July 13 and 14. White-collar rail union TSSA is due to vote for strike action at Avanti West Coast, while Unite has said 1,000 of its members will strike on the London Underground on June 21.
In addition, 115,000 members of the Communications Workers Union working for Royal Mail will be elected for industrial action on June 15, along with 40,000 CWU members at BT. Post office staff employed at 114 British state-owned Crown post offices went on strike on June 4 over pay. Hundreds of check-in and ground staff at Heathrow Airport are voting to strike for the return of a 10% pandemic pay cut. Nurses threaten to strike in Scotland. And in the fall, 1.4 million local government workers could also strike over poverty pay.
The accumulation of conflicts bears witness to the fact that the workers are on the verge of a social disaster. Millions of people cannot afford to heat their homes, refuel their cars or even feed their families.
That so many are struggling is the political responsibility of the Labor Party, which operates as a de facto coalition partner of the Conservatives, and the unions which have presided over the systematic decline in working people’s living standards for decades.
Today, the TUC can only indirectly refer to the Labor Party because it knows that it will come forward more and more openly as the opponent of any struggle against the government and the bosses. This week, Lisa Nandy, the right-wing opposition leveling secretary, dishonestly expressed her sympathy for railway workers “who are really struggling to make ends meet”. Even that was too much for Starmer whose spokesman reassured big business: “We have been clear that strikes should not take place. No one wants to see disruptive industrial action. »
Workers must also understand that in the union bureaucracy they face an industrial police desperate to prevent the limited strikes they were eventually forced to call, and who will sell them out at the earliest opportunity and at the lowest possible cost to the ruling class. If they are not successful, then ministers, rail operating companies and Network Rail will launch a strike-breaking operation which must be fought and defeated. The government has reiterated its intention to introduce as soon as possible minimum standards of service on the railways aimed at preventing any effective strike affecting industries and services deemed essential to the functioning of the national economy.
Preparing for the fight against the conservatives must therefore go through the formation of rank-and-file committees independent of the pro-business unions that can unify and organize the emerging struggles of workers, and through the building of the Socialist Equality Party to replace the the rotting political corpse of the Labor Party.