Millions of workers voted Labour as the “default option” to register their fury at the coalition. Even in Scotland, where the SNP have done well recently, Labour gained more seats than Alex Salmond’s party. However there is an ongoing unease of great depth surrounding the main parties as less than a third of people voted in the May elections, hardly a ringing endorsement of monetarist muppet Ed Miliband. The potential for a left of Labour challenge was however shown in a few examples such as Respect following-up George Galloway’s surprising victory in Bradford by winning five seats in the city; independent socialist Michael Lavalette also won a seat in Preston.
It is incredibly easy to trace the root of the fury at the government. The publication of the 2012 version of the Sunday Times revealed that the super-wealthy continue to their robbery while lecturing the rest of us about the need for austerity. The richest 1,000 people in Britain, the top 0.005% of adults, have seen their wealth increase by an obscene £155 billion in the last three years. Workers may not know the precise figures, but they feel in their lives that they are victims of an elaborate scam intended to fill the pockets of a wealthy elite. Meanwhile the agonisingly drawn-out Leveson inquiry generates fresh evidence on an almost daily basis of the venality of the corporate media, the intimate links between politicians of all stripes and media barons, and the readiness of an institutionally corrupt police force to accept large sums of cash while assisting the newspapers with their manufactured inquiries.
Tension grows inside the coalition as Liberal Democrats rightly fear they may be eclipsed as a national force if they go on like this, while the Conservative right whines at every opportunity that Cameron is too soft. But the coalition is determined to keep making the working class pay. Analysts differ in their figures, but all suggest over 80% of cuts are still to come – and they will be backed by more attacks on workers’ rights, and more strengthening of repressive laws, particularly using the excuse of the Olympics. The heroic resistance of public sector workers to the attempt to make then pay more for their pensions, work longer and get less refuses to die, despite the wishes of coalition ministers and some union leaders, should set a leading example of how an effective revolt could take advantage of this to cripple the government. Practically every section of workers consulted by their union leaders on the government’s offer respond with formidable votes for rejection. Latest examples include health workers in the GMB union who voted 96% against the offer on a 60% turnout. But the union leaders have failed to seize on the possibilities for struggle. If they had built on the momentum from the strike by 2.5 million last year we could already have seen a victory on pensions which, given the parlous state of the coalition, would have opened the possibility of booting out cretinous Cameron and his motley crew.
That should not of course be a reason to despair. The TUC’s decision to call a national demonstration on October 20th provides a crucial opportunity to revive mass street protest, and to launch action surpassing the intentions of union leaders who have called the march. Teachers’ unions and others already plan joint action in October and students are preparing for a new national protest. And who will guarantee that the summer will not see a repeat of last August’s riots or some similar explosion of rage? We want a million or more on strike in the autumn and a million or more on the streets. At this time a general strike against the coalition’s attacks is pivotal to our survival. Groundbreaking new battles are emerging but it would be fatal to wait for months in order to build an efficient fightback. There should be another big strike this summer alongside major protests as the venomous cuts agenda continues to bite. The conference called by Unite the Resistance for June 23rd will be one important focus for trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners to discuss and plan the way forward. The challenge now more than ever though is to build a radical fightback and put socialist politics at the heart of the struggle.