We face destruction, not cuts. Even the very metaphor is misleading. If we get a cut on our hand, it soon heals. But what the government is doing won’t heal.
A 70 per cent cut in local government funding is not a cut or an amputation; nor is the attack on the NHS. The ConDem government aims to destroy, not reform. The proposed sell-off of our forests, hastily abandoned after a wave of outrage, wouldn’t even have saved money.
The attack on the NHS will not benefit or empower doctors; any doctors who fool themselves that this is the case will soon see that they are merely the front men, the fall-guys for the vile “health” corporations poised to seize the NHS’s assets.
We are fighting for the right to live as a working class. So we cannot just be against things. We must be for them as well. Positive thinking. For pay, for jobs, for dignity, for Britain, for a future. It is – sometimes literally – a life-and-death struggle.
By now it should be blindingly obvious to all but the most blinkered (and sadly there are plenty of those about) that the politics that got us into this dreadful position will not get us out of it.
Our response must be swift, all-encompassing and clear, and it must come through our trade unions, the only organisations that can unite us all. We must not let ourselves be divided into “left” and “right”, “militants” and “moderates”. We must not mentally, or organisationally, separate our members into self-appointed “activists” and others.
It sounds simple, but there are powerful voices within our own movement for whom true trade union democracy is anathema. Rather than have the tedious business of representative meetings, or electing delegates with a duty to report on what they do, they form their own unelected organisations, with smart-sounding titles like “Anti Cuts Union”.
Well, we have anti-cuts unions. They are called trade unions. They are the only ones that can fight cuts rather than stage phoney demonstrations with thousands of surplus pre-printed placards. And they won’t split because one faction decides it doesn’t like another faction.
There is an intense anger welling up across the country. Unfortunately, opportunist organisations (guaranteed these days to have an Egyptian speaker in tow) are trying to seize control of this opposition and resistance. A hundred-and-one self-proclaimed anti-cuts organisations are trying to piggyback on this wave of anger.
In London last month, Barts and The London Hospitals witnessed a “spontaneous” demonstration outside its main entrance in Whitechapel with a clamour to “storm the hospital”, and when that failed there was a sad attempt to block the main road.
Barts Trade Union Staff Side ignored this infantile behaviour. The reps are looking to build a tidal wave of resistance from porter to Chief Executive, from junior doctor to senior consultant, every worker in the Trust, every patient, every GP, every local resident – not some false campaign outside, but real unity and cohesion based on those inside.
We must not create parallel, substitute organisations, of self-selected, non-elected, “activists”, outside the union structure. We must resist and defeat all such attempts to divide and destroy our unions. We must not interfere in the internal affairs of other unions, nor must we ever insult the elected representatives of other unions.
Unity is strength.