Friday, 22 October 2010

What next for those on the STUC march?

by Richie Venton, SSP national workplace organiser

The Demolition Coalition launched the social and economic equivalent of a nuclear attack on workers and communities on Axe Wednesday.

The thousands marching on the STUC demo have a critical part to play in building mass resistance to the slaughter of jobs, services, pay, benefits and pensions. Every marcher can help build united action through their trade union, community, pensioners’ or students’ organizations – and by building local anti-cuts alliances.

Demand No Cuts budgets in Holyrood and local Councils – Defiance budgets that refuse to pass on Westminster’s butchery.
In the wake of Osborne’s declaration of war, the hour has struck for SNP, Labour and other politicians who claim to oppose the Twin Tories’ cuts to take action louder than words.
When Swinney, Salmond et al set Scotland’s budget in a few weeks, they face a stark choice: put up genuine resistance by defying Westminster’s £1.3bn slashing of the block grant to Scotland, or shut up their talk of being ‘Scotland’s champions’, of being anti-cuts. If they are serious about defending Scotland, instead of talking about a 3-year pay freeze for all public sector workers and cuts to so-called ‘back-office’ jobs, the SNP government should set a budget with not a penny cut in pay or services, not a single job loss, and demand the missing £1.3bn back off the Westminster thieves who have stolen it to bail out the bankers and billionaires.

That would act as a clarion call to action by workers and communities in support of their defiance, with rallies, demonstrations, peaceful civil disobedience and industrial action. A nation in rebellion on the scale of the anti-poll tax struggle could be built, to win back the £1.3bn for next year’s Scottish spending plans.

Build a mass lobby of Scottish parliament
Given the record of the SNP so far, they are unlikely to show the spine to do this unless they face a rebellion from below. The STUC should use the Edinburgh demo to call a mass lobby of the Scottish parliament before tartan butchery is carried out next month. If they fail to do so, the public sector unions should take the lead and call it.

Make councillors fight
Councils face the same stark choice: defy or destroy. Union members and community groups should bombard councillors with demands for No Cuts budgets; not as a folded-arms gesture, but as a lever to building massive local resistance, combining councillors, council workers and service users in united action. It’s been done before – successfully – in Poplar and Vale of Leven in the 1920s, Clay Cross in the 1970s, Liverpool in 1984. They should mount a mass campaign to demand the stolen millions back off Holyrood to balance the books, with no cuts.

This stance has already been pushed within West Dunbartonshire council by SSP councilor Jim Bollan. It has been backed by at least two UNISON branches already: North Ayrshire and Glasgow city. More unions should follow suit.

Tax the rich – axe the Council Tax
Alongside such demands, marchers should take up the call for the Scottish parliament to introduce an emergency Bill to scrap the hated, regressive Council Tax, and replace it with an income-based, progressive Scottish Service Tax, which could virtually double the funds currently raised through Council Tax, by making the rich pay. £1.6bn extra raised through this measure alone would negate the savage impact of the £1.3bn cut to Scotland’s budget.

One-day public sector strike
No form of cuts is acceptable – or necessary; neither Coalition cuts, nor lesser, slower cuts by Labour or SNP. To force back the Scottish butchers, united strike action before the council budgets are set in stone could rock and rattle them into retreat. The STUC march is a golden moment for the STUC to call for a united one-day strike of the entire public sector (over 600,000 workers) in early 2011. Failing that, the more left-leaning public sector unions should make the call, name the day, and build the rebellion in the workplaces that would embolden communities too.

Socialism, the ultimate answer
Marchers need to express their political voice too; for taxation of the rich and big business; full and democratic public ownership of the banks’ £850bn assets; an end to Trident, war and other capitalist waste; for an independent socialist Scotland, free of the Westminster butchers. Join like-minded socialists – join the SSP.

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