Rank and file

A new period of class struggle

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Unofficial strikes, occupations and rank and file action - we need to learn from the new struggles by trade unionists and non-unionised workers alike, argues Charlie Kimber.

The occupation at the Vestas wind turbine plant, the support it has generated, and the global publicity it gained confirm that we are in a new period of class struggle. The initial effect of soaring unemployment was to panic most union leaders into abject surrender and to make many workers doubt their ability to fight.

Trade unions - the need for unity and fightback

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The scale of the crisis, and the avalanche of job losses, underlines the need for the working class to fight. This is why it was so disappointing to see two unions that have led the resistance, the teachers' NUT and the civil service's PCS, turn away from strikes earlier this month.

The immediate issue at stake was a response to Gordon Brown's pay curbs in the public sector. The NUT executive decided that a 52 percent vote for action was not enough. Within hours, the government had authorised talks with the PCS over the pay issues which led to a strike planned for 10 November. Again, the executive decided to suspend action.

In both cases Socialist Workers Party members on the executives voted for strikes, against the majority.

Standing up room only

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Thousands of bus workers across London have been part of a defiant fight against the privatised bus companies.

The roots of the militancy can be traced back to November 2006 when Metroline drivers took on the employers and won after two days of strike action. It proved that drivers didn't need to be afraid of standing up to their employers. It was like a burst of fresh air that was long overdue.

With the workers always

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Profound economic crisis and renewed militancy from the working class means the relevance of Marxist ideas for 21st century trade unionism, and the role socialists can play within the movement, is worth revisiting, argues Sean Vernell

Walking past a bookshop recently I saw a window display with a copy of Robert Tressell's classic The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists - a story of exploitation and resistance in the early part of the 20th century. The recommendation from one of their young workers read "Worryingly relevant".

Pay Freeze: Learn from the past to shape the future

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As increasing numbers of workers take action over pay Charlie Kimber examines the political dimension of the strikes and looks at the lessons we can learn from the past.

Class struggle is on the rise. In the first 11 months of Gordon Brown's premiership there were over 900,000 strike days, almost three times the number in the same period in the previous year. These figures do not include the big local government action in July.

Brown, bosses and workers after May Day

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These may be Tony Blair's last days, but Gordon Brown has made it clear that Blairism - war, privatisation and cuts - will remain. Charlie Kimber looks at the issues which are bringing workers into confrontation with the government and how trade unions are organising

At its best 1 May, May Day, is about the unity of socialist politics and the power of the working class. A hundred years ago the Second International grouping of socialist parties called on all socialists and trade unionists in every country to "demonstrate energetically" each 1 May "for the legal establishment of the eight-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace." The greatest May Day moments have reflected the merging of immediate class demands and a vision of a better world free of capitalism and imperialism.

Industry: Anger and Optimism

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Recent disputes have shown a growing confidence and militancy among workers, argues Moira Nolan.

In a summer of iconic images, two much-pictured events may prove to have a lasting impact on class struggle in Britain in the coming months: the chaos at Heathrow Airport following the solidarity walkouts by BA workers and the hilltop protests by their fellow T&G members, the Gate Gourmet workers. These two events sum up both the injustice of working life in Blair's Britain and the power of workers to do something about it.

Heathrow Dispute: Bring the Bosses Down to Earth

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Strikes and solidarity are needed to bring the Gate Gourmet bosses' union busting operation to a standstill, argues The Walrus.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Gate Gourmet dispute has been the way it has taken the lid off what goes on at Heathrow airport - the biggest workplace in Britain. Concerted attempts by parts of the media and by the BA boss, Rod Eddington, to whip up an outcry over unofficial strike action have not been at all effective - mainly because the overwhelming impression has been that of a wildcat management acting in the most despicable fashion against a workforce made up almost entirely of Asian workers.

Putting the Pressure On

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Battle lines are being drawn between Labour and the unions. But how will the awkward squad deal with the issues?

Gordon Brown has declared war on the PCS civil servants' union. If this Labour government gets its way over 104,000 workers will lose their jobs. But this attack on a key public sector union has much wider implications. Brown also wants to rip up the civil service pension scheme. Across the public sector workers will be nervously wondering if they will be next. Behind the scenes the government is clearing its 'industrial problems' from the decks.

The Wildcats are Back

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The victorious postal strike has put unofficial action back on the agenda, writes Martin Smith. Postal workers describe their success.

'Your world has turned upside down, and if you strike it will turn upside down again.' So warned Royal Mail chairman Allan Leighton, shortly after post workers narrowly rejected a national strike ballot over pay. The post workers' world has not turned upside down - but Leighton's surely has. An unofficial strike by over 35,000 workers has produced one of the biggest victories the British trade union movement has seen in over 20 years.

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