trade union bureaucracy

Pension Battles

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The autumn is likely to see a renewal of strikes over the assault on public sector pensions. Charlie Kimber looks at the pressures on the big unions to join the fight.

The coalition's assault on the pensions of public sector workers is the most direct and concentrated aspect of its war to make ordinary people pay the cost of bailing out the bosses and the bankers. It is, of course, part of a much wider strategy, involving not just the £81 billion of public spending cuts but also a reshaping of the whole of British society in the interests of capital and profit. And the pensions attack goes alongside a vicious offensive against benefits, jobs and services everywhere.

In the spotlight

Towards a mass strike

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There are times, decades even, when events drag and nothing seems to happen, and there are weeks and months when history seems to leap forward. There can be no question that the announcement, by a host of public sector unions, at September's TUC conference of plans for a one-day strike on 30 November marks a sharp escalation in the class struggle in Britain

The decision by more unions to ballot their members over the assault on pensions and coordinate a strike with the four unions that struck on 30 June means that up to 3 million workers could strike together in what is effectively a public sector general strike.

Time to escalate the fight

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The anger over pensions runs much deeper than this single issue. But some in the trade union movement have argued to keep the fight focused on this question alone.

They believe that workers, at the moment, are not interested in fighting a wider battle over privatisation and the defence of the welfare state. This is a mistake. The attacks on pensions act as a lightning conductor for the rage felt about the coalition's attacks as a whole.

The minority movement

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As major industrial struggle seems set to make a return to Britain, Dave Sherry looks at the strategy and tactics of the revolutionary left during the period of intense class conflict which gripped Britain between the end of the First World War and the General Strike of 1926

In 1920 the best parts of the revolutionary left came together to form the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). It was soon put to the test.

Its first big challenge was the relationship between the "official" and "unofficial" wings of the trade union movement and how to work both with and against a newly emerging group of leftwing officials in the face of a deep recession and a vicious state offensive.

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".

Not So Awkward Now

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Why some union leaders have buckled over the occupation of Iraq.

Watching the major trade union leaders at this year's Labour Party conference, I was reminded of a Socialist Worker editorial discussion a few years ago. We were discussing the 'awkward squad' - the union leaders elected to office on policies critical of Blairism from the left. We all agreed that these leaders could not be crudely equated with the Blairite figures they had replaced. Their combative language reflected a wide feeling for more struggle among hundreds of thousands of union activists.

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