workers confidence

So why isn't there a bigger fightback?

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The obvious question, given the popular hostility to neoliberalism, is why isn't there a higher level of fightback especially in the workplace against austerity and an unprecedented assault on working class living standards?

The class struggle in Britain remains shaped by the major defeats imposed on the working class in the 1980s by both the employers and Thatcher's government. Key groups of workers, in the car and steel industry, the dockers, print workers in Fleet Street and above all the miners after their year-long strike in 1984-85 were taken on and beaten.

Unpopular capitalism! Neoliberalism & working class consciousness

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Has the neoliberal ideological offensive succeeded in winning the battle of ideas in society? Not according to recent surveys, writes Mark L Thomas. Two new polls suggest that the majority of workers reject the free market and firmly believe in social democratic values.

Last month Allister Heath, the editor of City Am, a pro free market newspaper aimed at the City of London, expressed a deep concern bordering on panic that support for crucial aspects of capitalism is fast eroding: "Slowly but surely, the public is turning its back on the free market economy and re-embracing an atavistic version of socialism... On some issues, the public is far more left wing than the Tories realise or that Labour can believe."

Taste of victory

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Zero hours contracts have become a symbol of austerity Britain. Workers at the Hovis bakery in Wigan have shown how they can be beaten.

Bosses have been using the recession to impose so-called "zero-hour" contracts. These contracts allow employers to hire temporary workers on a short term basis, with no guarantee of further work, at lower wages and worse conditions.

According to government figures there are some 200,000 people on these contracts. Zero-hour contracts have spread to the health service and colleges, as well as the high street. These contracts are a direct attack on workers' pay and conditions, and contrary to popular belief, are not simply in workplaces with low union organisation.

Taking the temperature

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The union conference season has just finished. Julie Sherry looks at the mood among the activists who hold union organisation together in workplaces across Britain and asks what we can learn about the prospects for resistance to the Tories and employers

Last month 4,000 people packed into London's Westminster Central Hall at the People's Assembly to discuss the need for an alternative to austerity. The Assembly's huge turnout is a reflection of a widespread and growing politicisation among working class people in the face of a Tory government out to savage the welfare state and workers' pay and conditions, while no alternative is posed by Labour.

As people flocked into the People's Assembly, the last of this year's union conferences had just ended.

Class struggle in the UK

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On 14 November while millions of workers struck and marched across large parts of Europe, the British TUC issued a press release. And not a very good one either.

Instead of calling for action, it whimpered, "TUC general secretary Brendan Barber and TUC president Lesley Mercer will be visiting the European commission's office in London to hand in a letter for commission president José Manuel Barroso, reminding him of the growing opposition to austerity and calling for an immediate change of direction." Did the bosses and governments of Europe shudder?

The contours of class

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The huge TUC organised demonstration in March has shown that the working class is still a force to be reckoned with. Mark L Thomas looks at the reality of class in Britain today, while Jack Farmer unpicks the debate within the Labour Party over how to relate to the cuts

After the huge TUC-organised anti-cuts demonstration at the end of March, one thing should be clear: the contours of British society remain profoundly shaped by class.

It wasn't just that the 26 March protest was huge, though it was. With at least 500,000 demonstrating - perhaps even as many as 750,000 - it was the second biggest demonstration in British history, after the February 2003 anti-war march.

France: confronting state power

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"On Monday we strike, on Tuesday we strike, on Wednesday we strike, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday too - and it'll only be over when we've won."


Photo: Phototeque.org

This song has become a hit on the mass demonstrations in France. After four days of national strikes and weekly demonstrations since 7 September the government has still not caved in. In just the last four days of action more than 3 million protesters have taken to the streets across the country. As the law to increase the retirement age was about to be passed in the Senate the unions called two new days of strikes and protests.

Everything to play for

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In the wake of the TUC congress, Martin Smith argues that the conditions are ripe for a fightback, while
Mark Campbell reports from the conference floor.


The overwhelming decision of delegates at this year's TUC conference to support coordinated action to fight the austerity measures and to call a national demonstration against the cuts in March 2011 means the battle lines are now drawn.

On one side you have a nasty but clearly nervous Con-Dem government.

Brown's Britain: the faultlines deepen

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Recent months have seen fierce industrial disputes, with workers challenging the government and the bosses. Michael Bradley argues that this resistance can shape a future fightback

Photo: Guy Smallman

We're moving into a new phase of the struggle. Over the last couple of years we have gone through several distinct stages. First was the onset of the recession in 2008 which effectively knocked sideways the pay revolt in the public sector. Secondly, after a series of horrible defeats like the job losses at Woolworths and Cowley, we saw the development of a movement of working class resistance.

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.

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