How to build towards a general strike

Submitted by martin on 19 October, 2010 - 4:31 Author: Martin Thomas

On the 3 October demonstration against the Tories in Birmingham, the SWP (Socialist Workers' Party) had placards saying:"TUC: call a general strike".

The SWP is pushing this slogan, not as a complement to agitation for action by individual workplaces and unions which could build up pressure sufficient to push the TUC into a general strike, but as a substitute.

In the civil service union PCS, for example - led by the Socialist Party, and on paper the most left-wing of the unions - the SWP has put down no proposals for PCS mobilisation to challenge the SP's reliance on the "Unison-PCS alliance".

It's like in 1992, when the SWP raised "TUC: call a general strike" as its answer to the Tory government of that day ordering a wave of pit closures. The slogan is just a sail to catch the political wind, not a summary of a worked-out political argument.

During the miners' strike of 1984-5, when a general strike was really on the agenda, the SWP had dismissed the call for it as "abstract". In 1972, when mass unofficial strikes over the jailing of five dockers pushed the TUC into calling a one-day general strikes, the SWP hesitated to raise the "general strike" call... until after the TUC had already raised it.

Even if the TUC General Council were suddenly to be converted to ultra-militancy, probably it would be a recipe for aborting the movement suddenly to call even a one-day general strike.

Militancy can build up very fast under the impact of the cuts and of the example given by French workers. But there's no point pretending it has already built up.

We can again start explaining the idea of a general strike, and the need to do in Britain what is being done in France. To shortcircuit the explanation with a demagogic catch-the-wind slogan will not help.

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