Five Reasons why Unite members should get involved with the Coalition of Resistance

18 Aug

– by Sarah Collins

The Coalition of Resistance was initiated by the grandfather of the left, Tony Benn, and has received backing from Unite General secretary Len McCluskey, with Unite printing 25,000 placards and 20,000 free broadsheets for the TUC demonstration on March 26th.

1. We need a broad movement

June 30th may have been the first of a series of strike waves. Every time workers strike there needs to be an organised solidarity movement comprised of pensioners, students, community campaigners, Greens, the Labour party left, the SNP party left and the Trade Unions. We need to replenish the tradition of solidarity. That will only happen if the movement is broad enough to contain different traditions and political outlooks but with a focus on opposing the cuts and supporting strikes in order to build resistance.

This is a movement that needs to belong to everyone. The attacks are so deep and broad that the response needs to include everyone being affected. The most powerful movements are always very simple: if you support strike action, if you oppose the cuts, if you support demonstrations and direct action then join.

2. We need a grass-roots movement

It is an unfortunate reality that thousands of people simply don’t know where to go to do something about the cuts. The movement needs freshness, profile, the leaders of past and present, but most importantly the involvement of thousands of people for whom this will be their first political activity.

Coalition of Resistance advocates regular open meetings to which all against the cuts can attend. Of course, there will be disagreement about strategy and tactics, but far better these are had while we all work together against the cuts. These open meetings can be vibrant and diverse gatherings and can encourage thousands of people up and down the country to join the struggle. The Coalition of Resistance can belong to everyone, but particularly to the activists, the campaigners, the fighters in every community and workplace. To build a movement powerful enough to break the coalition it needs to be rooted in the fabric of our society.

3. We need a national movement

The political elites are distilling responsibility for cuts to councils in order to atomise the resistance. In fact the Tories even have a phrase which encapsulates this strategy: ‘devolving the axe’.

They would far rather individual protests of hundreds outside council chambers, than a mass movement which fought for local activity as the basis for mass demonstrations and strikes targeting the government. We have what may be the most divided, weakest government in Europe- this can only be exploited if we pull together nationally to aim our fire in that direction.

The student revolt rocked the government. It forced several prominent Lib Dems to resign. The vote only passed by 21 ayes. It precipitated a deeper crisis in the government. This was not because of the local protests on individual campuses, important and vital though they were. It was the mass mobilisations, the occupation of Millbank, the explosion of the unified anger of tens of thousands of militant students in the capital city that terrified the ruling class. It was the culmination of local work and protest consolidating itself as a force of tens of thousands in joint action which was important.

How can any one local anti cuts group prise open the cracks in the national government? They simply can’t. Equally how can you build a national movement without local groups? Again you can’t. The two need to merge. We need anti cuts groups linked up into a national coalition.

Some are suggesting the Tories may go for an early election to rid themselves of the nuisance that is the Lib Dems. Conversely many Lib Dems must now know that they have committed political suicide unless they do something drastic. It is unacceptable then, that given those circumstances, they still feel able to take on the whole working class at the same time. They are relying on the devolution of the austerity program. Our response must be to build locally, but as part of a national framework that can calibrate our forces squarely on the government, whilst demanding of councils and the Scottish government that they don’t do the Con-Dems dirty work.

4. We need international coordination

Internationalism is vitally important to the resistance. It raises the possibility of a renewed international class consciousness and takes on the European austerity agenda head on. The Coalition of Resistance is organising a European conference against Austerity, Cuts and Privatisation, and in defence of the Welfare State on Saturday 1st October in London.

In Britain, the appeal for the conference has fantastic support from leading cultural and political figures and trade-union leaders. Coalition of Resistance is currently approaching trade-unions, social movements and progressive organisations in other countries to join with us in the preparation for this conference, and planning for a common response.

It is hoped that this conference will be a step towards co-ordinating the resistance by agreeing to European-wide action. In every country in Europe, all the social gains of the post war period are now threatened under the pretext of having to repay the debt incurred in bailing out banks in 2008. There is already resistance in many countries in Europe. But we need to learn from each others’ experiences and work towards a co-ordinated resistance across Europe and beyond.

This can be a momentous conference with historic consequences- we need to build it to make sure it is huge.*

5. We need unity

Those who are active in campaigns and unions will often ask why it is that the left can’t unite. It is wrong to be naive about this. There are real differences of history, theory and strategy and tactics. With the economic crisis there has been further divergence precisely because the situation is so volatile and the stakes so high.

But unity on the left is important to the movement as a whole. Thousands of people in left wing organisations can find agreement on basic principles: no cuts, support strikes etc. Working relationships must be built between groups. But this cannot be built if the base is narrow and if the campaign is controlled by one or other socialist organisation.

Instead we need a broad base, with the grass-roots in control and with new forces and fresh thinking renewing the Left. Joint action based on working class struggle is genuine unity. No amount of words can make up for joint action- that’s what the struggle needs and that’s what those frustrated with the Left want to see.

In Scotland we know all too well just how damaging splits can be. The key to a new left will be the refreshment that thousands of new activists fighting the cuts can provide.

It is time to raise our heads and look at the huge potential we have as a movement, and as a class, to bring the pain felt by millions to the steps of ten Downing Street, to turn anger in to organisation and bring all of our struggles together.

To get involved with Coalition of Resistance in Glasgow please email or text 07791608578.

*The Coalition of Resistance group in Glasgow are supporting the European Conference in London on October 1st, however they will mainly be building for and encouraging attendance at the STUC ‘People First’ march in Glasgow.

– Sarah Collins is Communications Officer for the Glasgow Bar and Hospitality Workers’ branch of Unite

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