16 December 2018

Break the gridlock – all out to build the mass protest on 12th January

Corbyn speaking at Love FE rally

The demonstration called by the People’s Assembly (PA) on the 12th January will be one of the most important protests for many years and we need to ensure it is one of the biggest.

We live in unprecedented times. May’s Tory party is in deep crisis. One which it is difficult to see how they can get out of in the short to medium term. One of the most successful mainstream political parties in history is at loggerheads with its ruling class supporters. A party that is rabidly xenophobic and has never got over losing its empire, hankers after a nostalgic past where once again Britain rules the waves.

Their backers are at odds with the majority of Tory MPs and members. The vast majority of British employers see their only way of maintaining profitability is through staying tied, both politically and economically, to the European Union.

It is this conflict, between the majority of Tory Party MPs and members who will die in a ditch to preserve what they see as their god given right to rule the world and the vast majority of the employers who see their futures being preserved through the expansion of globalisation, which is at the core of the Tory paralysis.

In normal times this conflict would have brought the government down and a general election would have been called. But these are not normal times. What stops the pressure on the government from above leading to a general election is the fear of who might win … Jeremy Corbyn. Whilst the employers may be at loggerheads with their own party they hate and fear a Corbyn government even more.

The only way that this impasse will be broken is through the mass mobilisation of ordinary working people. Just imagine if we had on the streets of Britain the same kind of fighting spirit that we see on the streets of France today brought about by the yellow vests’ movement. The Tories would be gone and Corbyn would be in no 10 and McDonell in no 11.

Of course, the Labour party has its own divisions over Europe and these divisions could be exaggerated if a Labour government were to be elected. But this is why the movement must concentrate on what will make a difference to working people’s lives.

In or out of the European Union will not end the misery of a million people in Britain who visit food banks to survive. It won’t find the funding needed to ensure that pensioners do not die needlessly this winter because they can’t afford to put their heating on. In or out of Europe will not increase NHS or education funding and neither will it provide secure contracts for the millions of workers today who are employed on them.

It is austerity that has brought about the worst conditions any of us can remember for so many people living in broken Britain today. A policy ushered in and rigorously implemented by a pro-European employing class, both here and across Europe. The yellow vest movement born out of their own government’s austerity programme gives a glimpse of the potential to build a united Europe-wide movement against austerity and for a social Europe rather than that of the pro-big business EU.

The fixation by the media on every twist and turn of the Brexit negotiations is designed to make this crisis appear as if it is merely one that is to do with the personalities and negotiating skills a particular individual possesses rather than a systemic failure of the whole system. The crisis that the Brexit negotiations have revealed runs much deeper than May’s abilities as a leader. It is because of this that we need to look elsewhere to resolve this situation.

History has shown us time and again that when Parliament has reached an impasse and it can no longer govern, it is only through the mass mobilisation of ordinary working people that a breakthrough in the impasse can be achieved.

This also applies to the seemingly vexed question of a hard or soft border in Northern Ireland. The divisions in Ireland are another example of Britain’s imperial legacy. It was through the struggles of working people in Ireland that the Irish Republic was secured. It is only through a united Ireland that the issue of the border will be resolved and that will take the Irish working class stepping onto the stage of history again. It certainly won’t be resolved in the negotiating chambers with the DUP as lead negotiators!

Failure of the movement to act to resolve this crisis will leave it open to others to do so. We have seen across Europe and in Britain the attempts of the far right to give a voice to the anger of working people.

It was a mistake for the PA and Owen Jones to call off the protest on the day that May was going to put the deal to Parliament. It was lucky that the weekend before that Tommy Robinson’s Nazi crew left London demoralised after being significantly outnumbered by the anti – racist counter protest mobilised by Stand up to Racism and Momentum. If they hadn’t then we could have seen thousands of far-right supporters outside Parliament on that night instead.

The trade union and Labour leaders must call on its six million members to mobilise to finish off this discredited Tory government.

We in UCU are in a good position to build this protest. We have a national ballot on pay opening after Xmas in HE and in FE, we have had one of the most significant victories for many years and we are balloting 30 more colleges to join the FE 6 who took action two weeks ago.

Our struggles are ones that will be strengthened by being a part of the wider anti austerity movement. We need to make sure our banners are on the demo on the 12th Jan and we should call upon others to do so too.

Whatever way we voted in the referendum we all should be on this protest. We cannot leave it to the political elite to get us out of this chaos. We need a general election now.

It is time for the people to act!

Sean Vernell, UCU NEC



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