Sep 21 2011

Fighting the Cuts

The Scottish working class confronts an escalating series of cuts in social services as the welfare state is systematically dismantled. This assault on the public sector has sparked a variety of protests, ranging from the militant actions of UK Uncut, and the demonstrations in support of the Accord Centre, to strikes of public sector workers and STUC organized rallies. New formations have been launched to help organize the protests and to facilitate the coordination of scattered events.

The anti-cuts movement is of critical importance, and it deserves the active support of Scottish socialists. We need to be in the streets protesting the cuts and supporting public sector workers defending their jobs, wages and working conditions, and yet we need to do so as socialists. We enter these coalitions without preconditions, beyond the necessity of internal democracy. There is no intention of ramming through our positions or manipulating procedures to covertly achieve our goals. We need to work openly, identifying ourselves as socialists. By sparking discussions on the vital questions that confront the anti-cuts movement, we further the democratic process.

So what do we have to say? We should seek to widen the scope of the anti-cuts movement. There is always a tendency to focus entirely on the specific service under attack. As socialists, we know that the onslaught on the public sector is systemic. It is not a question of a specific ideology, neo-liberalism, or a specific party, the Tories, or the pervasive and destructive influence of the tabloid press. The assault on the public sector reflects a significant shift in the balance of class forces. Globalization has devastated the industrial working class in Scotland, as it has in other countries in Western Europe and the United States. As a result, the proportion of the workforce in unions has plummeted. Furthermore, as corporations create a global workforce they see no need to pay higher wages and benefits to workers in the previously industrialized countries than are paid to workers in Bangladesh, China or India. The global capitalist system is rigged so that the working class is bound to lose. Reversing the downward slide can only occur as the society moves toward a radical, socialist transformation.

We need to bridge our vision of the future with an immediate program that points the way forward. Such a program would start with the recognition that the anti-cuts movement needs to present a positive program formulating what we want, not just what we oppose. Such a program would cover schools and universities, the health care system, mass transit and housing, presenting ideas that challenge the limits of the current system and suggest what a future society would look like.

As socialists, we also need to state clearly that we believe that the anti-cuts movement needs to break with all of the mainstream parties. All of the mainstream parties support the cuts, and all of them are funded by the corporate interests that will profit from those cuts.

Of course, we need to be sensitive to the current consciousness of those in the anti-cuts movement. Many will not be ready to hear a full socialist analysis, but will still be prepared to listen to an analysis that goes beyond stopgap measures to soften the blows.

The cuts have only started. As the situation deteriorates, and as it becomes clear that things will only get worse, there is a genuine possibility that a militant, grass-roots movement will emerge that can challenge the system. We participate in the first tentative steps to counter the cuts because we see the potential of such a movement. It is our task to encourage this process of radicalisation, not merely to act as committed activists without a distinctive perspective.

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