While last Wednesday’s austerity strikes did not quite bring Britain to a standstill, they were an important display of disobedience against the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition attack on public sector pensions. Despite government-led propagandizing to the contrary, the strikes are justified.
Last week British Prime Minister David Cameron called Ed Miliband, Leader of the opposition, “irresponsible, left-wing and weak” for not distancing himself from strikers, and Jeremy Clarkson, a controversial BBC pundit, joked that he would “execute [strikers] in front of their families.” The senders of 31,000 complaints evidently missed the funny side of Clarkson’s comment.
Meanwhile author Owen Jones took “greedy” striking workers to task to highlight the unfair criticism of the right-wing media.
This media likes to concentrate on the effects of the strikes – obsessed by the thought of another “Winter of Discontent” – but rarely the causes behind it.
The Conservatives’ pension reforms will mean public sector workers must work longer, pay more and get less at the end of it – and this, following a two-year pay freeze.
The Tories meanwhile claim public sector workers are paid too much and are greedy to expect otherwise.
But look at the list of unions who walked out on Wednesday. Along with Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT), led by Marxist Bob Crow, and Public and Commercial Services (PCS), was the National Association of Head Teachers (NATH) who have never voted for strike action in 114 years of existence. All 50 branches of 30 unions balloted “yes” on a three, or four, to one ratio – an average of 77.31% with a 38.55% turnout.
Is this collective greed, and unions spoiling for a fight? Or just mass leftist hysteria?
The prevailing feeling amongst workers and, increasingly members of the public, is that they – we – are footing the bill for the financial crisis. While the Tories attack public sector pensions, they have eased corporation tax (by 3 pence) on City banks.
While American conservatives love to bandy “class war” when criticizing President Barack Obama, Britain is gripped by the same tactics introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives in the 1980s; mass privatization, welfare cuts, attacks on trade unions and workers’ rights and a cozy relationship with the financial sector.
Chancellor George Osborne claims this is all good economic sense and that “we’re all in it together.” But it is pure neo-conservative ideology talking – the dodgy economics of the 1980s. Despite a grim, grim and grimmer Autumn Statement recently – which suggests the Conservatives’ measures are not working, only hurting – they continue undeterred. It all looks like good old-fashioned Tory class war.
With the first privatized National Health Service hospital (Hinchingbrooke hospital, Cambridgeshire) already opened and ideological attacks on the public sector in full swing, it seems David Cameron’s Conservatives truly are Thatcher’s children. It's important we all know what that means.
Photo Credit: Alan Denney