Working class people are facing a crisis of monumental proportions. Skyrocketing inflation, threats to terms and conditions at work, job insecurity, increasing numbers being forced to use food banks, fuel poverty, the list goes on. Some politicians and councils are now even calling for ‘warm banks’, where people can go in the winter if they can’t afford to turn the heating on. What a damning indictment of 21st century capitalism!
People are not taking this lying down. Working class confidence is on the rise, with a Summer of strikes well and truly underway. Rail workers, telecoms engineers, postal workers, barristers, refuse workers, construction workers and many more are all taking, or planning to take action. More sectors are being balloted over the next two months. We also now have seen the inspiring action of workers at Amazon standing up against the disgusting and insulting pay ‘rises’ on offer – some of which are as low as 35p an hour.
Launch of campaign
In this context, the Enough is Enough Campaign has been launched by various figures from across the movement including Zarah Sultana MP, RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch, CWU General Secretary Dave Ward and organisations such as tenants union Acorn. Expressing the views of many working class people, Mick Lynch stated that “people are fed up with the way they’re treated at work. We need to turn that mood into real organisation on behalf of the working class.”
An indication of the desire to fight for change was that the campaign website crashed due to so many people signing up and volunteering to get involved. At the time of writing over 200,000 have done so and this number will surely rise in the coming days. Enough is Enough has pledged to organise rallies, as well as solidarity visits to picket lines.
The campaign has centred itself around 5 main demands, these being:
- A real pay rise
- Slash energy bills
- End food poverty
- Decent homes for all
- Tax the rich
Socialist Alternative welcomes and hopes to be part of this initiative. We support these demands, and would argue they should be fleshed out and developed through discussion within the campaign and across the workers’ movement. Socialist Alternative argues that the question of nationalisation of rail, mail, utilities must be central and linked to more far reaching demands. We believe the launch of this campaign has potential to mark a major step forward in coordinating a working class-led resistance to the cost of living crisis.
In explaining why these demands are vital, the website points absolutely correctly to employers running ‘rampant’, why it’s important for everyone to have the right to food and a secure, affordable home, and how the energy companies and the rich are taking us for a ride.
The overarching question which will have to be widely discussed is, how do we build a sustained mass movement to win meaningful change and an end to the cost of living crisis? What would that movement have to look like? And how could it pose a real challenge to the capitalist system that puts profit before the needs of working class people and the planet?
What sort of movement can win these demands?
No concessions from the capitalist class and their politicians are ever won without a fight or by asking nicely, and this is particularly true in this time of acute economic crisis. In the United States, Socialist Alternative led the campaign headed by Councilmember Kshama Sawant to win over $200 million in the Tax Amazon campaign in Seattle to help fund housing and other services. This was won by building a grassroots, militant working class movement.
In London, members of Socialist Alternative helped to lead a campaign, which led to a victory of tenants against their landlord and won their fight against eviction along with significant amounts of rent being paid back.
In the 1980s, the ‘Militant’, our forerunner organisation, led a movement in Liverpool that won tens of millions from the Tory central government, and later helped organise an anti-Poll Tax campaign which led to the downfall of Thatcher.
The struggle of care workers in Salford UNISON, led by a supporter of Socialist Alternative, shows how even profit hungry employers can be forced to back down when faced with a highly organised and fighting trade union movement.
These victories, though all very different and in different circumstances, show that it is possible to win, if we can build a movement and campaigns that are organised democratically and with the correct perspectives, approach and strategy to escalate action and win.
The campaign has announced that there will be local rallies and meetings in the coming weeks and months. These can play an important role in galvanising support, and giving an expression to the anger that is out there. Rightly, the need to organise support and solidarity for those workers taking strike action will undoubtedly feature at these. It is important that local meetings are opportunities for people to come together to share experiences, ideas about how the struggles can be taken forward.
Crucially, this should include discussion on ways to broaden out and build momentum behind workers taking strike action – supporting trade union activists already taking practical steps in that direction and demanding the TUC call for and coordinate generalised strike action. Meetings with strong platform speakers are vital, but they also need to be forums where attendees can participate and hammer out the direction of the movement and develop a fighting programme.
With the Labour Party doing its utmost to silence any internal opposition to Starmer and threats of sanctions against MPs who speak up for striking workers, it is inevitable that discussions will take place about the need for working class political organisation to fight for the demands of the campaign. A new left party, based on class struggle and a socialist programme, would be an enormous step forward. Socialist Alternative will advocate the development of such a party, which could give a more clear political expression to grassroots movements of workers and youth.
It is also important that Enough is Enough reaches out to other existing campaigns and organisations, for example Don’t Pay, trade union branches, environmental and climate groups, anti racist, anti-war, feminist to build the strongest possible opposition to the Tories.
Capitalism is the problem
There is a common thread running through the demands of the campaign. Energy companies can increase our bills, landlords can evict us, employers can run roughshod over their workforce, supermarkets can raise prices and the rich can evade tax through various nefarious means. They speak to the fact that as the working class, we have little control over our daily lives.
This is why we believe that, in fighting for the five demands of the campaign, there will be an urgent need to discuss a programme that goes much further. If we want to have control over the economy, we need to challenge the rule of the rich itself. We suffer, not just because the rich do not pay enough tax (though they need to be paying more, and should be made to!), but because we have a capitalist system whose driving force is the pursuit of profit based on the exploitation and oppression of the working class and the climate.
If we want to control the economy, we need to fight for public ownership of the banks and financial institutions. We need to fight for nationalisation, with democratic workers’ control and management of the big corporations that dominate our economy – all to provide inflation-busting profits for shareholders while workers, who produce that wealth, get poorer. We need a rational, democratically planned economy, with production based on need, not the greed of a few parasitic profiteers. We need a socialist alternative to replace crisis ridden capitalism.
If you agree, we urge you to join Socialist Alternative.