Last Saturday on 3 December, the Enough is Enough campaign saw its launch event on the Wirral. Despite being built for at short notice, around 80 people packed into the meeting room in New Brighton, with members in attendance from a number of unions. Members of Merseyside Socialist Alternative were also in attendance and played a key role in helping to build for this event.
The platform was packed with speakers in the heat of the ongoing strike wave. These included Mark Rowe (National Officer with the Fire Brigades Union), Brian Parsons (local CWU activist and rep), Alison Gaughan (UCU activist and Kirklees Enough is Enough) and David Jones (Wirral Unison branch secretary). The meeting was also addressed by Birkenhead MP Mick Whitley, Kevin Donovan from Defend Our NHS, as well as chaired by Lois Founds from the Unison Service Group Executive.
Workers fighting back
From start to finish, speakers commented on the growing willingness of workers to say no to Tory lies and to build the fightback. As David Jones put it:
“We’re demanding pay rises in every sector of the economy. But they say, if we get those pay rises then the situation will get worse. We can’t buy into that myth.”
Both David and numerous other speakers attested to a clear mood in the workplaces that we cannot stand more months and years of attacks on our pay and conditions, while the cost of survival spirals out of control and the bosses profit.
As various speakers pointed out, this means stressing the importance of coordination between disputes in order to face down a viciously anti-union Tory government. Mark Rowe said:
“The Tories are threatening to legislate to take our right to strike away. But let me be absolutely clear, if you legislate to take our right to strike away, we’ll walk out and take action anyway.”
Crucial to doing this will mean avoiding falling into the trap of relying on the false “saviour” of a Starmer-led New Labour government – one wedded totally to big business interests. This means relying only on the organised strength and solidarity of the workers movement.
Alison, who is also a member of Socialist Alternative spoke on what will mean in terms of coordination and escalation of the struggles. She said:
“UCU staff lost a quarter of their pay since 2009, against a background of increased workload, short-term zero hours contracts and attacks on pensions. The strikes in Higher Education have been inspiring, but we must keep pressure on the UCU leadership to take strong action and not give in to mediocre offers. We need to call on all striking unions to coordinate their strikes, which would have the most impact and encourage others to join us. We have an opportunity to bring about a general strike! On 1 February, school teachers could be out for the first time. Public and private sector unions could get together on this date and really make a difference.”
“I was on a picket line on Wednesday. Someone said ‘why aren’t we all striking on the some day? Why aren’t we having a general strike?’ We need to be turning to our trade union leaders and clearly say let’s coordinate. We can still do this, we can make this a general strike on 1 February, to take on these Tories and let them truly know that enough is enough.”
Way forward for the campaign
This event was an opportunity not just to hear speeches. It was also a forum for democratic discussion about the way forward for the campaign, which Socialist Alternative members as well as others actively took part in.
Socialist Alternative spoke of the potential to transform EiE into a genuine organising centre for working-class resistance and solidarity. This should include the election of leading committees locally, regionally and nationally, as well as an Enough is Enough conference. Such a conference would be able to democratically discuss how to win the five demands of the campaign as well as expanding the demands to include the fight against war, climate crisis and to end all forms of oppression.
As SA members pointed out, only nationalisation of the energy companies, banks and monopolies which dominate the capitalist economy would be a genuine way of guaranteeing that working people aren’t forced to choose between heating or eating (or neither!) this Winter.
Discussions will have to also raise the question of how working class people and the left can politically organise. This will take on more urgency in light of the fact that Starmer has already indicated he would not support unions fighting for above-inflation pay rises in the event of a Labour government being elected. Socialist Alternative would argue that we need a new party – based around a socialist programme and rooted in the struggles of the working class.
Socialist Alternative members stressed the need for international solidarity with workers, women and youth in Iran and China resisting repression and fighting for democratic rights, as part of a movement to challenge the rule of the rich and transform society.
Words into action
Everybody in attendance agreed that this could not simply be a one-time event. The campaign needs to put words into action. A proposal was unanimously agreed to turn Wirral EIE towards the picket lines. Already Wirral EIE as well as Socialist Alternative have been out on the Biffo bin workers picket line, striking against real-terms pay cuts.
Next week on 14 December, we will be joining postal workers at Royal Mail depot in Prenton, as well as supporting nurses striking for the first time in Liverpool. There will be plans for an organisers meeting in mid-January, open to everyone interested with plans to elect a Steering Committee to carry the campaign forward and build a clear presence on the streets and workplaces.