By Mike Forster, Socialist Alternative West Yorkshire
In Autumn of last year, the Enough is Enough (EiE) campaign was launched principally by Mick Lynch of the RMT, Dave Ward of the CWU and Zarah Sultana, the left wing Labour MP, in a blaze of publicity and rising optimism against the background of the UK’s largest strike wave for over 30 years. The campaign slogans and powerful launch videos struck a chord and the movement rapidly built, attracting over 700,000 people who signed up to register support. EiE raised five simple demands; For a real pay rise, to slash energy bills, to end food poverty, decent homes for all and to tax the rich.
This was a hugely powerful grassroots movement which very quickly was able to organise mass rallies numbering hundreds of thousands across the country. The leadership of EiE was overwhelmed and unable to catch up with the mood on the ground, with many wanting to set up local groups.
Instead, they insisted on local branches being composed of four sponsoring groups including RMT, CWU, ACORN (the renters union) and Fans Supporting Food Banks, with an unnecessarily complex framework of regional networks. In reality it was a bureaucratic attempt to control a mass movement from above. Activists who were keen to get organised were left feeling confused and marginalised, so EiE rarely developed further than a passive mass network of supporters who were mobilised for key national or local events.
What could have been achieved?
At the time, Socialist Alternative was arguing for the formation of local democratic assemblies of supporters, open to all. We proposed broadening out EiE which could potentially also bring together everyone angry at and suffering from the crisis, be they young people fighting back against climate change, women and LGBTQ+ people resisting oppression and violence, those fighting back against racism, and many more. In EiE branches in Huddersfield and Leicester, Socialist Alternative members played leading roles and helped to ensure that EiE was an active and visible tool in interventions. This was achieved by organising picket visits, protests, and and other cost-of-living campaigns. In Leicester, a campaign was launched against the Labour-led council’s attempts to quadruple the District Heating bills for around 2,000 council tenants.
Equally importantly, we argued for the need to broaden out the five simple demands into a fighting programme which could take up all the ideas of socialism and mass resistance, including the call for wider coordination of the strikes and placing the call for a general strike at the centre of the movement. Inherent in the EiE campaign was the yearning for a new left wing socialist voice for working people, as activists became increasingly frustrated with Starmer’s backsliding, but local groups were instructed by the EiE leadership that this was NOT an alternative political movement. This was not how thousands of activists saw things on the ground, but many in the leadership of EiE remained wedded to the Labour Party.
After such promising beginnings, the national EiE campaign started to fizzle out and by the end of 2022, was already being wound down. At best it became a cheerleader for the strike wave and at worst was reduced to urging local groups to collect donations for food banks. The leadership was torn between its radical message of mass resistance and being afraid of upsetting the Labour and Trade Union hierarchy. EiE remained caught on the horns of this dilemma and has now almost disappeared from view.
What can we learn from the campaign?
One year after its launch, it is vital that we draw on these lessons. EiE showed the huge potential for a mass movement of resistance, based on local groups in every town and city of the UK. This potential was wasted by its leadership, but out of it, many trade union activists at a rank and file level are beginning to come together, such as the Troublemakers Conference held in July this year and the Workers Summit held in September. The rank and file groups, ‘NHS Workers Say No and Educators Say NO’ are also drawing together education and health workers who will be continuing the fight for better pay and funding. Some EiE branches are still continuing work, such as Luton, and in Huddersfield, where they are building for a protest against gender violence and transphobia on 25 November