Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Coalition Government Faces Mass Trades Union Opposition to Public Sector Cuts Plan

On Saturday I joined the protest march through London opposing the Coalition Government's austerity programme. This was no standard march, it's organisers, the TUC, said there were almost a quarter of a million people on it, I could well believe it. Our contingent, from Edinburgh, took nearly 5 hours to walk just three miles from the Embankment to Hyde Park and at no stage could we see the beginning or end of the parade.

It was a magnificent display of strength by the much ignored British trade union movement. It was uplifting to be part of it and illustrated again just what the TUC is capable of when it gives a clear and uncompromising lead.

Not only was the protest huge, colourful and vibrant, it was clear that there were tens of thousands who had never been on such a march before. It was the largest protest of it's kind since 2003 and the outbreak of war in Iraq.

Our message was also clear. These cuts are unfair, they are vindictive and politically charged. The current economic crisis was precipitated by the greed and recklessness of Britain's private finance industry. These self styled 'Masters of the Universe' insist they are so important to world capitalism that they are 'too big to fail'. What they mean of course is that they are too big for governments to allow to fail and therefore public money, vast amounts of public money, must be found to bail them out every time they go bust.

Sadly all four capitalist parties in Scotland agree with them. They all accept that the public purse must be emptied to stop private banks going to the wall. That public money is currently being spent on far better causes - caring for the sick and vulnerable, educating people, housing the homeless and feeding the hungry.

These cuts are both brutal and unnecessary. To balance the books we should stop spending £100bn on Trident, stop allowing the rich to evade taxes, stop occupying Afghanistan and stop bombing innocent Libyan civilians.

Of course, the issue goes far deeper. The Liberals and Tories are ideologically opposed to the public sector. They prefer private individuals and unaccountable companies to deliver services and employ people. They have no qualms about the services being sub-standard and the wages being woeful. They don't use them nor do they work to provide them.

The TUC now has to consider what it does next. Saying 'Wait for a Labour Government' simply wont do. We had one of those before and they were useless. It is pointless and defeatist to repeat that mantra and gets us nowhere, not least because Labour also favours cuts. So it's over to you Brendan Barber!

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