Kevin Courtney, Deputy General-Secretary of the NUT, spoke at a meeting at the Marxism Festival a few weeks ago. See here for a summary of what he said. He was followed by Laura Miles from the National Executive Committee of the UCU and secretary of UCU Left. Her contribution is summarised below.
The key question facing us at the moment is about beating the Tories and after the strikes on 30 June this is really possible. 30 June has changed the political landscape. The organised working class is back. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, tried to get mums to keep schools open and it failed miserably.
A lot has happened in a short space of time. Following on from the series of protests across the country last year at council buildings when they passed 'cuts budgets' came the UCU/NUS demonstration on 10 November 2010. There were around 50,000 people on the march and a brilliant turnout at the protest at Tory Party headquarters in Millbank. This was then followed by a lobby of parliament and demonstration on 9 December. After that there were demonstrations in Manchester and London called by the UCU and the Education Activist Network. On 26 March of this year there was the demonstration in London organised by the TUC and now we have had co-ordinated strikes on 30 June.
This is not the end, however, we have a long way to go before we beat the Con-Dems and stop the cuts. It is not helped by 'Ed Milliscab' saying we were wrong to go on strike and that we were falling into the government's trap! On 18 September there will be a protest at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Birmingham and on 2 October there will be a protest at the Tory Party Conference in Manchester. We should mobilise people to attend those demonstrations, push our unions to 'name the day' of the next wave of strike action and argue for the slogan 'walk out, stay out'. We need to set-up local organising groups that involve anti-cuts groups and trade union branches.
There is everything to play for. There was almost unanimous support for a general strike at the UCU Conference. The potential prize for us is not a repeat of 30 June but bringing out also GMB, Unison and Unite and using this as a springboard for a general strike.
Laura Miles was followed by Caroline Johnson, Assisstant Branch Secretary of Birmingham Unison, whose branch were on strike on 30 June. She summed up her contribution as follows: We need leaders in every workplace. We need to rebuild working class organisation. We need reps in every workplace. Activists should get contact details from every picket line and use them to build networks of activists that can push the struggle forward.
There was then a series of contributions from the floor:
The first speaker responded to Kevin Courtney by saying that for most people it is not just about pensions but about cuts too. When Mary Bousted, General-Secretary of the ATL union attacked Ed Milliband and bankers at the Unite the Resistance rally in London, she got the biggest round of applause of the night.
Karen Reissman, a nurse and victimised trade unionist said do not think that Unison and other unions are simply rubbish and will not strike. Unison did not want to call a demonstration on 26 March but once they did they mobilised for it and got the biggest turnout of any union. Dave Prentis may not mean what he says, when he makes grand speeches about the greatest wave of strike action since the general strike of 1926, but he is creating a space where activists can make it hard for him to back down.