The TUC General Council is supposed to be committed to investigating the practicalities of a general strike. Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey asked the crowd in Hyde Park on Saturday if they wanted a general strike. and got a resounding yes.
The National Shop Stewards Network and the Socialist Party are asking the TUC to name the day. In fact we already have a day: 14 November. As things stand, there are plans for simultaneous general strikes in five countries, three major —Spain, Portugal and Greece — two minor — Cyprus and Malta.
Saturday‘s large CGIL rally in Rome heard calls for a general strike from the crowd in Piazza San Giovanni — unfortunately, CGIL general secretary Susanna Camusso has said that she needs to discuss this with the leaders of the CISL and UIL, who are likely to sabotage plans for Italian involvement; CISL did not even participate in the recent Italian public sector general strike.
If this international general strike goes ahead, it will be unprecedented in the history of the European labour movement. The only previous attempt at something of this sort — on the initiative of the Comintern in July 1919 — flopped due to the last minute treachery of the leaders of the French CGT and of many, but not all, Italian trade unions.
The bosses’ austerity offensive is being conducted on a European scale. Our response must be European, not national. The EU/ECB/IMF Troika can not be beaten in one country. Nor can the UK escape from the austerity agenda by simply withdrawing from the EU as certain of our more militant union leaders — the RMT executive in particular — believe. An independent capitalist Britain would be more closely linked to the American neo-liberal agenda , rabidly hostile to trade unions and the welfare state.
Equally an independent capitalist Scotland, like an independent capitalist Catalonia , is a blind alley. The problem is not the English or the Castilians but international capitalism.
The ETUC is committed to a “day of action” against austerity on 14 November. Whilst its demands and plans are, predictably, inadequate, we must take advantage of this call to urge the maximum of solidarity action with our brothers and sisters in Southern Europe.
Even if we can not push the union leaders into calling for a general strike in the United Kingdom, we must make sure that as many activists as possible are aware of what is going on across the channel and that any “day of action” over here is not limited to some poorly attended lunch time rallies in a handful of locations.