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Strike the Streets: Can Britannia Rise Again?

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June 30: A National Day of Action Against the Incompetent Tory-Led Coalition and Its Savage Ideological Cuts
A poster produced by the Education Activist Network for the strike/day of action against government cuts and austerity measures on June 30, 2011.Next Thursday, June 30, is the first big day of action involving widespread strikes since the coalition government began its miserable assault on the state after the General Election last May.
 
750,000 public sector workers from the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), the National Union of Teachers (NUT), the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the University and College Union (UCU) will take part in a one-day walkout, primarily over the government’s planned pension reforms, which will almost certainly be the trigger for further strikes in the autumn.
 
As the Guardian explained, the day of action “is expected to bring schools, colleges, universities, courts, ports and jobcentres to a standstill, and comes as millions of staff face pay freezes, job losses and pension reforms.”
 
Speaking to the Guardian last week, Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, the largest public sector union, with 1.4 million members, was already discussing a possible follow-up.
 
Although he is hoping for a negotiated settlement with the government over pension reforms and other pressing issues of concern to Unison members, and is not taking part in the action on June 30, he “described plans for waves of strike action, with public services shut down on a daily basis, rolling from one region to the next and from sector to sector,” fuelled by “growing anger over a public sector pay freeze that could trigger more disputes further down the line,” and “changes [which] would unfairly penalise women, who form the majority of low-paid public sector workers.”
 
He told the Guardian, “It will be the biggest since the general strike. It won’t be the miners’ strike. We are going to win.”
 

Prentis’ warning to the government has not yet materialised, of course, but, crucially, the striking union workers who are committed to action on June 30 will be joined by many other people who will be using the day to campaign more broadly against the bitter fallout from the government’s largely indiscriminate austerity programme, which has prompted a steep decline in the government’s popularity over the last 12 months.

With schools across the country closed next Thursday, schoolchildren and university students are also expected to take part in the protests, reviving the spirit of resistance they summoned up before Christmas, in their stirring campaign against cuts to university funding, the near-tripling of fees and the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance, which, although ultimately unsuccessful (largely through the cowardice of Lib Dem MPs), showed how easy it was to politicize a generation.

As the Guardian explained, “school and college students are expected to stage walkouts” as “part of a growing wave of occupations and demonstrations planned to support the co-ordinated strike action organised by trade unions,” and are “mobilising in schools and further education colleges as part of a wider campaign to turn 30 June into a national day of action against the government’s austerity programme.”

Michael Chessum from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, which was a key player in last year’s protests, said, “It was the student movement before Christmas that really kicked many of the major unions into action, and we’ll be there again in force on 30 June. One of the successes of the student movement was that we abandoned passive, A-to-B marches in favour of direct action in the streets and on campuses. Mass strike action is the logical extension of that. We’re not here to protest; we’re here to actively resist.”

UK Uncut, the direct action group, will also be taking part in the day of action, “joining picket lines and staging a ‘public spectacular’ in London to coincide with the industrial action,” as the Guardian described it. On their website, support for the day of action was announced as  follows:

UK Uncut will be part of the “Big Society Breakfast,” joining striking teachers and public sector workers across the country to show support for the strikes. They are expected to join picket lines across the country, bringing breakfast to the striking staff and building links between local direct action groups and union members. The protests will highlight that the strikes by the unions are another form of direct action against the cuts being taken by people in towns and cities across the country. It’s predicted that strike action will grow rapidly towards the autumn and UK Uncut are vowing to support and build on the strike action with more direct action protest against tax avoiders and the banking system.

As the Guardian also stated, activists are hoping that a “wider campaign of demonstrations, occupations and walkouts will build a broad coalition of people opposed to the government’s programme of cuts,” and explain that they have “been inspired, in part, by protests across Europe over recent months –- particularly those in Spain and Greece.”

Preparing for June 30, various groups opposed to the government’s cuts have been holding a series of “J30 Assemblies” across the country under the slogan, “Generalise the Strike.” Please check out the Peoples Assemblies Network website for further information, and also see the website J30 Strike, which has details of actions across the country on June 30. Another group, the trade union-affiliated Right to Work, has organised more than 40 events to coincide with the strikes, and also see the website of the Education Activist Network for details of dozens of “Strike the Streets” protests on June 30. The EAN, which produced the poster used at the top of this article, is an alliance of student activists and trade unionists, which has been fighting against university funding cuts and a rise in tuition fees since February 2010.

OK, thats it for now. I hope to see you on the streets on June 30!

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

 

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