Monday, 8 March 2010

Civil service workers on strike: a fight for the whole public sector

Katherine Connelly, a PCS trade union member, has written an excellent article, 'Why we're right to strike', for the new Counterfire website (launched today). More than a quarter of a million PCS members are striking in defence of their pensions today and tomorrow. She explains:

'If we do not resist now, whichever party gets into government in May will feel confident about unleashing the even more painful cuts they felt would be too unpopular to talk much about before the election. If we do resist we can insist that the government starts looking elsewhere for money, starting perhaps with the greedy rich who have avoided paying over £130bn in uncollected tax (and that’s not including Lord Ashcroft!). No need to save £500m from the contractual rights of poorly paid civil servants if that was collected from people who should not have that money in the first place!

If they get away with attacking the compensation scheme, with cutting jobs and privatisation it will give every employer the confidence to do the same. That is why solidarity is so important. On 24th April 2008 teachers, lecturers, council workers and civil servants struck and marched together to resist pay cuts. This is the kind of action we need now. In the meantime it is important to provide solidarity to the workers in the civil service.'

Counterfire, to which I'm a contributor, has a wide range of material online already. The launch date is significant: not only is it a day of national strike action, it is the centenary of the first International Women's Day. Brendan Montague's profile of revolutionary Inessa Armand and Lindsey German's proposed manifesto for 21st century feminism are linked to this occasion.

The site has a big focus on imperialism, and resistance to imperialism, with an account by John Rees of Israel's anxieties about the level of pro-Palestinian solidarity in this country, plus there are articles about Joe Glenton and Iraq. The site already has a number of substantial theoretical articles in the pipeline, including Chris Nineham's 'Anti-capitalism: ten years after Seattle' and Neil Faulkner's wide-ranging 'The workers, the unions and the crisis'.

Counterfire is an ambitious attempt to combine fresh news, opinion, reviews, theory and video all in one site, with a strong orientation on real-world campaigning. This will be obvious from the homepage, with its four main sections: news, events, features and theory. As the site's press statement puts it: 'Counterfire is a news and theory website from the movements, for the movements.'

Also see The Sauce.


  1. It looks like a really well put together website to me. Certainly a step up technically and the content looks like good stuff too - politically well targeted and not too preachy.

    However I do have a bit of a problem with the fact that it claims to be a "website from the movements, for the movements." This is of course not a completely untrue statement. I've no doubt that you (and the others involved) are indeed all participants in various movements. However, it fails to mention that you have all (I assume) come from a very particular place - out of the SWP.

    To me it also sets up an expectation that you are in favour of some sort of relatively open and pluralistic political organisation. Now maybe you have all changed your minds but I thought that you believed in the need for a centralised politicly narrow Marxist party?

    minor point: the RSS feed seems to be pointing to broken links at the moment

  2. We'll have to see what happens, Joseph. That depends partly on how people who've never been in the SWP shape its direction.

    It would, I have to say, be odd if we founding editors defined ourselves according to the organisation we used to be members of. We'd rather look ahead. Also, it will be obvious from going through the content that we're coming from the left wing of the movements. The Marxist character of those initiating and guiding the site will be increasingly apparent as more theoretical work is put online.

  3. You didn't leave the SWP because you disagreed with the notion of a trotskyist democratic-centralist revolutionary party though did you. None of the arguments in the 'left-faction' debate questioned the priority of the 'revolutionary party' over broader radical organisation.

    Anyway, I honestly wish you good luck - the website is looking good so far and I hope it goes on to develop into a energetic network with no entrenched 'leaders'.