Wednesday 24 November 2010

Unite leader calls for mass "alliance of resistance" to smash cuts

Len McCluskey, newly elected leader of Britain's biggest trade union, today called for an "alliance of resistance" to stop the ConDem government's cuts to public services and welfare.

McCluskey, the new general secretary of Unite, said there is even greater anger developing than at the time of the poll tax demonstrations twenty years ago.

Speaking about the government's massive programme of cuts, he said:

"I feel passionate about it. I will stand on the rooftops and shout about it and we will do everything in our power to resist it. We will join together the public and private sector workers."

McCluskey acknowledged the rapid growth of grassroots campaigning against the cuts. He said:

"Already there are hundreds and hundreds of coalition cuts committees springing up all over the UK. I am interested in building an alliance of resistance. We have got to make certain that the demonstration being planned by the TUC for March is so big it rocks the establishment and makes them step back".

In an interview with The Guardian, published as thousands of students and school students protested against cuts and higher tuition fees around the country, McCluskey warned of the scale of the attacks. He stressed the need for a large-scale and co-ordinated response.

He said:

"I am not interested in subtlety. I understand what is happening to ordinary working people – their jobs are being lost their families and their future of children are being threatened, their houses are being repossessed and they are looking around for someone to give them help.

There is an anger building up the likes of which we have not seen in our country since the poll tax. I can feel something stronger than that building so it is the responsibility of the trades unions more than anyone else to give some guidance to that anger and put it in a manner that will hopefully make the government take a step back.

We have got to make people believe that people power can do anything because that is what the history of our movement tells us and indeed that is what the history of the world tells us."

Significantly, McCluskey indicated he may be willing to sanction illegal strikes. Citing Mandela, Ghandi and the suffagettes as inspirations, the former Liverpool docker said:

"Do I believe the law is sacrosanct? Absolutely I do not. If there are bad laws not only is it right to oppose them but your duty to do so."

He made it clear the whole union movement will have to mount a serious response to cuts:

"We have to be brave enough; this is no time for cowering in the corner, this is no time for lying down and letting people tickle our tummy – this is time to be proud of our traditions and values and stand up and fight them."

Many trade union activists, students and campaigners who also want a fightback are gathering this Saturday, at the Coalition of Resistance national conference, to plan the next steps and co-ordinate campaigning.


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