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Volume 53 Number 4, February 4, 2023 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Mass Rallies Held as Teachers Begin Strike Action
along with Other Sections of Working People

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Mass Rallies Held as Teachers Begin Strike Action along with Other Sections of Working People

For Your Information:
On the Slogan "Enough Is Enough"

74th Anniversary of the Republic of India, January 26, 1950:
People of India Continue to Lay Their Claims

Mass Rallies Held as Teachers Begin Strike Action
along with Other Sections of Working People

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, with teachers ahead of the teachers strike.

Over 100,000 teachers in England and Wales (with some estimates quoting double this figure) began their biggest wave of strike action on 30 years on February 1, with 85% of schools across the country affected, according to the National Education Union (NEU).

Striking teachers in London - photo: SchoolsWeek

The strike was part of a coordinated day of strikes, dubbed "Walkout Wednesday" and what the TUC has called the biggest day of strike action since 2011, which also saw action held by university lecturers, university and college librarians, security guards, border force workers, and train and bus drivers. The disputes centre on pensions, pay, jobs and conditions, and the future of public services and social programmes. It is estimated that about half a million workers were on strike. The affirmation that "Enough is Enough" has been the spark to signify that the working class is determined to take centre stage. Significantly, the actions were held the day after over a million people demonstrated in France over attacks to state pensions.

Teachers specifically are demanding a fully-funded pay increase to counter the combined effect of recent rising inflation on top of ten years' worth of real-term pay cuts. According to the NEU, "pay cuts and high workload are hitting teacher recruitment and retention hard, causing real damage to education".

Teachers are questioning the very future of education that is being unsustainably underfunded and undermined. As well as a pay level that has fallen 23% in real terms since 2010, leaving some teachers in desperate conditions, teachers cite rising class sizes, access to support for special educational needs, a crisis in recruitment and retention of staff, schools that are in a state of disrepair to the point of real danger, and so on. The conditions are pointing in the direction of the need to ask what kind of education system is required, and that it is with teachers themselves that the solution to the crisis lies.

Striking teachers in London - photo: SchoolsWeek

Teachers and other striking workers organised demonstrations in various towns and cities. Thousands of people gathered in London to march to Downing Street and Whitehall to, in particular, speak out in opposition to the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, which seeks to restrict the ability of workers to defend themselves yet further. The "Enough is Enough" campaign in particular called on workers to join in the opposition to this anti-worker, anti-social Bill, and took action on February 1.

Among other large demonstrations was that in Bristol on February 1 when approaching 6,000 teachers took to the streets. After gathering at College Green, the striking teachers marched to the city centre for a lively rally. "The fundamental reason we're striking today is not just because of pay conditions," said one teacher, quoted by the Bristol Post. "It's the complete and utter lack of funding in education, which is single-handedly destroying the system and those that put every effort to educate our children."

Upholding the right to strike, over a thousand people gathered in Cardiff city centre on February 1. Many militant speeches were made attacking the government and its anti-trade union policies. More demonstrations are planned, as the people of Wales stand up to defend their rights.

In Oxford, hundreds assembled at New Inn Hall Street, marched through the city, and after passing the iconic Radcliffe Camera library building, held a rally on Broad Street.

Lucy Coleman, joint Oxfordshire branch secretary of the NEU, said: "Teachers are leaving and we are finding it impossible to recruit both teachers and support staff," pointing out that "people here today include teachers, university lecturers, parents and school pupils."

March and rally in Bristol, February 1st

"The real impact of the lack of government funding for schools over the past 12 years is pupils are not getting the education they deserve," she added.

Nearly 300 teachers and concerned people rallied in St Thomas Square, Newport, on the Isle of Wight. The rally was vibrant with short speeches from the participants and solidarity messages from other trade unions.

The gathering was characterised by serious discussion among teachers and other participants, such as the role of teachers, the nature of what they do, and the state of the education system today. A poem, enthusiastically and eloquently delivered from the platform on this very subject by a young teacher, was well-received by the participants. Other discussions were around issues such as how the unions can strengthen their coordinated defence and organisation in the face of attacks, in conditions where government is arbitrary and refuses to negotiate.

February 1 was the first of seven days of action. Further strikes have been planned for February 14 and 28, and March 1, 2, 15 and 16. Joint general secretaries of the NEU, Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted, said that Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, "has until our next strike day for England, February 28, to change her stance. NEU members do not want to go on strike again. They want constructive talks that deal directly with the long-standing concerns they experience in their schools and colleges every day. So that they can get back to doing what they do best, working with pupils in the classroom."

"However, be in no doubt that our members will do whatever it takes to stand up for education, including further strike action, if Gillian Keegan still fails to step up with concrete and meaningful proposals."

Agreements to Negotiate

RCN striking nurses

Welsh Ambulance Service strikes were suspended after the Senedd made a pay offer of both a consolidated and non-consolidated one off payment for 1922/23 - on top of the already imposed 4.5 per cent. The Welsh Government has confirmed negotiations for 23/24 will begin almost immediately. Almost 1,500 workers across the country had been due to walk in on Monday, February 6. This follows intense negotiations between GMB and the Welsh Government and Welsh Ambulance.

Strike action set for February 7 by Royal College of Midwives (RCM) members across Wales has been paused following a new pay offer from the Welsh government. The RCM will also be suspending action short of a strike planned for February 7-14. The RCM will now be moving quickly to consult its midwife and maternity support worker members on the new offer, which followed talks with the Welsh Government yesterday and today. Further talks are planned to address issues around staffing shortages, working conditions and pressures on services.

TSSA members involved in the dispute over pay and pensions on London's Elizabeth Line have agreed to suspend industrial action until the beginning of March. This follows a one-day walkout by members on January 12, which halted large parts of Transport for London's flagship route, with action short of a strike ongoing from that date. This was the first industrial action on the line since it opened in May 2022.

(Sources: Workers' Weekly reporters, Bristol Post, Evening Standard, Oxford Mail.)


PCS Home Office picket

PCS rally, Buchanan Street, Glasgow

PCS picket, Shetland Coastguard

Article Index

For Your Information

On the Slogan "Enough Is Enough"

The slogan: "We Demand Better: Enough Is Enough" was issued by the TUC (Trades Union Congress) in Britain for the "We Demand Better" demonstration on June 18, 2022, which was organised by the TUC. For this demonstration, the following demands were articulated: A real pay rise for every worker - and a real living wage for all; Respect and security for all workers - ban zero hours contracts, ban fire and rehire, decent sick pay now; End racism at work; Tax energy profits to pay our bills; Raise universal credit; Boost union bargaining rights now.

The RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport) union in particular was hailed by the trade union movement as embodying this call, as well as the Fire Brigades Union, and taking the stand, "we refuse to be poor". This was re-emphasised at the Durham Miners Gala, which followed on July 9, when Mick Lynch, the leader of the RMT, put forward that "We're back. The working class is back. We refuse to be meek, we refuse to be humble and we refuse to be poor any more." A feature of the 2022 Gala was that for the first time no MPs were invited to speak or be on the platform, signalling that the "Enough Is Enough" direction was to be a stand of the workers' movement itself, and not something to be achieved through the Labour Party. There was, however, little indication of the future, what the aims of the movement were, apart from the refusal to bear the assault of wages and conditions in the cost-of-living crisis. In that sense, it was a step back from the traditions of the miners' movement that "The Future Is In Your Hands". But it was evident that "Enough is Enough" had touched a nerve.

Following this, the "Enough is Enough!" Campaign was launched formally on August 17, Mick Lynch being the key figure, with the subsidiary slogan of "It's time to turn anger into action" and that "Enough is Enough" is "a campaign to fight the cost of living crisis". It was said that the campaign had been launched by trade unions, community organisations and MPs. The Enough is Enough website set out five demands: A real pay rise; Slash energy bills; End food poverty; Decent homes for all; Tax the rich.

The campaign's website says that it was founded by "trade unions and community organisations determined to push back against the misery forced on millions by rising bills, low wages, food poverty, shoddy housing - and a society run only for a wealthy elite". The campaign does not appear to have membership as such, and you can "join the campaign" through the website and be in receipt of information about events. Its message is: "We can't rely on the establishment to solve our problems. It's up to us in every workplace and every community."

There were a series of rallies which followed, but it is the impact of the slogan which seems to have endured. On October 1 there were a series of demonstrations inspired by "Enough is Enough", as we said, "from Plymouth to Glasgow".

The campaign itself is now focusing on defending the "right to strike", in opposition to the government's Minimum Services Bill. The "Enough Is Enough" website says: "The right to strike is under threat. New legislation proposed by the Tory government intends to override a workers' right to withdraw their labour, forcing them to work against their will. The right to strike is a fundamental democratic right. It underpins our ability to win dignity in the workplace and earn a decent standard of living. It is no accident that this right is under attack at the very moment the public is fighting back against the cost-of-living squeeze. This government is determined to force workers to pay the price for a crisis caused by the greed of the elite yet again. We won't accept it." A petition has attracted over 150,000 signatures.


Article Index

74th Anniversary of the Republic of India, January 26, 1950

People of India Continue to Lay Their Claims

J Singh

Farmers' Mahapanchayat in Jind on Republic Day, January 26, 2023

January 26 marked the 74th anniversary of the promulgation of the Indian Constitution - Republic Day. The President, the Prime Minister and other representatives of the ruling elite, many of them billionaires, made very tall claims as usual to hoodwink the people and hide the basic facts about the Constitution, constitution-making and the clash between Conditions and Authority. While disinformation and deception were being dished out with great fanfare, farmers across the country held Mahapanchayats and rallies to protest against the ruling elite, their state and government, shouting slogans Kisan Mazdoor Ekta Zindabad, Faslon Ke Faisle Kisan Karega (Long live farmer-worker unity. The farmers will make decisions about their crops).

A Constituent Assembly was created in 1946 by order of the British. Only 10 per cent of the population had the right to vote based on property, status and education. Of those designated voters, close to 50 per cent did not vote. Elections were held for assemblies and members of assemblies elected members of the Constituent Assembly. Most of the members were collaborators of the British or their representatives such as Zamindars they created, landlords, Rajas, Maharajas, money lenders, and Tatas and Birlas, who voted to create a constitution for 400 million people. It was not a representative body of the people of India by any stretch of the imagination. The total strength of the assembly was 389 so-called representatives, most of them from upper castes and supporters of Brahmin supremacy. The peoples of India did not have any say in the framing of the Constitution.

Farmers' Mahapanchayat in Jind, part of country-wide farmers' actions on Republic Day, January 26, 2023

It was no surprise to see that the new constitution was more than 90 per cent comprised of the old Government of India Act of 1935 imposed by the British Imperial Parliament. The colonial laws and penal system were kept intact. Due to the force of the independence movement the framers were forced to give certain concessions, such as universal suffrage, reservations, the right to organise trade unions and certain other civil rights in Articles 19 and 21. The high sounding Preamble and the Directive Principles were all amalgamated from the constitutions of liberal democracies here and there but they are not justiciable - they cannot be used to hold government officials to account because they are just policy objectives.

All the concessions and rights that the people gained since then by shedding torrents of blood are under attack by the ruling elite under this or that pretext. For example, the reservation quotas (a system to provide historically disadvantaged groups representation in education, employment, government schemes, scholarships and politics) have never been fulfilled but they are being attacked by the ruling elite. The Right to Be and Right to Conscience are not enshrined in the Constitution. Even though they belong to the people by virtue of being human, these rights are violated as a matter of course. The people's conscience has been criminalised continuously from the time of first Prime Minister Nehru to the present. One just has to read the official reports of the Home Ministry to see that Delhi has always behaved like Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. More than 200,000 people were killed in Hyderabad in a police action in 1948-1951. Nehru dissolved a duly elected government in Kerala in 19 59 and Indira Gandhi treated states as her vassals, declared a state of emergency and carried out genocide in Punjab. Rajiv Gandhi continued the genocide and even banned poems and songs under the black laws like the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act. Manmohan Singh carried out Operation Green Hunt and, like Aurangzeb, the present dispensation besides other crimes that it has carried out against the people, has banned cartoons, books and movies.

Tractor march in West Bengal, January 26, 2023

In a statement which made it clear who the Indian Constitution would serve, the British Prime Minister Attlee stated in 1947 that "British commercial and industrial interests can look forward to a fair field for their enterprise in the changed conditions". In other words the colonial rule will continue without the colonialists. In 1947, the British investment in India was £3.3 billion. It has increased to £27 billion in the last 74 years and the collaborators of the British in India have invested in Britain with a turnover of £56 billion over the years. No wonder it has been called "From British Raj To Billionaire Raj". Today it is being done under the banner of Hindutva - a concept of "Indian cultural, national, and religious identity" under which the "true Indian" is one who partakes of this "Hindu-ness". At the time the republic was constituted the conception was of "Secularism and Socialism" which, in the hands of the ruling class opened the path for what exists today.

The latest reports point out that in this Billionaire Raj, 21 people in India own more wealth than 700 million people and close to 800 million people receive rations from the government because they are destitute. They have been reduced to beggars. The ruling elite of India and Britain are planning a Free Trade Agreement to further fleece the people of India and their natural resources. Economists estimate that the British ruling elite stole more than £38 trillion from India but the rulers of India, who do not get tired of shouting slogans against colonialism, are once again giving them free rein to plunder India. So too the United States has declared an Indo-Pacific Strategy that highlights relations with India as a means of pitting it against China and isolating China.

The last 74 years of the Republic have seen more than 65,000 incidents of state sanctioned communal violence and countless atrocities against Dalit women and men. Massive violations of rights across the country continue to take place with impunity. The Republic of India has become a prison of nations, nationalities and forest dwellers, to hand over their resources to Adani, Ambani, Tata and other members of the ruling elite. Many areas have been under army occupation for decades. Degradation of the natural environment, poisoning the air, water and soil endanger the health of millions people.

These conditions have given rise to massive revolts of people as seen in the farmers' Morchas on Delhi's borders for 14 months and the farmers' determination to continue their struggles until they achieve their aim of Faslon Ke Faisley Kisan Karega. Workers, women, Dalits, teachers, office workers, youth, artists and all the toilers have raised the banner of struggle for the affirmation of their rights.

It has also deepened the crisis of credibility and legitimacy of the political process, lack of confidence and rejection of the cartel parties of the ruling elite and the institutions governed by narrow private interests. In every protest, people do not want leaders of what are called political parties but act as mafia gangs to come there. After the 14 months of Kisan University on the borders of Delhi, a consciousness has been brought home to people that they have to take matters into their own hands, to solve their problems and affirm their rights. They are doing so on the basis of mass democracy, where everyone discusses and decides the course of action they will take. They are greeting the 74th anniversary of the Republic with great resolve and determination to continue their struggles for renewal and renovation.

Massive Kisan Mahapanchayats in Jind, Haryana and Kokri Kalan, Punjab brought hundreds of thousands of farmers and other people to protest betrayal of promises by the Modi government. They repeated their demand for a minimum support price (MSP) for all India and to make a law that the produce be bought at MSP. Kokari Kalan is a historic place. It was a centre of Ghadar Party. Farmers and other toilers, teachers, artists, doctors, scientists discussed major problems they face. They expressed their total distrust in the leaders of political parties and called upon people to take matters in their own hands. They are refusing to be reduced to just voting cattle and to become powerless the moment they cast their vote. They want to renew the political process and all other relations between humans and humans and humans and nature. I am reminded of Maithali Sharan Gupt, the great Hindi poet, who wrote:

Aao Vicharen Rashtra Ki Samasayen Sabhi
(Let's all deliberate on problems of our country)

Photos: R. Azad, K. Sundar.

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