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The case for socialism (2013 version)

Socialist Party books and pamphlets

The case for socialism (2013 version)

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For a 24-hour general strike

For a twenty-four hour general strike

For a twenty-four hour general strike   (Click to enlarge)

However, the working class is potentially the most powerful force in society. Worldwide the working class today is a larger part of the population than it has ever been, far larger than it was 160 years ago when Karl Marx first described the role of the working class as the 'grave diggers of capitalism'.

In Britain and other economically advanced countries the working class makes up the overwhelming majority of the population.

Many sections of society, including teachers, lecturers and civil servants - who were relatively privileged in the past and saw themselves as middle class - are now low paid, overworked, and increasingly see themselves as part of the working class.

They are also beginning to draw the conclusion that the only way they can defend their pay and conditions is to use the traditional weapon of the working class - strike action.

A number of factors have limited the confidence of the working class to struggle in the last few years, perhaps particularly in Britain.

The collapse of the Stalinist regimes that existed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe was used by capitalism to launch an ideological offensive against socialism and to promote capitalism as the only possible way of running the world.

Many leaders of the labour movement and the trade unions capitulated under the weight of this offensive.

This led to a relative pushing back of the consciousness of the working class. Socialism is not yet seen as a viable alternative to capitalism to the degree that it was in the past.

This is changing on the basis of experience. And when the trade union leaders have given a lead in the struggle against austerity trade union members have followed enthusiastically, as was shown by the magnificent one-day public sector strike on 30 November 2011.

The betrayal of this strike by the leadership of the trade union movement, the TUC, has temporarily further undermined workers' confidence. However, endless austerity is pushing workers to take further action.

The role of the working class in production gives it enormous potential power. The Socialist Party believes the next step in the struggle against austerity should be a one-day general strike.

Last year's TUC congress, under huge pressure from below, agreed to consider such a strike, but the leadership of the TUC clearly hopes to 'consider' forever without actually calling action.

In the face of continuing austerity, however, there are growing demands for action from ordinary trade unionists which the right-wing trade union leaders will not be able to ignore indefinitely.

This is particularly so given the important role of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) in channelling workers' calls for action, and campaigning for all steps towards a general strike, including co-ordinated action between the more left-led unions.

Alongside fighting for the unions to take the lead in the struggle against austerity, we campaign for the democratisation of the trade unions, including for the election of full-time officials and for union leaders to take a worker's wage.

Opinion polls show that there would be huge support for a 24-hour general strike against austerity - not just from existing trade unionists, but from the unorganised, the unemployed, pensioners and small shopkeepers.

In particular such a strike would weld a new generation to the unions. Millions would flood into the trade union movement.

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