Dara O’Neill writes about the Communist Party of Britain’s new campaign aimed at tackling unemployment in Britain
The Communist Party’s Unemployment Fightback campaign launched last weekend on Saturday 29th. The rally, with speakers from the Communist Party, YCL, Unite, GMB, the RMT, War on Want and others, brought many parts of the labour and progressive movements together for a plan of unified action. The campaign not only to tackles the unemployment fall-out of the Covid Crisis, but also stresses that Britain cannot return to the neoliberal status-quo of before the pandemic. Workers are still suffering from the ongoing crises of capitalism and the drive by the ruling class towards precarious and casualised work.
Bill Greenshields and Mollie Brown, of the Communist Party Executive, began by placing the Covid Crisis in context of the crisis of neoliberal capitalism. They highlighted the fact that unemployment as we understand it, is a development of capitalism, and a necessity for capitalism to function. In a time of a stronger working class movement, our militancy once scared the ruling class. This militancy ensured full employment; but without overthrowing capitalism, the ruling class could regroup and launch a class war that has left the working class impoverished compared to the social-democratic period. “Unemployment will be with us for as long as we have capitalism. If you truly want to end unemployment, and not revisit this another generation down the line, you have to end capitalism.”
Jonny Butcher, from Sheffield Needs A Pay Rise campaign offered practical steps forward. His role is helping develop new Sheffield Model campaigns in other cities and regions. Using the example of Sheffield, he emphasised the importance of organising unorganised workers, who make up the vast majority of private sector and young workers. Unions need to push for organisation amongst precarious and casual workers, even with higher resource investment being required. Simply put “if we don’t organise these workers now we’ll only have a more difficult time in the future”, as these negative anti workers workplace practices will become more entrenched and will be used to undermine other workers. As an industry on the cutting edge of these precarious practices, hospitality has been one of the key sectors targeted by the campaign, working with the BFAWU to develop organising methods to supporting and develop every worker who gets involved, and help them organise there workplace.
The locally rooted nature of the Sheffield Model campaigns plays a key role in responding to local conditions and building around grassroots conditions, while linking it in with the best of existing trade union structures. It builds up a local movement and culture, meaning that workers continue to be involved and supported, even when they changed workplaces. This necessary adaption of organising techniques was developed in response to the high turnover ‘no job for life’ reality of modern workplaces. This way development and investment is not lost but goes with the worker to their new job. Sheffield Needs A Pay Rise is made possible by the coalition behind it, the BFAWU, Sheffield TUC and its affiliated unions, and the Sheffield community.
Johnnie Hunter, General Secretary of the YCL, spoke on the crisis of youth and the dead end ‘efforts‘ made by successive governments to improve youth employment and skills. Talking about the Young Communist League’s Youth Charter he raised the campaigning issues highlighted by the Charter’s 10 points. “This is not a programme for socialism, but demands that can win broad support in the working class, and the labour and progressive movements. But it is through the struggle to achieve these demands that the deeper questions of economic ownership come to be asked, as the connections between issues comes clear.” He emphasised that the campaign to end unemployment needs to incorporate investment and training, like the Green New Deal campaign, and demand for not only more jobs but better ones too.
Privatisation and outsourcing have been huge drivers of precarious working conditions and Johnson’s Tory government are determined to keep the plates of privatisation spinning. Mick Lynch, the RMT General Secretary, cut through the pretence that ‘Great British Railways’ is any attempt at public ownership but is really about “rebranding privitisation” with a name that sounds like nationalisation, but really only secures private profits. He added “precarious work is a new face of the same old exploitation, the same class struggle.” We need to resist this drive towards casualisation in whatever way it manifests across different sectors of the economy. In response we “need a joined up campaign” that is uniting workers. He identified the fact that some outsourcing companies now employ more people than those who outsource to them.
Next Saturday’s event is the second on the list and will start addressing the issues raised, analysing in practical terms what the working class can do in response. There will be a number of workshops addressing key areas of work. Andy Bain, the Communist Party’s Industrial Organiser, and former President of the TSSA, outlined some of these.
- The setting up of Sheffield Model campaigns in other cities and areas.
- Renewal of the Trades Council’s movement, which was historically the centre of militancy in the wider labour movement.
- Developing new forms of solidarity organisations, especially around precarious workers and the unemployed.
- How to draw campaigns and unions together for common action both locally and nationally.
If you want to get involved, join us on Saturday 5th June at 11am to shape the next steps of organising the Unemployment Fightback across Britain and learn what you can do in your area.
If you can’t make the 5th, look out for future Unemployment Fightback events in the future in your area
Dara O’Neill, is the YCL’s NW Chair and Co-founder Sheffield Needs A Pay Rise