Boris Johnson’s outrageous attack on democracy is not illegal. Strikes to stop it are. What does that tell you about the law?
Free Our Unions does not have a position on Brexit [unlike The Clarion]; our supporters hold a range of views on it. However, we are calling for workers and the labour movement to resist and defeat the Tories’ coup against Parliament.
We are encouraging trade unionists to sign the ‘Trade Unionists Against the Coup’ statement and use it to coordinate organising and action.
The elements of democracy we have won are limited and already much eroded. Spaces and footholds for workers to organise and fight – not Parliament – are the most important of them. But the power of Parliament is important; its diminishing and downgrading by an empowered executive dominated by the radical right will decrease the space for workers to defend and expand our rights.
It would be absurd to think that greater freedom of action for the government and a toxic political culture entrenched by the consolidation of a more right-wing authoritarian regime will not be turned against workers’ rights. The Tory Brexiteers have made it abundantly clear that post-Brexit they are planning a renewed assault on workers.
We reject the suggestion made by some in the labour movement that the European Union is the fundamental mechanism for defending workers’ rights in Britain. The fundamental mechanism is workers’ own organisation and struggles – which is why repealing all the anti-union/anti-strike laws and replacing them with strong workers’ rights is so essential.
Equally, we reject glib dismissal of the benefits workers have gained from EU membership and the Tories’ desire to escape these restrictions. But our demand is not just maintaining minimal EU-mandated rights, but at the very least levelling up of all workers’ rights across Europe – so that, for instance, we have the same right to strike as workers in France.
We call on unions, the Labour Party and the whole labour movement, at every level, to mobilise against the coup, including by joining and organising demonstrations. We want to see numerous union and Labour Party banners at the next Saturday demonstration. Ideally Labour and the TUC should call a demonstration together and bring hundreds of thousands onto the streets.
Industrial action against the coup is necessary. Obviously, such action is restricted by the anti-union laws and difficult for a number of reasons. As with other burning issues like climate change, the Johnson regime’s attack on democracy poses the need to bend and push against the limits of the law. Workers and unions should discuss what is possible. The whole movement must support and defend any group of workers who take action against the coup.
This situation once again poses the need for a pro-active campaign to scrap the anti-union laws so that workers can take industrial action for political goals and quickly, easily and effectively.
Mobilise to defeat the coup! And let’s not just defend democracy, but extend it, including by extending workers’ rights and above all the right to strike. If there is a general election, we must ensure that repealing all anti-union laws and replacing them with strong positive rights is part of Labour’s manifesto.