In a contribution to the Guardian on Sunday, 19 December, Len McCluskey, the General Secretary of the powerful trade union Unite, called for co-ordinated action between students and trade unions against the public sector cuts of the Con-Dem government. Unless trade unions follow the students’ example of resistance, these cuts could not be stopped. ‘It is our responsibility’, he argued, ‘not just to our members but to the wider society that we defend our welfare state and our industrial future against this unprecedented assault’.
He clearly refers to the ideological dimension of these cuts, ‘completing Thatcherism’s unfinished business by strangling the welfare state’. If the budget deficit was regarded as such a drastic problem, then a positive growth and tax justice programme could address it. In other words, there are clear alternatives to the current cutbacks.
This is a welcome intervention by the General Secretary of the biggest trade union in the UK. Only co-ordinated action between trade unions, students and other sections of society will be able to defend the welfare state. It will be interesting to see to what extent these words will lead to concrete activities in the months to come.
Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK
Personal website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/~ldzab
21 December 2010