Amid the flinching of the Lib Dems and the sneering of the Tories, the unions are preparing to flex their muscles today as a planned 2.6 million of their members take strike action over government proposals to increase pension contributions and decrease final pension payouts. The more knowledgeable observer will know that there is far more at stake than pensions. Public and private sector workers are flexing their democratic muscles in order to oppose the ideologically motivated austerity measures. It is only because harsh anti-union laws forbid strike action on matters not directly related to pay and conditions that the flashpoint has to be fought over the issue of pensions.
A casual glance at the usual suspects- the right wing daily papers- shows, unsurprisingly, that the dog is waging his tail with fully excitement: these newspapers give succour to their wealthy backers by harping on about the apocalyptic levels of disruption and inconvenience the unions will cause by way of their one day action. Naturally, there is no mention of the years of inconvenience and disruption caused to this country by the bankers’ screw ups or by the illegal and immoral US led interventions to which we are made to tag along.
Last night, I attended a talk by Tim Gee, the author of ‘Counterpower’, a recently released book showing how the ‘have-nots’ (aka the 99%) have the power to resist the authority of the ‘haves’ (aka the 1%). ‘Counterpower’ is the term given to the force that can be wielded by peoples’ movements in opposition to the forces of the ruling elite.
This is happening already. The Occupy movement, still growing each week, has ceased being viewed as a mere sideshow and is now seen as a threat to the authority of those in charge. Peaceful direct action is making those at the top jittery. They have responded by invoking their most time honoured methods of dealing with subversion- oppression and brutality by way of law enforcement- in order to safeguard their own positions. The answer to why the powerful and wealthy are so afraid is simple: there are 99 of us for every one of them. On top of that, by being entirely peaceful, the Occupy movement is not playing into their game of violence (the ruling elites look for any excuse to unleash a torrent of police brutality). In the US, on the 14th and 15th of November, the mayors of Oakland and New York ordered their police forces to evict the occupiers. The police in New York must have been particularly frightened of the peaceful demonstrators, as the list of those they assaulted included an 84 year old woman whom they had pepper sprayed. As result of the outrage over the violent evictions, even more people came out onto the streets to protest. Be it a school, a workplace or a nation, bullies will be bullies, but they are in the minority and exist only until they are stood up to.
Anti apartheid activist Steve Biko summed up the situation in his writings ‘The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed’
The myth that we can obtain democracy solely through the ballot box is exactly that- a myth. Most of the rights we take for granted in the Western world- freedom from slavery, universal suffrage, the 8 hour day, weekends, pensions, laws preventing child exploitation, and employment protection rights- have only been won through the determination and bravery of committed individuals willing to challenge those in charge who, as history shows, will resort to extreme measures to avoid ceding power to those below. The unions, amongst other movements, led the fight for our rights. Each inch of liberty and self determination was paid for with the lives of those brave enough to challenge injustice. What we have today is thanks to individuals who were willing to die, go to prison or take direct action (which sometimes included destruction of property and sparing with the law enforcement servants of the ruling class).
Rights won must be jealously guarded. The garden of Democracy and Liberty must be regularly tended lest the weeds of tyranny take hold. A crackdown on the Occupy movement will only further ensconce the determination of those who know they are on the right side of history and will continue their struggle until the system promoting inequality is demolished. Nothing less, no compromise.
If it’s broke don’t try fixing it.
Categorised in: Editorial
This post was written by Tomasz Pierscionek