Why I support the strikes

Students at the time of the last UCU strike seemed somewhat confused as to what picket lines were, and what supporting a strike means. Here is my short attempt (it’s nearly 3am here in Appleton tower) to explain it.

On the N30 strikes, you should not cross the picket lines. Whoever you are, and whether you work in the building or not, to turn around, or better yet, to join the picket, are signs of solidarity. As students, many of us are as at the mercy of the government’s whims as workers are. Students have had a long tradition of standing with the working class in their fight for better conditions. I hope that fight will carry on until the things workers have built belong to the people who have made them.

All freedoms and concessions to workers were won by hard struggle on the workers’ part, not by the benevolence of politicians, and crossing picket lines is a statement that undermines that fight. We cannot expect politicians to fight for us, in an era where the Labour leader will say “these strikes are wrong” at the drop of a hat, and if we want control of our workplaces, universities, schools and hospitals we must not wait for Labour to break promises for the thousandth time. Individualism, spearheaded in part by the Thatcherism of the 1980s, and continued by the “we’re all middle-class now” rhetoric of Blair, has led to an erosion of class consciousness, that is, the notion that those who have to prostitute themselves to the labour market in order to survive have something in common with one another. Our communities have died, and so the ones with the biggest sticks, bought with the money stolen from the hard graft of the working people, have come to rule. The workers’ first recourse is the withdrawal of that labour.

What this means is that those who break picket lines to go into work are directly taking the bosses’ side in the dispute. You cannot “stay out of it”. By crossing, you pick a side. If the workers are to win their rights over what they produce, be that goods or knowledge, it is the collective action that is useful against the violent machinery of the capitalist state, while they hold all the cards of force and money. Class war is not something started by the workers, it is waged every day by the bosses and politicians, when they drive down wages, reduce holidays and cut funding to the social wage that is not only the workers’ right, but that is bought and paid for in money and time. It is time to fight our corner. Workers will be striking on the 30th and I will be standing with them.

I am frustrated at the moralizing over “disruption” that is bandied about in the press and by extension in the mouths of those who read it uncritically. Try living as a worker, or a benefits claimant, just for a month or so. All those things you would like to do, maybe spend time with your children, go down to the pub with your mates, or even work in a job that interests and stimulates you, you will find somehow mysteriously “disrupted” by the fact that you have very little money and very little time. For one day I ask you to stand with your fellow humans as they simply ask for reform in a system that exploits them, dehumanises them and robs them of their creations. For one day I ask that you think about how fortunate many of us students are to have the opportunities being at university grants us. For one day I ask that we act as a community. For one day I ask that we listen, rather than talk.

Perhaps a little “disruption” is worth it.

This was originally posted here.

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One Response to Why I support the strikes

  1. Chris says:

    Unfortunately if your union hasn’t balloted for strike action you can’t join a strike, employees who are not union members would be taking unprotected action and liable to dismissal and non-employees would be taking illegal secondary action.

    Although there’s nothing stopping employees joining the union on the picket line. The only other defence for non-employees not crossing a picket line would be the Health and Safety at Work Act which requires you not to put yourself in perceived harm. Obviously the pickets aren’t going to be like the pickets of Arthur Scargill days, but this part of the act is the perception of the employee not the employer. Although you’d have to immediately inform your employer that you don’t consider it safe to cross the picket line.

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