Back to basics: What trade unions taught us about socialism and revolution in 2022


THE WORD of 2022, even outside of niche political circles, was ‘cost-of-living’. Unfortunately, it was often followed by the word ‘crisis’.

The working class in Britain and around the world suffered as energy prices and inflation soared while governments did little to help the ordinary man and woman survive.

With a Conservative Party in crisis but seemingly still ruling and pushing through legislation comfortably, and a Labour Party which appears happy to toe the centre-right line, there was a major gap for a working class vanguard leader.

Up stepped trade union leaders.

Seemingly treading water after being beaten down during the Thatcher years, a new generation of General Secretaries has broken through – and have succeeded using old-school tactics.

Mick Lynch is perhaps the blueprint for how to take on a hostile government, opposition party and media in one go.

Straight talking. No Marxist lingo or calls for revolution – his mission is about getting his members inflation-matching pay rises. (Peace, Land and Bread, anyone?)

There’s a clear objective and a simple way to go about it. Lynch has done this fairly flawlessly.

Credit must also go to Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham. She’s the first woman to hold the position of the largest trade union in the country.

Through repeated warning shots at Sir Keir Starmer, she has avoided falling into the trap of being seen as politically partisan.

Once again, it’s simple – picket line for your rights.

The Royal College of Nursing’s Pat Cullen is much the same. Keep the politics out of it – for now. Focus on making people’s lives visibly better with higher pay.

Despite rhetoric from various figures that strikes – especially rail action – is hampering ordinary people, support for industrial action is rising across almost all sectors.

Trade unions have risen once again due to the desperate situation. When Labour won’t step in, the likes of Mick Lynch will. By going back to basics, they have given the British working class some rare optimism.

Featured Image: Steve Eason @ Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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