Note on the right to strike

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By JEREMY CORBYN*

Democratic freedoms under attack in England

On February XNUMXst, XNUMX workers went on strike in the UK's biggest day of collective action in over a decade. Professors, university staff, train drivers, bus drivers and civil servants stood side by side to protect each other from low wages and to defend the public services we all depend on.

The wave of solidarity did not stop here. The following Monday saw the biggest National Health Service (NHS) strike in history. I teamed up with health workers at the Hospital da University College on Euston Road - the most euphoric picket line I can remember. "Applause doesn't pay bills" was heard by Holborn and Saint Pancras, in a message to parliamentarians who gladly applauded the dedication of health workers during the pandemic, but now refuse to support the demands for salary increases that that dedication made it deserve.

Nurses and nurses are not just on strike for decent pay and conditions. They are fighting for the right to do this. In January, the government passed its anti-strike bill in the House of Commons, requiring certain industries to meet certain minimum safety thresholds. If the Tories really cared about minimum safety conditions in our hospitals, they would support the striking workers and their demands for a fully funded NHS. Instead, by nullifying the fundamental right to strike, they are preventing people from fighting for the safety of us all.

This is not the only democratic freedom under attack. By passing the Public Order Law, the government restricted the right to protest by granting the police greater powers to crack down on anyone who would “possibly” cause serious disturbances. In a deeply authoritarian movement, the Tories should ask themselves if the Protestants of the past, who guaranteed the rights we have today (the suffragettes are one example), would suffer persecution under their present rule.

Even the right to vote is under threat. Starting in May, voters will have to show a photo ID at the ballot box. Voter identification, says the government, is a necessary measure to combat fraud. Refusing to solve people's real problems, the government decided instead to solve a problem that doesn't exist: the voter fraud rate in the 2019 general election was 0,000057%. In a flagrant act of voter suppression, voter identification will disfavor those with fewer opportunities to access the required identification: low-income voters, youth, people with disabilities and those who speak English as a second language.

By trampling on our rights to strike, to protest and to vote, the Tories are demonstrating a dangerous level of contempt for the foundations of our democracy. It's been four months since Liz Truss's successor promised a revival of 'grown-up' politics (grown-up politics). Rishi Sunak's assault on our civil and democratic rights exposes everything you need to know about our pragmatist-in-chief's definition of the term. At the same time, the recent behavior of Labor's leadership exposes everything you need to know about its willingness to win back these rights.

At a time when the Tories are accelerating their assault on democracy, the Labor leadership should be strengthening its defense. However, he will not be able to defend democracy if he is not even prepared to respect it in his own movement. Across the country, leftist party members are being barred from running as candidates, denying local parties the chance to vote for talented, popular and working-class people in a fair and democratic electoral process. As Keir Starmer himself promised in 2020, “Local Party members must choose their candidates for all elections.” Renouncing these promises sends an alarming signal to those whose trust you must now seek to win.

It also demonstrates a lack of respect for those to whom we owe our own place in Parliament. Labor party members are those people who give up their time to knock on doors in the rain. They are those who campaign in defense of local changes in their communities. Labor party members are those who keep the party going. Labor membership is the lifeblood of the party – you can't crush one without doing the same to the other.

Only a democratic party can provide the space needed to empower those with the creative ideas and transformative solutions this country so desperately needs. Today, the divide between rich and poor and the threat of ecological collapse are greater than ever. Our goal should be to unite disadvantaged communities around a more hopeful alternative.

That means giving people the space to champion the idea of ​​democracy not just in their party, but also in their economies and communities. We will not face the cost of living crisis as long as private companies that are not accountable to anyone continue to control how we consume the resources we all need to survive. That's why the time has come to bring power, water, railways and postal services under democratic control, so that communities can enjoy these common public goods. Real democracy means transferring wealth, property and economic power from those who hold them to those who need them.

Ultimately, democracy is about giving people the space so they can fight for redistribution without fear of censorship. That's why I will continue to fight for the rights of local members in Islington North, as well as the rights of picket workers. Those standing in the way of transformative change want to take away our democratic rights because they know that when we unite, we can win. Their greatest fear is democracy, because democracy is our greatest strength.

*Jeremy Corbyn is a member of the English parliament. He was Leader of the Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition in the UK House of Commons from 2015 to 2020.

Translation: Daniel Pavan.

Originally published on the magazine's website Jacobin.

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