Towards A General Strike

Tonight The Pensive Quill features a piece by guest writer Sean Matthews arguing for more than one day strikes.

The recent public sector strike builds on the momentum from the education and healthcare strike last month and sends out the message that we mean business. We are relied on every day to run the hospitals, schools, fire service, and all other public services that society depends on to function. We have demonstrated that when we withdraw our labour and stand together in defence of our rights we have real strength. However a one day strike on its own will only express our anger and let off a bit of steam. It is not enough if we want to actually defeat the ongoing attacks on our pay and conditions - attacks which are affecting all workers and unemployed.

Solidarity and support for strike action needs to be built across all workplaces unionised or not and in our communities where we are feeling the impact of these devastating cuts on our standard of living if we want to win. In the short-term we need to be organising for rolling strike action including go-slows and ultimately an indefinite general strike. Such action is needed because history shows us that those at the top will concede little of significance without such mass resistance.

The world is in crisis. All around us the global economy is failing to answer the needs of ordinary people. In the UK, the government has introduced round after round of spending cuts, attacks that are directed at the vast majority of the population. Savage attacks on the unemployed, sick and disabled sit alongside mass public sector redundancies, and attacks on parents accompany increasing prices through the VAT increase.

That we are right to reject this world is not in question. However, if we want to win, we need to recognise that being right isn’t enough. Unfortunately, our society is not a debating chamber where everyone is given an equal voice, and the decisions that affect our lives are not taken on moral grounds. Our rulers don’t care about doing right by us. What they care about is power and wealth, and supporting the interests they represent.

If we want to change the world, we will have to empower ourselves through direct action in every aspect of our daily lives. The biggest imaginable square occupation or march won’t change the world unless it’s accompanied by mass direct action. We can go on strike, collectively refuse to pay our rent, or even block transport hubs - anything that disrupts the economy will challenge the authority of bosses, landlords and politicians and help us reoccupy our own lives.

We need to build a mass militant campaign which is opposed to all cuts and attacks on services, controlled by rank and file workers and independent of all opportunist political parties who are only interested in elections. A victory on the pensions for public sector workers builds towards the fight needed to win a victory for all workers.

Lobbying politicians and marching from A-B has limited returns and can even add to the pervading sense of powerlessness. Politicians, like our trade union leadership, cannot be trusted and will work to police and sabotage any affective action. Taking back control of OUR unions from below is part and parcel of the fight to defend what we have won over the years.

Stormont offers us no alternative and is part of the problem. Despite their rhetoric and intention to not cross any picket lines, all our local political parties are committed to implementing these vicious anti-working class cuts and the wider neo-liberal agenda of slashing and privatising public services by making us pay for the greed and crimes of the 1%.

In the end capitalism and the state is the problem and we are the solution. As we unite we can become a force that capitalism cannot control, cannot crush. We can create a whole new society that serves the needs of all of us, not a minority.


  1. If people are unwilliing to work for the salary on offer, there are many who will do the work cheaper.Staff in shops and restaurants know this and never strike.Unemployment in the teaching profesion is rife, new entrants are unable to force wages down.Many public secor staff could afford to work for a lot less.Same goes for banking etc.

  2. Kieran thats why I,m leaving out vodka,and potatoes on christmas eve,you can bet some Polish f##ker has taken santa,s job.the working class needs unity like never before,its a fair bet that those who like and need to keep the workers apart will be exploiting this present situation.a general redout out rather than a general strike is whats needed ,just before we put the bankers and their mates in high office against the wall, I have a lovely big wall I,d gladly donate to the revolution..

  3. Brilliant article Sean. Marty, I wish you’d stop going on about migrant workers, it’s the fat cat bosses who are at fault, not them. I remember a while back when the NIPSA strike was in force, a fiend told me that they’d been talking to a member of SF and this SF member told him that the strike was being orchestrated by the sticks to get at Ruane! I won’t repeat here the language I used when he told me that. It reminded me of the hunger/job marches/riots in the 30’s that I read about, when catholics and protestants came together in a common cause only to have it dashed when the Unionist hierarchy warned that it was a Republican plot to lead them into a (re) united Ireland. SF’s hypocrisy is staggering, I haven’t tried to put my boot through the tv screen in years, but when I saw that arrogant Bastard O’Dowd on talking about taking away teachers jobs as if it meant nothing to him (it probably doesn’t) my blood boiled and Mrs Git had to restrain me from doing aforementioned damage to the tv. Why do people still vote for and believe these Fuckers, it’s beyond me!

  4. Sean,
    A few years back the company I worked for was taken over by an English firm. No Polish, No Blacks and No Irish in sight not even a dog.
    There was no economic recession at that time and yet our previous terms and conditions were torn to shreds.
    Pay cuts, staff cuts, no extra pay for over-time or working unsociable hours.
    Wage restructuring, pay restructuring and quick fire dismissals for anyone who offered serious protests.
    As workers we joined together and we sought guidance and advice and more guidance and advice and it got us absolutely no where.
    Quickly we contacted a trade union whom many of us have been with for almost four years and guess what it got us no where.
    Workers are more vulnerable than they have been at almost anytime.
    Yet there is nothing in place to safe guard people against this type of manipulation.
    Mass action around certain issues is great but what about the workers who do not fall into that certain criteria?