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General Strike?

It was the late Sir Richard Body's writings that first suggested to me the idea that an elected British government with an overall majority might be considered an elected dictatorship. If this is true what does the combination of an overall majority and an ineffective opposition create?


In my view a perfect storm where a government is drunk with power and a frustrated population feels it is not represented in Parliament. I believe that this Autumn has the potential to see a bizarre general strike formed by different protests and activists all operating at the same time, some with overlapping circles of interest, others in opposition. The risk of a resulting tornado effect of strikes, protest, disorder and riot is high. When people do not feel listened to beware the power of the mob.


I see comparisons being made to industrial action of the 1970's, the poll tax riots and even the general strike of 1926, but I am not sure the comparisons are valid.

It has to be noted that Ernest Bevin viewed the General Strike to be a mistake believing that political solutions were preferable, although he had no great faith in Parliamentary politics. However, he recognised that political power and the ability to negotiate is held in pressure groups, unions or other unified people with a common cause, and protest was a powerful tool. I find it of note that Tony Benn when he retired from Parliament also believed that pressure groups had greater freedom and could achieve more than political parties that are tied up in the confines of Parliament.


The strength of pressure groups is seen today, and this strength is potentially magnified initially by television and now by the internet and social media. Voices have been amplified and people have a greater ability to co-operate over a wider area than ever before. In the 2000 fuel protest the simple text and mobile phone was the primary tool used to organise protest. Nowadays such rallying calls can be amplified across international borders. Compare the black civil rights movement in the 1960's USA and compare it to the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020 and you see that a protest movement that in the past would have been largely focused in the United States spread throughout Britain and Europe and across the world. The world is a smaller, more crowded village than it used to be.


Modern technology brings great power to small people. We see this with Greta Thurnburg who as a successful activist has gained an international audience and support far greater than the quality of her words.


The internet has enabled sizeable movements to form that on the face of them have a popular cause or face, but behind the facade is a less attractive organisation. Many an evil can hide behind a good cause. I prefer my wolves to be honest and out in the open.


So currently we have a rail strike. This is not popular with the public who are fed up with seeing an industry constantly receiving public funds whilst providing a consistently poor service that most of the public do not use. But despite this I feel that whilst the strike is not popular people have some sympathy and this quote from one RMT worker is significant:

"I see the government's refusal to budge on this as not just an attack on al the people who kept the country running during the pandemic.........There's a sense that this could be the real start of something this summer. Boris Johnson's got a problem on his hands."


Now I imagine other workers, police, ambulance drivers, firemen, nurses, NHS workers, school teachers to name but a few in the public sector will have a lot of sympathy with these words. However, Sir Kier Starmer, in an almost conservative effort to appear fiscally responsible, has emailed his front-benchers ordering them not to join in protests for the strike. Thus we appear to have a hamstrung opposition, weak and ineffective.


Turn to social media and we see a tide of protest forming to take to the streets not just for pay, but for a whole host of social, environmental and political. I can see protests from ever cause legitimate and otherwise taking shape: Plans to disrupt cities in September, especially London; plans to blockade oil refineries; slow convoys on motorways; blocking of coal supply to power stations; plan to blockade the River Thames; plans to disrupt milk production and distribution for the whole of September; plans to blockade abatoirs. If you add to this conventional industrial action plus potentially more orchestrated violence or riots you can see the "start of something" that will possibly be the greatest disruption we have seen for a long time with every agitator and nut case jumping on the bandwagon thanks to the freedom of an unfettered internet and its systems that we all enjoy.




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