I suspect many of those who nodded approvingly at this headline when sitting on the bus and tube last week will have conveniently forgotten that these heroes are probably the same RMT members who they are today accusing of being workshy, greedy and anachronistic relics of a bygone age.
Safety requires investment. It requires staff. It requires people who will step up and look after the rest of us when things go wrong underground. Phone TfL and find out how many times recently they have had to ask tube staff to walk literally hundreds of passengers down tunnels because management has not been investing and corners have been cut. Talk to the hundreds of people who were walked down tunnels last week when the Victoria Line went needlessly wrong, and when a transgendered passenger went under a train at Kings Cross. Ask them who led them through the tunnels.
Yes, everyone is feeling the pinch. But that is no reason to criticise Bob Crow, the RMT or its membership for standing up against unnecessary and dangerous cuts. “I’m facing redundancy myself” is not a reason to attack the strikers. Quite the opposite. This is exactly the moment for us all to hold together. Cos, as we saw with the NUM in the 80s, they will take on the most radical unions first. These days that’s the RMT and the FBU. Once they’ve fallen, they can pick the rest of us off in seconds. If you’re facing redundancy, if you’re about to fall victim to the Coalition’s cuts, or if you have had to accept pay cuts or reductions in hours to stay in work, you can be sure that the comrades in the RMT are on your side. It used to be called solidarity. It has to cut both ways, or it’s meaningless. The RMT’s struggle is your struggle. If you’re a Londoner, this is quite literally true. They’re fighting for your safety.
TfL bosses must have panicked when they saw the Metro headline above. Because at that moment the mass of London’s workers might have put two and two together and come to what used to be a commonplace conclusion, but now seems bizarrely radical. We are all in this together. But they are not.
But they needn’t have worried. The ideological reprogramming of the last three decades is pretty much complete. It’s not your fault, brothers and sisters. But we desperately, desperately need leadership. We’re getting none. We’ve been divided up into tiny atomic particles, we’ve been told that class is dead, that we’re all in this together, rich and poor alike. And we’ve believed it, because there’s no one reminding us of the truth.
Most conversation I’ve heard this morning in London has been about how ‘we’ have ‘beaten Bob Crowe and the RMT’ by making it into work. No. We haven’t. ‘We’ have played into the hands of that mop-topped loony of a Mayor, and TfL management. ‘We’ are delivering victory to them. ‘We’ are making sure that management of other organisations feel that little bit more confident that they can get away with laying people off to increase profits and line their own, and their shareholders’, pockets. If bosses see that the prevailing mood is anti-strikers and pro-bosses, they will take advantage of it. Every time. ‘We’ are practically handing them our consent to further bashing of working people.
So if you felt last week that those 7/7 tube workers were heroes, go and find them on a picket line today and explain to them that, although they used to be heroes, now they are workshy, greedy troublemakers, and that passenger and staff safety is just a smokescreen which covers their selfishness. Or, open your eyes to what’s really going on, don’t donate your consent to the exploitation of working people, and join a widespread fightback, within which the firefighters and the tube workers are just two small parts. It used to be called solidarity. it’s what glued comrades and their interests together. Let’s resurrect it.