Earlier today, a bunch of activists, working outside of any formal organisation, structure or particular democratic body, protested against Vodafone. For those who don’t know, Vodafone have been told by the HMRC that they don’t have to pay a £6 billion tax bill because… well, because it’s been a while. This is basically mates rates for the ruling class.
The protesters didn’t just stand outside with a placard – they went in, occupied the flagship store on Oxford Street, and by doing so stopped business there for a day. Okay, so on the terms of Vodafone’s massive corporate empire, it’s not exactly Black Wednesday. But it does prove a point: if we’re going to tackle corporations and the Tory government that’s propping them up, we need to hit them where it hurts: in their wallets.
This is, of course, the whole idea of industrial action, including go-slows, working to rule, sabotage and of course strikes. The general strike is quite simply the whole class taking economic action against the ruling class collectively. One union or sector going on strike in sympathy with another is part of the bridge between a single strike (like the NUT’s 24 hour strikes) and the general strike à la our comrades in France.
Guido Fawkes, let it be noted, is now going in for some classic commie-baiting class warfare in demonising Bob Crow and the RMT for sympathy striking.
But economic action doesn’t just have to happen by workers in their own sector. In the 1920s, the Unemployed Workers Movement would ‘raid’ a factory, invading the premises and persuading the workers to join them in a wildcat strike in protest at benefit cuts in an era of high unemployment. (And yes, they won in the end).
The direct action by climate activists against the Coryton oil refinery a couple of weeks ago was another example of economic action by non-workers, blockading the oil being trucked to London for an afternoon. Of course similar scenes of oil tankers parked up in service stations have become familiar in France over recent weeks, with the oil depot blockades.
Actions like today’s against Vodafone can easily be dismissed as stunts by radicals, but they also inspire others to take effective action against the bosses and politicians who are pushing forward our current political crisis.