The next fortnight offers two golden opportunities to shape the future of politics in Britain.
The mass walkout by thousands of public sector workers on Thursday of next week will strike a huge blow against Gordon Brown’s pay limits.
Just one week later Left List candidates will contest crucial elections for the London mayor and assembly and for councils across England and Wales.
Together these events can transform the political landscape of Britain.
The UCU union announced on Monday of this week that up to 30,000 further education lecturers will join 250,000 teachers in walking out on strike on 24 April — a day activists have dubbed “Fightback Thursday”.
And the PCS union announced last week that its members in the Department for Work and Pensions will also join the action, bringing the total number of civil service workers on strike that day to over 100,000.
In Birmingham up to 20,000 council workers are set to strike.
The action will bring many cities and towns to a standstill. Joint rallies and protests will provide a focus for unity and for other workers to show support.
All this will take place as the skies darken in the world economy and Brown’s political fortunes plummet. Even previously loyal Labour backbenchers are panicking and talking of ditching Brown before the next general election.
This week saw yet another slew of panic in the economy, with the British housing market bubble beginning to burst and “factory gate inflation” — the increase in the cost of manufactured goods — rising to an annual rate of 6.2 percent.
The insecurity and low pay felt by millions of workers and the privatisation and profiteering that have characterised New Labour’s approach to public services all have a common root.
They are linked to Brown’s commitment to the free market and his insistence on running the country in the interests of the rich elite, rather than for the mass of ordinary people.
That is why the struggles over pay have an inescapable political dimension — they are about challenging the direction of this government.
But the Labour Party has demonstrated that it is incapable of relating to working class anger over pay and services.
The Labour left couldn’t muster a challenge to Brown when he became leader of the party. London mayor Ken Livingstone, one of the few people on the Labour left to wield any power, has shackled himself to Brown and is heading rightwards with him.
That is why as well as throwing themselves into building support for the strikes, Left List activists are also fighting to win the biggest possible vote on 1 May.
The election is part of a wider project of building a movement against neoliberalism and war that can feed into trade union struggles and help to break the debilitating links between union leaders and the Labour Party hierarchy.
Conversely, the strikes on 24 April will take place in the context of a sharpened political awareness.
Socialists must seize the chance to deepen resistance to Brown’s neoliberal agenda and to build a radical political alternative to New Labour.