As someone, who draws a public sector pension, I’ve been thinking a lot in recent days about how my situation relates to the forthcoming nation-wide strike on November 30 for ‘Pensions Justice’. Does my 13, 500 quid a year make me a gold-plated parasite? I’m doing alright, but my remuneration pales into emptiness compared to, say, former boss of Barclays, John Varley’s 1.2 million. However what strikes me in particular is that the action around pensions is ultimately about the future of public services and the very notion of a public ethic.
Of course I am romanticising somewhat, but I grew up in a period of post-war austerity, within which there was a collective sense of we’re in this together. And in wanting to teach I was conscious of a social obligation to put something back into a society, that had cared for and educated me. I was an example of the offspring of a poor, but respectable working class, whose very upward mobility was for the good of all. Of course the social-democratic consensus was much more contradictory than my simplistic portrait allows. But a public ethic existed, however flawed.
Over the last thirty years that ethic has been assaulted on all sides by the individualist, market-led ideology of neo-liberalism. This was symbolised in its infancy by Thatcher’s infamous assertion that ‘there is no such thing as society’. Nowadays it is expressed in often open contempt for workers in the public sector. Thus it is we are in a period of growing austerity where Osborne’s plea that ‘we’re in it together’ is meaningless. Traditions of solidarity and a common sense of purpose have been deeply undermined. And the ruling elite, the capitalist class, has lost its bearings. Its abandonment of welfare capitalism in favour of finance capitalism, its rejection of the public in favour of the private sees it become evermore authoritarian.
Across Europe and indeed the world we are beginning to resist these catastrophic politics. In this context the November 30 Strike is about far more than pensions. It is a piece in the jigsaw of creating afresh a collective politics, which believes that an injury to one is an injury to all.
To find out more about events in your area on Wednesday, November 30, go to
A flyer for the 30th posted by NatCan argues that the Europe we want is one of solidarity and social progress.
This Guardian Comment, Why I will be a striking teacher on November 30, will touch a nerve with many across the education and welfaring professions.
Angry government staff on why they will be walking out in what could prove to be the biggest day of industrial action in decades.