Last week, a new campaign called ‘Enough Is Enough’ was announced across social media, in response to the cost-of-living crisis and the broader attacks on the working class.
The campaign was officially launched on Wednesday 17 August at an opening rally in the Clapham Grand in South London. Over 1,500 are reported to have attended, with a huge queue snaking up the street, and many hundreds more turned away at the door.
This huge attendance and electric atmosphere at the rally – and the 400,000 who have signed up to the campaign – is an expression of the anger building up in the working class of Britain. This comes amid a resurgence of the labour movement and a deepening cost-of-living catastrophe.
“Pay the price”
Speakers at the event included Dave Ward, CWU general secretary; Kwajo Tweneboa, a housing activist; Michael Rosen, children's author and UCU activist; Helen O’Connor, GMB organiser; Jo Grady, UCU general secretary; Zarah Sultana, a left Labour MP; and finally, Mick Lynch, RMT general secretary.
Dave Ward spoke first, highlighting that even the organisers of the campaign were surprised by the reception the campaign has already had, with hundreds of thousands now signed up.
Ward set the tone for the evening, saying it “doesn’t matter what the crisis is – whether it's the financial crisis of 2008, whether it's the pandemic, whether it's the current cost-of-living crisis, or whether it's the emergency climate crisis – we are in a position where working people always pay the price.”
“When prices go up and wages don’t, it puts us in a scary place. It’s getting desperate. I’ve reached the point where I need to do something.”— Enough is Enough (@eiecampaign) August 18, 2022
A social worker at our launch rally explains why he’s saying #EnoughIsEnough https://t.co/1SeHcIXdMr pic.twitter.com/jld7Tnm2rK
He mentioned that the campaign would be about “building collectivism” and challenging the “structural imbalance of wealth and power”. Ward also said that further demands of the campaign are being developed and would be announced in coming weeks, and that there are plans for similar rallies to be held in “every town and city” across the country.
“Saying Enough is Enough is a start – doing something about it is what we will focus on,” Ward concluded – a clear indicator that the campaign is intent on engaging in direct action to win its demands.
“With or without Labour!”
Ward also highlighted that the campaign was independent of, and not beholden to, the Labour Party.
“This campaign goes on with or without Labour!” he said, to an enormous reception from the crowd. Indeed, criticism of the Labour Party and its leader ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer received the biggest cheers of the night.
This was also seen when the next speaker, Kwajo Tweneboa, a housing activist, stated that “Labour and Keir Starmer are just as bad” as the Tories on the question of housing, to rapturous applause.
Of all the speakers, it was left-wing Labour MP Zarah Sultana who was the most scathing in her criticism of the Labour right-wing rabble running the party, especially in her response to Starmer’s diktats to MPs to stay off picket lines.
“People in Labour need to understand it’s workers versus bosses – pick your side!” the Coventry South MP said to huge cheers.
This is reflective of a growing disgust of the party in the eyes of many workers and youth, who are fed up with Starmer’s kowtowing to big business and Tory-lite policies.
Zarah Sultana also spoke in class struggle terms about the cost-of-living crisis. “We call it a cost-of-living crisis, but it’s a crisis for our class not theirs,” she underlined; “a cost of living crisis for the many, but a bonanza for the few”.
Sultana is right to highlight these class antagonisms seen nakedly in Britain today, as energy company bosses rake in billions of pounds, while millions of people are bankrupted by rising bills.
“This isn’t a crisis because there isn’t enough wealth, it's a crisis because they’ve hoarded all of the wealth!” Sultana said, exposing the contradiction of poverty amidst plenty we see under capitalism.
This bold language also expresses concretely what the working class is increasingly waking up to and talking about – that we are in a class war.
Indeed, this was very much pushed throughout Mick Lynch’s closing speech at the rally.
“They want to shackle unions even more than they are now. And why do they do it? They do it in the interests of their class – that’s the way society works,” he said about the Tories’ proposed anti-union laws. “They act in their class interests. It's time for us to act in ours!”
Lynch is viewed by many as the figurehead of this resurgence of the labour movement, given the ongoing national dispute the RMT is fighting, as well as his no-nonsense attitude towards right-wing pundits.
He also acknowledged how the RMT strike has come to be seen as the forefront of the fightback: “It’s an industrial dispute that’s become political because of the mood of this country and the attacks of the government.”
As Starmer proposes to simply freeze energy bills, it was no surprise also that some of the biggest cheers came around the question of nationalisation. Indeed, a new poll by Survation shows just how popular nationalisation is, with over 65% of people backing nationalisation of mail, water, and energy.
But unfortunately, these are not in the list of the five founding demands of the campaign (although Ward indicated these would be expanded upon).
It is vital that nationalisation – without compensation – is added to the campaign's demands. For one, the other demands, such as price-caps on energy bills, community kitchens and council house building, would all require huge funding.
Taxing the rich will not suffice for this. The capitalists will either find means of dodging such taxes, as they do already; or they will simply respond with a huge strike of capital and cripple the economy, as the government of Salvador Allende experienced in Chile in the 1970s.
This is why we must fight not only for nationalisation of the utilities, but also of the banks and big monopolies, in order to fund such policies. This would also take away the power that these big businesses hold over society, by placing them in the hands of workers to manage and control.
Fight for socialism
The Enough Is Enough campaign is very welcome, coming at a time when the working class is “back” as Lynch says. It is providing a political expression – a campaign around a clear set of demands – for workers and youth dissatisfied by the Labour Party.
It plans to hold rallies across the country, and will provide a focal point – for the local labour movement, activists, and those new to politics – to gather around and discuss how to fight back.
But we also must be clear that the cost-of-living crisis we are seeing today, and indeed the other crises that Ward mentioned, such as the 2008 financial crisis or climate change, are symptoms of the crisis of the capitalist system.
Given this, we must also state what kind of system we are fighting for. In fact, Helen O’Connor, organiser for the GMB union, explicitly made this point at the opening rally, emphasising that the movement must fight for socialism, and be unashamed of doing so.
This is exactly what Socialist Appeal will be arguing for – at Enough Is Enough rallies, in the trade unions, on campuses, and on the streets.