Strikes in Britain are at their highest level for thirteen years and the trend is upwards. The recent council workers' strike involving over one million people was the largest strike by women workers ever seen in this country. Fire fighters have voted unanimously at their recall conference to ballot for strike action over a 40% rise in pay! If this takes place, it will be the first national strike in 25 years. Rail and tube workers, who have their own disputes, have threatened to refuse to work on grounds of safety if there is no fire cover. The general public, according to a recent Guardian/ICM poll, appear to sympathise with them. The days of workplace "servitude" seem finally to be coming to an end.

The planned national industrial action by the firefighters is the first for 25 years. It coincides with an increasing radicalisation in the union movement, which is a culmination of years of bitterness and resentment built up by the attacks on the wages and conditions of workers in general, and in the public sector in particular. The FBU is playing a leading role in the struggle for better wages in the public sector.

At this year's annual Labour Party conference it was quite clear that Blair is no longer looking as confident as only a few months ago. He has had to swallow defeat in his own party, on a key issue: the participation of private capital in the providing of public services And he also came close to defeat on his plans to wage war on Iraq! We are witnessing the first steps in what will prove to be a major turn-around inside the Labour Party over the next period.

At the beginning of this month, as the first wave of strikes loomed the Blair government was preparing to square up to the firefighters. "Picket lines might be crossed… no options are being ruled out" Blair triumphantly proclaimed. This was a blatant threat of attack. Such actions would have put the government on a collision course with the unions. It shows how removed from reality Blair is in arrogantly attempting to trample over the concerns of working people. However they are in for a rude awakening.

Industrial militancy in Britain is on the increase. It reflects a general mood in the workplace that enough is enough. The Blair government is not only confronting the first national firefighters' strike in 25 years, but is facing action on a number of other fronts. This has raised the spectre of another Winter of Discontent similar to the one faced by the Callaghan government in 1978/79.

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