In recent years trade unionists have become adept at finding silver linings to various clouds and the ConDem attack on jobs, living standards and civil society represents another opportunity to accentuate the positives writes Peter Middleman of Liverpool Trades Council.

For the first time this century progressive unions can look forward to building a meaningful consensus across the movement and the TUC can re-establish an industrial relevance which has been absent for a number of years.  This is both welcome and necessary in building an effective fight back to a right-wing ideological campaign which, for all its cover of economics, is about fundamentally changing the relationship between citizens and the state.

Since 2005 we have experienced sporadic, often short-lived campaigns of joint industrial action involving teachers, civil servants and local government workers in response to threatened cuts in pensions.  It is fair to say that the stakes now are somewhat higher.

Our first priority must be to challenge the orthodoxy which demands cuts as the only response to the crisis.  The crisis, created by unfettered financial speculation, is essentially one of income rather than one of spending.  The national debt as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), despite what the ruling class and their agents tell us, is smaller than in 250 of the last 300 years.  It is smaller than in any year between 1916 and 1972 and is a mere quarter of what it was in 1948 – the year that rather than cutting services, the Labour government, in the face of Tory opposition, created the most cherished public service we have, the NHS.

There is an alternative.  PCS members in HM Revenue & Customs point to the £125bn of tax which is avoided, evaded or otherwise uncollected each year for the want of staff to collect it.   Economists tell us that 64p in every £1 spent on public sector salaries is spent on goods and services in the private sector, stimulating demand, contributing to the recovery and safeguarding jobs across the economy.  Peace campaigners have identified £100bn of potential savings in one word – Trident.

Once we have won these arguments amongst our own memberships we must take them in to our wider communities through public sector alliances of our branches, trades councils and community organisations.  Then, when our class is united and determined to defy attempts to return us to the Thatcher years and the misery they brought to communities, our respective unions can contribute enormous industrial pressure to a political powder keg of resistance.

The TUC will be asked to organise a national demonstration in October but plans for wide-scale, co-ordinated industrial action need to be advanced well before this, as to do otherwise risks leaving it too late. We can expect our opponents to seek to divide us because they know, even if we do not always realise, that we are all that stands between them and victory.