Whatever else this week brings, there is one piece of straightforwardly good news to celebrate: cleaners at HSBC’s headquarters have called off a threatened strike after receiving written guarantees that there will be no job losses. The cleaners’ union, the CAIWU, don’t seem to have released much information about this development so far, but what they do have to say seems pretty clearcut.
Given the date, it seems impossible to avoid doing a little bit of editorialising: we can disagree about how much, if any, power we can exercise through the ballot box, but what is definitely clear is that whatever power electoral methods can give us will be gone tomorrow, and that route will be closed down until our next scheduled appointment with democracy. On the other hand, power we build up for ourselves by forming relationships with the people around us, and then deciding collectively to disrupt business as usual – power like that of the HSBC cleaners, or the Durham TAs, or the Picturehouse cinema staff – that kind of power doesn’t have to depend on anyone’s schedules but our own, and it can stay with us and keep growing. It’s a lesson worth bearing in mind, whatever the future brings.