Congress meets at a crucial time for working people. The biggest economic crash since the 1930s continues to drag down almost every economy across the globe.
Yet on top of this in Britain we face a government that is actively making things worse.
At a time when we need growth to boost demand ministers are cutting spending, holding back wages and hitting consumer confidence.
The result has been a double-dip recession - an economy so weak that even an extra day's holiday can send it into reverse.
Prospects for the future are no better. It won't be that surprising if we see positive growth in the next quarter - but the truth is that the economy is stagnant.
We are bumping along the bottom with no credible strategy for jobs or prosperity. Lost decade, here we come.
But while the economy is stuck in a rut I sense a political change.
Since the general election it has been easy to win public arguments against individual government policies.
Most people have always seen this as an unfair government piling pain onto ordinary working people and the vulnerable rather than onto those who did so well from the boom years.
But if we are honest however there has always been support, even if grudging, for the key message from ministers that our biggest economic problem is the deficit.
Their homespun analogies, such as the notion that the nation has maxed out its credit card and that paying that back through spending cuts and VAT rises must be the priority, have rung true for many.
Many seem to see what the government has been doing as rather like taking a nasty medicine with horrible side effects, but worth it as it will eventually lead to a cure.
But if a patient no longer believes that they are being cured it stops being a medicine and becomes a poison.
With both the debt and the deficit growing, the government's strategy is demonstrably failing.
Ministerial hopes of an economy clearly on the mend by the time of the next election are very unlikely to be fulfilled.
Instead we face year-on-year of spending cuts - even tougher than those announced if Chancellor George Osborne continues to follow his warped logic that the bigger the deficit the more you should cut.
It would be premature to claim that opinion has already firmed up on our side of the argument.
But with the government's economic credibility tanking and the Chancellor one of its least popular members, there is everything to play for.
The Prime Minister faces an acute dilemma. He is facing calls from across the political spectrum for policies that promote growth.
While there are doubtless some minor moves David Cameron could take that would win wide support, there is no easily available strategy on offer.
He cannot change course without sacrificing credibility. If he accepts the lobbying of the increasingly confident new right using fresh attacks on workers' rights he will not get public support. And if he does nothing much he will look out of touch.
This is why this is such a critical time for trade unions and progressive campaigners.
Growing disillusionment with government policies gives us a new audience for our message.
Congress gives us the ideal launchpad to make October 20's march for A Future That Works a huge challenge to the politics and economics of permanent austerity.
To win the argument for an alternative we need to relate our arguments to ordinary lives.
But that should be easy. Living standards continue to fall. Millions are either unemployed or underemployed in part-time work or jobs below their skill level. Young people are facing a miserable time. There is an obvious need for new homes. There is overwhelming support for root and branch reform of the banking system, including a Robin Hood tax on financial transactions.
To take on climate change and achieve a just transition to a carbon-free economy needs planning and commitment far greater than we managed for the Olympics.
But we will not achieve this without stepping up our campaigning.
That is why every union branch and every trades council, every campaign group and every community organisation should now be planning how to maximise turnout on October 20 on either the TUC or the STUC's event.
For without a strong voice for change that reaches out, the passion for an alternative that will dominate our debates this week will not achieve what we do desperately need.
Let's get to it.
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