Steve Ryan reports on the TUC’s March 26 ‘March for the Alternative’ demonstration.
The 26th may well turn out to be a turning point in the anti cuts movement.
Firstly as an event it was an undoubted success. Up to half a million marched, sang and chanted their way in lively procession from Embankment to Hyde park. The march clearly attracted many thousands who had not been on a demo before, many who had pulled back from political activity and were pulled back in, in short this wasn’t the usual suspects.
It clearly rattled the establishment. Vicious attacks appeared in the right wing press, including misquoted opinion polls to suggest the marchers were in a minority ( in fact the opinion polls for the last 2 weeks show the reverse is true ).
Facebook and twitter later showed how proud and pleased those on the march were with the day.
The day was of course also notable for the events in the West end and later Trafalgar square/ The “violence “ is now being denounced by left and right .
What was it thought? Some symbolic property was trashed. Frankly, good. The rich must not be allowed to play with our jobs, pensions etc and think all we will do is march. The events in Trafalgar were exaggerated, this writer witnessed some of it, a party was turned into a fight by heavy handed policing. Look at the blogs especially the more unaligned and thoughtful to get the truth of this.
Some thought does need to be given to direct action in such circumstances it is true. The events in Oxford st caught up a number of first time marchers who were upset and distressed though as many thought it was great when they saw what had happened, Nevertheless care must be given to innocent bystanders who are sympathetic in future. We need people onside not put off at the first hurdle.
How now does the anti cuts movement, move?
Many of the Trade union speakers spoke of strike action, co coordinated or otherwise. This may not happen, if it does, until June earliest, although there are a number of disputes that will start before then. For example 80.000 PCS members in different departments are currently balloting for action, UCU are out and other fights are on the horizon.
The royal wedding, May day etc give significant dates for actions, marches and demos.
In short, its time to up the ante. The anger is clearly building. More and more workers are being drawn to the idea of fighting back.
This means finding ways of expressing that anger. Petitions, demos, marches, lobbies’ allow for people to get involved at their own pace.
In the meantime, every effort should be made to seek opportunities for strikes, go slows, work to rules, general industrial disruption. Workers should be involved in this through assemblies, car park meetings, workplace bulletins. Pressure must be built on the union leaderships to act, whilst building the confidence of rank and file workers to take the initiative. There is a way to go yet with this, but it must be built.
Leafleting and stalls must reach out away from city and town centres into the estates and villages to build on the frustration and anger clearly shown on Saturday, mass meetings again are vital.
There must also now be no reluctance to engage politically with people. As communists we must be honest and clear where we stand. It was interesting how receptive the marchers were to the chants and slogans, why not then serious political anaylsis?
And yes direct action must continue to take the fight to the bosses, bankers politician’s and their hangers on. We must not be afraid of this, it works.
In other words moving out of the success of 26th of March means building a broad movement, mindful of the differing levels of political awaking out there. Patience, innovation, determination are needed.
Saturday was important. It should be a building block for the fight back. Lets use it wisely and ensure it is.