Sunday, October 21, 2012

October 20 London: The 'Plebs' out on the march,

 UNITE members near the front of the march.
Pensioners and disabled people wait off Picadilly to join the march
Medical Practitioners Union, photo by MPU member Dr.Brian Robinson, with thanks.

TRADE unionists and community campaigners were back on the streets of London on Saturday, supporting the march called by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) against public service cuts and austerity and for a "future that works".

Between 150,000 and 200,00 people marched in London, and there were also big demonstrations in Glasgow (50,000) and Belfast. 

Many of the placards took up directly related issues such as privatisation, and health and safety, and the environment and war were not forgotten either. Greek and other international delegations were warmly welcomed, with a recognition that the struggle against capitalist austerity measures is not confined by boundaries.

In contrast with Labour leader Ed Miliband's attempt at "middle ground" respectability with assertation that Labour is the party of "One Nation", adopting the ideal which Disraeli vainly held up for the Tories in the 19th century, many hand-painted placards alluded to the Tories' recent embarassment by proclaiming proudly "Up with the Plebs! Down with the Toffs!" and similar class war sentiments   .

Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell MP has finally resigned a month after the incident when he swore at police at Downing Street, allegedly telling an officer to "learn your place" and calling her a "pleb" because she asked him to leave by a side gate rather than opeing the main gate for him to cycle out.

Whatever experiences we have had with the police, most people can reason that if this is how a leading Tory talks to those public servants specially charged with looking after the ruling class and its privilege, it is a fair indication of how his kind think of the rest of us. Mitchell has had to step down for blurting it out, though it seemed Prime Minister David Cameron was too thick to see the damage his chum had done. Marvellous what an Etonian education does for one.

The size of yesterday's demonstration seemed down on previous ones and earlier expectations. But whatever the reasons, it remained a broad sweep of society outside the narrow ruling class, and there was little doubt of the anger and determination of those marching.   

There was applause for Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey when he told the Hyde Park rally that  we would have to fight, and referred to the TUC's vote to consider a general strike and consult member unions. "That consultation starts now," McCluskey added, asking his audience if they were prepared for it, and receiving a positive assent.

By contrast, again, Ed Milliband was booed later when he said a Labour government would still have to make cuts.

I'd already left the park before this, passing as I went various groups setting out their stalls, and the Socialist Party's own platform, at Speakers Corner, from which Linda Taafe was addressing a non-existent crowd on the need for a 24-hour general strike, seemingly unaware that Len McCluskey had stolen her thunder, or that anything had changed since they lobbied the Brighton TUC.with this demand. (Elsewhere, I see, the old believers of the remnant WRP were chanting "TUC get off your knees! etc", as they were last year and indeed have done for many a year).

There were a few SP members I recognised, serious and respected militants,  standing at points around their platform, with leaflets, but looking isolated and bewildered, as though waiting for a crowd that had not arrived. Their party appeared to have put in a lot of effort and one could not miss its large banners at each entrance to the park, but this only seemed to underline a sense of separateness from the mainstream. Not as distant as the Labour Party leadership, mind, which cannot convince anyone it is on our side. 

Len McCluskey speech:

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