The battle against austerity continues after the elections of the 22 May writes Fred Leplat. The People’s Assembly is organising a demonstration on Saturday 21 June for an alternative to cuts in public services and living standards. It comes just before a day of co-ordinated strikes of teachers, civil servants and council workers – members of the NUT, PCS, Unison, Unite and the GMB – scheduled for 10 July. The strike depends on the outcome of some ballots, but many unions are preparing for what could be the biggest day of strike since 2011. They are mobilising their members for the People’s Assembly demonstration and other for actions such as the NUT’s Stand Up For Education lobby of Parliament on the 10 June.
There is now transport organised from over 30 cities across Britain, and the major unions and campaigns will be marching in their own blocks on the 21 June. The demonstration will assemble in Portland Place, outside the BBC, and end in a festival in Parliament Square with speakers and performers including Russell Brand, Christine Blower, Jeremy Corbyn, Francesca Martinez and Caroline Lucas.
The demonstration on 21 June prepares for an autumn of actions against austerity and war. On the 31 August, there will be protests in Newport against the NATO summit. A month later, there will be a demonstration in Birmingham at the Tory Party conference, and then the TUC is holding a demonstration in London on 18 October to demand that “Britain Needs a Pay Rise”.
The message from the 21 June demonstration is for an alternative based on reversing the cuts, renationalisation of utilities and public services, ending zero-hours contracts, taxing wealth and investing in public serves and creating green jobs. But the political debate is dominated by the four pro-austerity parties: New Labour, LibDems, Tories and UKIP. This will be reflected in the outcome of the elections, despite the fact that there is majority support in opinion polls for the re-nationalisation of Royal Mail, the energy companies, the railways, and keeping the NHS in public hands. A recent poll also reveals that53% of voters now “blame the banking industry the most for causing the UK financial crash in 2008”.
The day of strike in July by several trade-unions is encouraging, as well as the recent actions of FBU fire-fighters, RMT members on the tube and electricians on London building sites. This industrial action can help rebuild the unions and give the message that the employers’ offensive will be met with resistance. Campaigning in the communities is necessary to resist cuts, and to show that workers on strike for decent wages are supported by those who depend on the services they deliver.
Organising resistance against austerity in the workplaces and the communities, and calling demonstration is essential, but not sufficient. We can no longer just vote New Labour as the lesser evil. Left Unity was launched as a new broad party to support the resistance to austerity but also to help rebuild independent working class political representation. The anger at the traditional parties and the establishment, seen to be responsible for the crisis, has fuelled the rise of UKIP. Seamus Milne recently argued in the Guardian “that the only antidote to the growth of the far right is a populism of the left: one that targets class and corporate power instead of foreigners. In different ways, that has been the approach of Syriza, now leading the polls in Greece…”. That is also the approach of Left Unity in Britain.
With just a few weeks to the demonstration on the 21 June, every Left Unity branch must help build the demonstration. Details of the demo, and how to get leaflets and posters are here.