Tony Benn addressed a rally in Chesterfield last Saturday – for the first time since he stopped being the local MP in 2001.
Around 90 people came to the meeting on how workers can fight back in a recession, which was organised by Chesterfield Trades Council.
Benn made an emotional speech. He said that he learned about how workers can fight back during the 1984-85 Miners Strike and that “every new generation has to learn how to struggle”.
He highlighted the recent victory of workers at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago, who occupied their plant over redundancy pay and won, and said that activists had to support any group of workers who fight back.
Economist Graham Turner spoke about the scale of the crisis – in particular the scale of homes repossessions.
He argued that the government’s response has been completely inadequate.
Victimised union activist and nurse Karen Reissmann spoke about her own case in fighting privatisation in the NHS.
The audience included reps from the PCS, Unite and Unison unions, as well as teachers and bus workers.
People also came from the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centre, which has campaigned successfully to save job centres in the area.
People highlighted the threat posed by the fascist British National Party (BNP), which is trying to capitalise on the crisis.
An ex-Labour councillor in Bolsover recently defected to the BNP and an anti-fascist campaign is being organised there.
Many at the meeting agreed that activists need to be organised and take concrete action – such as organising to defend people who are threatened with repossession and visiting Woolworths’ workers to show our solidarity with them.
The meeting energised activists and strengthened our determination to grab every opportunity to stop the government and the bosses making us pay for the crisis.