Socialist Worker

Thousands take to the streets against austerity

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2224

Trade unionists protesting ahead of the Tories’ spending review  (Pic: Smallman )

Trade unionists protesting ahead of the Tories’ spending review  (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Thousands of trade unionists protested in central London on Tuesday to oppose Tory plans to make massive public spending cuts in Wednesday’s comprehensive spending review.

Demonstrators were clear that the Tory cuts aren’t necessary—and they wanted to see the unions launch a united fightback to stop them.

Jackie Green, vice-president of the PCS Ministry of Justice group, told Socialist Worker, “We are drip fed the lie that there is a need for cuts.

“But it isn’t true. We should be taxing the bankers.

“The power of the common people can stop the government. The unions must unite.”

Activists demonstrated before packing into a TUC rally in Westminster Central Hall.

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, told the rally, “These cuts are not about economic necessity, but a political choice.

“There is an alternative: a Robin Hood tax on banks and closing the tax gap.”

Workers gave a standing ovation to Lizzie Lowden, a 14-year-old schoolgirl from Leyton school in east London, who spoke about what the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future programme means.

Tony Woodley, the joint general secretary of Unite, said, “Don’t tell me we’re all in it together. Millions will be unemployed.

“This is a battle for every private and public sector worker. Trade unions must lead.”

But some appeared ambiguous about the kind of resistance required to beat the Tories.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison union, said, “We will build an alliance of all public service unions to break the pay freeze, protect our pensions and stop the cuts.

“We’ll march in our thousands and we’ll vote in our millions to ditch this coalition.”

To great applause, Prentis offered solidarity to the London firefighters who are to strike this Saturday.

But we will need more than warm words—and pleas to back Labour—to stop cuts.

The leaders of the biggest unions, while arguing for a fight, made little mention of the coordinated strikes that will be needed to defeat the Tories.

Many workers present wanted that kind of action.

Kay Aris, Leicestershire Unison convenor, told Socialist Worker, “These cuts are going to have a massive impact and we’re not going to stand for it.

“We’re going to unite together to save our services.”

Davica Aright, also from Leicestershire Unison, added, “We need a general strike.”

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