Fury at the Tories exploded onto the streets last Saturday. Ordinary people struck and protested against the government’s assault on working people, on education, jobs and welfare.
London firefighters held militant picket lines against Tory fire boss Brian Coleman’s threats to sack them all unless they accept worse contracts. Tube workers refused to work during the strike on safety grounds—bringing tube lines to a halt.
And around 50,000 people protested against the Tories.
Many invoked the spirit of France, where millions have taken action to defend pensions. They rejected the Tory lie that cuts are “inevitable” and called for united action to stop them.
The day gave a glimpse of the potential that exists to build a mass movement to smash the Tories and stop their attacks.
The biggest protest was in Edinburgh, where some 25,000 marched. The protest, called by the Scottish TUC, brought together trade unionists, campaigners, pensioners, students, disabled people and unemployed workers.
Carol Ashe, a trainee teacher, travelled on one of nine EIS teachers’ union buses from Glasgow to join the march.
“The Tory cuts are just too much for the country to bear,” she told Socialist Worker. “I was training to be a teacher but had to defer my place when I got sick.
“The welfare state caught me at a really important time—I relied on it. It should be there for other people too.
“I don’t think a lot of people cheat on benefits. People are just trying to get by.”
There were big delegations of students on the protest. They are already feeling the impact of cuts—and are worried about the future.
Callum Morrison, a history student from Glasgow university, told Socialist Worker, “Cuts are already being implemented at our university. I feel that, without protest or resistance, education in this country will be destroyed.”
Others raged against the Tory lies being used to justify cuts. “The Tories are a party of rich people who don’t use any of the services they want to cut,” said David Jameson, a student at Caledonian university.
“People like them are to blame for the crisis—but they want workers and students to pay for it.” There was a debate on the way forward on the demo—as there was in many places (see right).
But the idea of a one-day general strike went down well and caught the mood of anger among demonstrators.
The most militant sections of the demonstration let off flares and chanted, “Tous ensembles, tous ensembles, Greve Generale! [All together, general strike!]” in solidarity with French workers. Alan Ferguson, national secretary for the further
education section of the EIS, said, “Today has been a brilliant demonstration but it has to be the beginning of a much bigger campaign.
“We have to start fighting now for a national one day general strike.”
Gordon Martin, a branch secretary in the RMT union from Lanarkshire, told Socialist Worker, “We are facing the most pernicious government since Thatcher. The sooner that Scotland can take French lessons the better!
“Hopefully today has given us the chance to launch a bigger campaign—it can’t just be a one-off protest.”
For fuller coverage see our online reports from the day