Nobody can predict how big the TUC’s demonstration on 26 March is going to be. But it is certainly going to be one of the biggest protests Britain has ever seen.
Many rightly believe that the demonstration could become a “game changer”, heralding a return to more combative trade unionism.
Already debates are raging. Some are rightly worried that the TUC wants a passive march. They’re asking, how do we make it more militant?
Others are arguing that instead of going home at the end of the protest, Trafalgar Square should be occupied—a British version of Tahrir Square. John McDonnell MP, for instance, is urging people to bring their sleeping bags.
It’s an encouraging sign of a growing militancy developing in Britain—a symptom of the recent revolutions and protests.
And of course socialists should support this call. But there are some pitfalls.
It will be an academic debate if the protest doesn’t match people’s expectations. That would strengthen those leaders who reject strikes and want to use the march to gain leverage with the government simply to negotiate the speed and depth of the cuts.
At a recent meeting of the TUC, the GMB argued against strikes and made the absurd claim that the TUC is at its strongest when it is working in partnership with the government.
The starting point for every socialist is to ensure the protest is as big and vibrant as possible.
An occupation of Trafalgar Square is one tactic that will be deployed and we should support it—but there are other, more powerful weapons in our armoury.
If we really are going to stop all the cuts then co‑ordinated strikes and a general strike is where this movement has to go.
We can’t have a situation where all the activists break from the great mass of the demo. This would allow those who want to pacify the movement to go unchallenged at Hyde Park.
We need thousands of socialists on the protest, and on the transport home, arguing the way forward.
We should support unions organising co-ordinated action, pressurise those shying away from the fight, and offer concrete solidarity to the thousands of workers who are set to strike in the days following the demo.
We are going to have to divide our forces on the day.
Yes we should bring our sleeping bags on 26 March, but just as importantly we should be on the demo arguing we need strikes to beat the Tory cutters.