Thousands of trade unionists and other activists celebrated International Workers’ Day last weekend by joining protests in towns and cities across Britain.
The spirit of resistance to the Tory government’s cuts meant that many places saw new activists join the protests.
The biggest march took place in London where organisers said up to 10,000 people turned out.
Tony Lennon, vice president of the TUC’s southern and eastern region, told the crowd in Trafalgar Square that the anti-cuts fight had made it “the biggest May Day in London for many years”.
“There is a mood alive in Britain and this May Day rally shows it,” he said. “It is almost twice the size of the May Day rally we had last year.”
The march was also boosted by a large group of Tamils, who joined it to raise support for their demand for justice.
“We’re here together with the labour movement,” Srirangan told Socialist Worker. “We need everybody’s help—people need to know about what happened in Sri Lanka.”
He pointed to the United Nations report into war crimes committed by the government in the country. “Still no one will take any action,” he said. “We’re asking for freedom and for people to open their eyes.”
Tony Benn addressed the crowd saying, “The real conflicts in the world are between the majority who slog their guts out creating the wealth and the handful who control it.”
He added to applause, “Along the road is the House of Commons where they discuss the politics of today.
“But in Trafalgar Square we discuss the politics of tomorrow.”
Lee Jasper of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) said the TUC “needs to get off its knees and call a general strike”. He said, “We are black, Asian, Muslim—unity is strength.”
Remploy worker Les Woodhead from Swansea added, “We’re going into the fight of our lives.
“We might be disabled but we fight hard.
“This is a fight to save the working class and we will not waver one inch from it.”
And FBU firefighters’ union general secretary Matt Wrack pointed to the coordinated strikes.
“There are now likely to be strikes across whole sections of public services, possibly as early as June,” he told the crowd. “Every single one of us needs to be on their picket lines.”
Around 1,000 people joined a colourful and confident Scottish TUC May Day march in Glasgow.
Len McCluskey, the Unite union general secretary, spoke about how the cuts are unnecessary and had to be resisted.
He called for co-ordinated strikes across the unions to challenge the government’s plans.
Around 500 joined the Leeds “March for the Alternative” through the city centre last Saturday.
When speakers pointed out the potential for a million workers to be on strike on 30 June and the need to build for a day of resistance they received huge applause.
UK Uncut activists held protests outside a number of shops after the demonstration, forcing a branch of Vodafone to close its doors.
Protests across Britain
Two hundred people joined a march against the cuts in Portsmouth on Sunday.
The noisy protest called for the fall of the coalition government and for strikes against the cuts.
In Cambridge, school, health and library campaigners joined FBU members to leaflet the public against the cuts.
More than 250 marched in Birmingham, 200 in Dundee, 200 in Coventry, over 300 in Newcastle, while hundreds demonstrated in Liverpool.
Two hundred workers, students and campaigners demonstrated in Manchester. A Bahraini activist brought a message from trade unions who are fighting for change in the Gulf state.
It reads, “In the great city of Manchester we honour your struggles and our struggle and sacrifices for a free, fair, and democratic Bahrain, and we ask for your full support and backing of these demands.”
Police carried out a brutal operation on the 200-strong anti-capitalist demonstration in Brighton last Sunday, kettling activists and arresting eight people over the day.
Additional reporting by Mark Dunk, Jon Woods and Tom Woodcock