Manchester’s streets were filled with the spirit of resistance last Sunday as tens of thousands marched on the Tory party conference.
Up to 100,000 people joined the TUC demonstration. Its size and anger showed a mood to take on the Tories.
Michael Byrne, a Unite rep at Coventry City council, said, “This is a carnival full of hope. It shows you people are prepared to fight austerity.”
Disability rights groups, Stand up to Racism activists defending refugees and activists calling for the scrapping of Trident all joined the march.
Many young people brought homemade banners—and pig masks were popular.
Protesters shouting “Tory scum” egged one young Tory going into the conference.
On the way to Manchester hated minister Iain Duncan Smith popped into services on the M6 to pick up a right wing newspaper. It was full of people on coaches up to the march.
One protester told Socialist Worker, “I got right in his face and called him a murderer and said he should be ashamed. He looked shaken and scuttled out.”
The question for many marchers was what sort of struggle can stop the Tories’ attacks.
Some protesters were hopeful about the impact of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader. There were more Labour banners out than on many recent protests.
Derby North Labour Party had already produced one featuring Corbyn’s picture.
Katy from Manchester admired his policies but wanted him to stick to them. She said, “He’s a man of principle, but he needs to not try to be all things to all people.”
Many wanted the demo to be the start of a bigger fightback. Matthew, marching with a placard reading “The only good Tory is a suppository”, told Socialist Worker, “This is about removing the Conservatives—not just putting pressure on them.”
For many marchers this meant defending the right to strike (see right).
Nik Hughes from the Hovis Bfawu union branch in Wigan said at a rally along the route, “The Tories want to bring in new anti-strike laws because strikes work.”
Sacked steel workers from Redcar marched at the front. Unite leader Len McCluskey rolled up his sleeves to march with them, but is not offering to lead a fight to defend their jobs (see page 19).
Redcar shows that it isn’t only Tory laws that can hold back workers’ resistance. Trade union leaders need to be forced to take a lead.
Junior doctors and medical students marched from the Manchester Royal Infirmary.
Their demand for what to do next was clear as they chanted, “Strike, strike, strike!”
The march made its way around the heavily defended venue of the conference. In the brief moments when the building was visible the chants and drumming became deafening.
Some 3,000 people attended an open air People’s Assembly rally at the end of the march. Singer Charlotte Church said, “This is not a radical fringe. This is a growing social movement.”
Manchester showed the potential for serious resistance. The challenge is to build it.