BRITAIN'S BOSSES were under siege at their annual conference in Manchester this week. Hundreds of anti-war and anti-capitalist protesters stormed the conference centre on Sunday. That was just one of a wave of protests that greeted the conference. The fat cats of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) gathered in Manchester's plush GMEX centre.
New Labour ministers rubbed shoulders with top businessmen. Outside ordinary people vented their anger at everything the corporations stand for - war, inequality, rotten pay, and profit. On Monday, as chancellor Gordon Brown came to speak to the bosses, hundreds of firefighters gathered outside.
They were determined to show what they felt about Brown and his government, as well as what they thought of CBI boss Digby Jones calling firefighters 'selfish'. On Sunday at lunchtime hundreds of workers organised by the Amicus union rallied, demanding an end to the scandal of unequal pay for women workers. The highlight was the inspirational anti-war and anti-capitalist protest on Sunday afternoon.
'No blood for oil' and 'Power to the people' were the chants as protesters surged up the steps outside the CBI conference. Panicking police rushed to try and block the surge, lashing out with batons. One protester, Sheffield student Dave Shiels, was left with blood pouring from his head.
He was defiant afterwards: 'We have to show those bastards in there that we won't put up with their sick priorities any more.' Dozens of the protesters did succeed in getting into the conference centre. They paraded around the stalls of Britain's top companies.
'The CBI represents the kind of businesses that are wrecking the world, and which will profit from war,' said Adam Marks, another student from Sheffield.
'We have protested outside meetings and conferences, but we have to go further and go on the offensive. We have to say to the ruling class that they are not going to have things their way any more.'
Over 500 people had gathered for the protest, organised by the anti-capitalist Globalise Resistance group. Most were young, though older trade unionists joined them. People made connections between different issues and battles. A group of young Muslim women from Manchester joined the chanting: 'Victory to the FBU! Don't attack Iraq! No blood for oil!'
One of the group, Yasmin Butt, explained, 'We are here protesting at the occupation of Palestine, and the injustice of war with Iraq. The issue is about US domination of oil, the Middle East and the world. It's right to protest at the CBI because the fat cats are the ones who will benefit from war.'
Natalie Mills was there with her Bolton council Unison union banner: 'All the issues are connected - war, the firefighters, public services - it's about a way of ruling the world. 'Some people say to me, 'Aren't you a bit old as a grandmother to be out protesting with the students?'
'I say we are all fighting the same battles and should stand together.' After protesters emerged from invading the conference centre, hundreds of people staged an impromptu march around the vast hall. Mariangela Casalucci is an Italian living in Manchester.
She had been to the European Social Forum in Florence a fortnight earlier. 'This is the same spirit as in Florence,' she said. 'We are saying the people in there, the fat cats, we don't accept your system and your ideas, we don't want your world of profit and war.'
Rage against inequality
HUNDREDS OF workers, and their families, rallied outside the CBI conference on Sunday at lunchtime demanding an end to the scandal of unequal pay for women. The protest, organised by the Amicus union, saw delegations from across Britain make their anger at Britain's bosses clear. Women workers still get paid an average 19 percent less than men. The pay gap is up from 18 percent a year ago.
Tina Mackay explained, 'Discrimination works in all sorts of different ways. 'When you get systems like performance-related pay they are set up in ways that hit women's pay. Every firm should have to say what they are doing about ensuring equal pay.'
Many of those demonstrating were male workers and trade unionists. Steve Monkman, union convenor at a Rothmans cigarette factory in the north east of England, argued, 'It's scandalous that women workers still don't get equality in pay. We need protests like this and more to end that scandal. This is an issue for all workers, men and women alike.'
Discussing Florence's impact
OVER 150 people met in central London last Saturday to take part in a report back from the recent European Social Forum (ESF) and anti-war demonstration in Florence, Italy.
The meeting was organised by Globalise Resistance and kicked off with leading anti-capitalist campaigner from the Philippines Walden Bello, who was at the ESF.
He called Florence a 'tremendous success', which marked a 'second moment' of resistance in the anti-globalisation movement, after the anti-WTO protests in Seattle in the US in 1999.
He looked forward to the protests being organised outside the WTO in Cancun, Mexico, where it meets in September next year. There was an enthusiastic reception for Linda Smith from London FBU, who spoke inspiringly about the firefighters' strike.
Claudio Jamplaglia from the Italian Social Forum movement spoke about how Florence had terrified the ruling class. The Italian state has arrested 20 leading activists who were involved in organising the ESF.
'This weekend 20,000 marched in southern Italy against repression,' he said. 'There is a new generation of ideas and people who are marching and moving forward.' There was a lively discussion from the floor.
People gave their own eyewitness accounts from Florence and discussed how to build a bigger anti-capitalist movement in Britain.
Send messages of support to those arrested in Italy to [email protected] or [email protected]
Protest at the European Union summit in Copenhagen, 13-15 December.
Phone Globalise Resistance on 020 7053 2071 or go to www.resist.org.uk