Socialist Worker

Thousands protest in London to demand a general election

by Socialist Worker journalists
Issue No. 2637

Thousands attended Saturdays demonstration to demand an end to Tory rule

Thousands attended Saturday's demonstration to demand an end to Tory rule (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Thousands of people marched through central London on Saturday demanding a general election and an end to the Tory government.

The demonstration, called by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, came ahead of the likely defeat in parliament of Theresa May’s Brexit deal on Tuesday.

The Tories are in chaos and many people on the march saw it as an opportunity to bring down the government. Most people cited austerity—not Brexit—as their reason for marching.

Sandra came as part the Save St Helier Hospital campaign in south east London. “All the major parties have let us down,” she told Socialist Worker. “But under this government we’ve got a headlong run towards the privatisation of the NHS.

“We’re campaigning to keep acute services at our two hospitals, but the same is happening right across the country.

“Without doubt they only want a skeleton health service for people too poor to go private.”

And Harry came with a group of people from his workplace at Southwark council. He said, “A lot of people I’m here with help people to get the right benefits. I see the effects of austerity every day.

“Universal Credit has become a disaster. A lot of people are suffering in silence.” He added, “I’m just here to support the movement. It’s no good just sitting at home.”

Several people wore high visibility jackets, inspired by the Yellow Vests movement in France.

Movement

A small group of violent Nazis and racists tried to march into Trafalgar Square at the end of the rally, but were repulsed. The far right want to claim the Yellow Vests movement as their own.

Two French Yellow vests spoke at the rally, and said their movement didn’t belong to the right. One of them, Laurie said, “There are so many similarities between our fight and your fight.

“The Gilets Jaunes are resisting this oligarchical government which is taking the wealth away from the people and giving it to the rich.”

Many people on the demonstration were also angry about the Tories’ scapegoating of Muslims, migrants and refugees.

Otis Bolamu, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was recently released from Brook House immigration detention centre after a determined local campaign in Swansea. “It feels good to be out,” he told Socialist Worker.

“I’ve come to the demonstration to tell everybody to do something and send the message – we need to stop deportations.”

He told the crowd at the final rally, “May must go!”

The Labour Party has 550,000 members. Momentum has 50,000 members. Mobilising more ofthese people on the streets could create the conditions to sweep May away.
 

Weyman Bennett from Stand Up To Racism also spoke at the final rally. He slammed Tory attempts to scapegoat refugees as a way of trying to escape their crisis. “They want to set neighbour against neighbour,” he said. “We’ve got to say clearly, if you’re a refugee you’re welcome here.”

Some people on the march were unsure what they could do to force a general election. One protester, Sarah, told Socialist Worker, “We have to force the Tories out. I don’t know how, but we have to do it.”

It was a good sign the shadow chancellor John McDonnell and shadow minister for labour Laura Pidcock called for more action against the Tories.

“It’s so important that we oppose this destructive Tory government not just online and in parliament but loudly and visibly on the streets,” said Pidcock.

And McDonnell said, “We will oppose them in our communities and in our streets, because these streets are our streets.”

But he also said the answer was waiting for Labour to bring down the Tories in parliament. “When the time is right—and I think it’s very soon—we will move that vote of no confidence to bring the Tories down”.

Yet waiting for Labour to move against the Tories in parliament risks allowing the government to stagger on.

Smaller

The demonstration was much smaller than many previous marches against the Tories—a sign that the focus on parliament has turned the focus away from the struggle needed to bring them down.

And there were very few trade union banners on the march.

Some on the march supported Labour’s strategy. Alan, a Labour Party member from south east London told Socialist Worker, “I think that Corbyn is playing it absolutely right. I read Corbyn’s speech on Thursday and it shows Labour has a clear position and we need to stick to it.”

Others wanted more action. “We’ve got to get Corbyn in by doing more things like this, standing up for ourselves” said Stacey, who joined the demonstration after seeing it march past her.

Liz, an NHS admin worker from Nottinghamshire, was angry with the union leaders for not mobilising against the Tories. “Where are the unions?” she told Socialist Worker. “Where is my union Unison and union leader Dave Prentis?

“We shouldn’t just be having A to B marches, we should down tools and bring this country to a standstill.”

The Labour Party has 550,000 members. Momentum has 50,000 members.

They say they want a general election, as do most of the trade unions. These unions have six million members.

Mobilising more of these people on the streets could create the conditions to sweep May away.


Some 200 people attended RMT picket lines in Manchester on Saturday morning

Some 200 people attended RMT picket lines in Manchester on Saturday morning (Pic: Socialist Workers Party)

 


Solidarity with RMT pickets in Manchester after fascist attack

Around 200 people joined the RMT rail union picket lines in Manchester on Saturday a week after pickets were harassed by far right supporters wearing yellow vests.

The solidarity event in response, organised by Stand Up To Racism Manchester, saw delegations from Momentum and trade unions including Unison, UCU, and Unite.


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