LONDON AND Glasgow are not yet Rome and Barcelona. Nor is Britain yet seeing the kind of militant industrial struggle witnessed in the Italian general strike on Tuesday. Italian workers are fighting the government of Tony Blair's right wing friend Silvio Berlusconi, who is pushing through a major attack on workers' rights. But Britain is not immune from the mood of resistance.
Last Saturday we saw the spirit of the recent mass demonstrations in Europe expressed on the streets of London. One hundred thousand people marched in support of the Palestinians. It was a huge, angry and united show of anger at Israel, imperialism and oppression. Just like the demos in Rome and Barcelona, the massive turnout surpassed everyone's expectations.
This is the second 100,000-strong march in London in the last five months, following last November's anti-war demonstration. This growing anti-capitalist movement is injecting a new spirit and vibrancy into the battles we face in Britain. Like Berlusconi, Blair is driving through neo-liberal policies which mean privatising everything in sight and turning the screw on workers. But significant groups are beginning to strike back.
In the north east of England a series of strikes and strike ballots by NHS medical secretaries, all low paid women workers, has forced trust after trust to offer better pay. There has been a wave of strikes across the rail industry. Workers are also beginning to rediscover tactics that have been forgotten over the last 15 years.
At Manchester airport workers have been out doing delegation work, visiting factories and other workplaces to build support for their dispute. Manual workers at the Faslane naval base in Scotland this week refused to cross picket lines set up by their white collar colleagues in a different union. More battles are coming up next month.
In London three groups of workers are preparing to take strike action. Some 50,000 council workers in London are currently voting on strike action to increase their allowance for the high cost of living in London. Teachers and lecturers are preparing to fight over the same issue. Local council elections take place across England a week next Thursday. The main parties are ensuring that these elections are a turnoff for millions of people.
But thankfully in many areas the Socialist Alliance is standing candidates who are bringing the new spirit of resistance to the elections. The Socialist Alliance campaign is about standing up for the Palestinians. It is about raging against war, privatisation and the bosses' assaults on workers. And it is about providing a left wing pole of attraction for all of those who feel let down, betrayed or just downright angry at Tony Blair.
That is why we encourage all our readers to campaign vigorously for the Socialist Alliance if there is a candidate where they live or in a nearby area. We ask everyone to join the trade unionists, anti-capitalists and anti-war campaigners on the united May Day demonstration in London on Wednesday 1 May.
And we urge everyone to build and be part of the protests and political debates which are boiling in every area, and which can be the start of a new wave of resistance in Britain.
For more information about the May Day demo see page 16.
[Picture not reproduced for copyright reasons]
JUST ONE section of the 100,000-strong demo in London last Saturday in solidarity with the Palestinians. Cheers filled Trafalgar Square when speakers, including Lindsey German from Stop the War Coalition, attacked George Bush and Tony Blair's support for Israel's Ariel Sharon. The roars became louder when left Labour MP George Galloway called for the overthrow of Arab regimes that back the US. Marchers were mainly Muslim but included socialists and anti-war activists
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