By Sophie Squire and Charlie Kimber
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March in London opposes the Tory attacks, now build the fightback

This article is over 1 years, 8 months old
Anti-racists, environmental protesters, anti-war activists and others joined trade unionists
Issue 2830
Hundreds of people in Trafalgar Square on a rainy day, but they look angry and have placards suchas Braverman Out Bring the Tories Down and Support the Strikes

The march in London ended with a rally in Trafalgar Square (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Around 15,000 people took to the streets of London on Saturday to call for an end to Tory austerity and a general election. 

Activists began the “Britain is Broken” demonstration, organised by the People’s Assembly, on Embankment. Iona had convinced a group of her friends to attend the demonstration with her. She told Socialist Worker that she was protesting today because ordinary people are “being stamped on.” 

“The moment is coming when people start to say we can’t take this anymore,” she said. “As a young person I know I won’t get to enjoy the same standard of living as the older generation did. I think there’s a lot of collective rage about this.”

Iona added that she was also out on the streets to fight back at the Tories’ destruction of the NHS. “My mum is a nurse in the NHS, she didn’t retire because she wanted to help during Covid,” she said. “Now she’s scared that if she stops working there will be no one to replace her. Understaffing and the stagnation of pay in the health services can’t go on.” 

Protesters heard from speakers as the demonstration gathered. Weyman Bennett from Stand Up to Racism told the crowd that the Tories are trying to use racism to distract from their crisis. 

“Let’s be clear,” he said. “Suella Braverman is using an old trick, it’s called divide and rule. 

“Refugees are not to blame for the crisis. It was the billionaires who stole our wealth not them. Low pay isn’t delivered by refugees it’s pushed by Tory bosses.” Lots of marchers were enraged by the attack on migrants in Dover and the Tories’ vile actions towards refugees.

Other speakers included Kate Hudson from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Nicola from Right to Food and Anas al-Tikriti from the Muslim Association of Britain. 

The demonstration marched to Trafalgar Square, led by a delegation of RMT union rail workers.

Placards included, “Profit is the enemy,” and, “We’re sick of this shit.” Protesters chanted, “Tories out, refugees in,” and, “When they say cut back we say fight back.” 

There was a large bloc of Just Stop Oil (JSO) and Extinction Rebellion (XR) supporters. Jack from JSO said the group were on the demonstration to “show our force and make those in power realise that there is strong opposition to this government.”

Aysha, from XR, added, “I don’t believe that marching on its own will make a difference, but I do think they are a great way for different groups to start working together. This is how we show we stand in solidarity.”

Both Jack and Aysha agreed that it was important that their groups were at the march in London to win workers and trade unionists to the climate cause. 

Groups of trade unionists joined the demonstration, one of the largest trade union blocs was of members of the NEU union who are voting on whether to launch national strikes over pay

Orlando Hill, an NEU rep from Camden in London, told Socialist Worker that getting out onto the streets can build action in the workplace. “It’s important to protest and come together to unite different strikes,” he said. “It’s inspiring to hear about and be around workers who have already been on strike.” 

Other activists pointed out that more strikes are desperately needed. Ivo, a student from Essex university, said that he was ready to support his lecturers in the UCU who plan to strike soon. “It will be important to support our teachers when they strike. There is a crisis in education—workers are underpaid and overworked, something needs to change,” he said. 

Labour’s Jane Gebbie is the deputy leader of Bridgend council in south Wales. She told Socialist Worker that she was on the demonstration to rage against public service cuts. 

“There are massive problems in care, pay for care workers has stayed the same,” she said. “How can these workers be expected to care for the most vulnerable when they can’t afford food or heating themselves? 

“Things can’t go on like this, why is it that people who work 37-hour weeks, still have to rely on benefits?” 

But Jane also added that she believed that the demonstration should have been bigger considering the scale of the crisis. 

Large group of anti-racist protesters with message of refugees welcome

Anti-racists brought to the march the rage over Tory attacks on migrants and refugees (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The march in London ended with speeches in Trafalgar Square. Former leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn called for the nationalisation of the energy and rail companies in his speech. 

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch also spoke at the closing rally.

Calling off the rail strikes on the eve of the march, and delaying some postal workers’ strikes earlier in the week, lowered the mood of the march.

Even though most people trust the RMT and CWU leaders and are reluctant to seem critical, there was not the same sense of momentum that might have been there otherwise. 

The rail and Royal Mail battles are far from over. Bosses may make so few concessions that the unions will be pushed to go ahead with scheduled action and announce new strikes.

But you don’t take to the streets with such a spring in your step if the focus is on negotiations rather than picket lines.

In the next week, we will know if nurses in the RCN union and civil service workers in the PCS union have backed national strikes. And already we know 70,000 university workers in the UCU union are set to strike before Christmas and to escalate in 2023. 

Such battles can broaden the resistance and give new impetus to those that are already taking place. But the mood of “at last, there are strikes and we’ll win quickly” of the summer has passed. 

Now there is still very wide backing for anyone who fights. But there is also recognition that major decisions are coming for the unions, and that just intermittent action doesn’t break through.

Union leaders must not be allowed to stop the struggle from developing. Escalating, broadening and uniting the strikes—and fighting to win—are crucial battles

The march in London on Saturday must help to build a much bigger fightback against the Tories and their rotten system. 

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