By Tomáš Tengely-Evans
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Mass demo says Trident has got to go

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Issue 2493
Some of the tens of thousands who joined the march to scrap Trident last Saturday
Some of the tens of thousands who joined the march to scrap Trident last Saturday (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Tens of thousands of people marched against Trident in London last Saturday in the biggest demonstration against nuclear weapons in a generation.

It was a snapshot of the general radicalisation taking place among hundreds of thousands of people.

Coaches came from places across Britain, including Glasgow, Cardiff, Chesterfield and Plymouth.

Ira Deadman from Norwich summed up people’s anger at the Tories spending billions on Trident.

“We’re told that we live in a time of austerity, but there is plenty of money for nuclear weapons,” she said.

Shanta, Ross and Sian, on the coach from Cardiff, all agreed that “education, health care and prison reform are all better things to spend Trident money on. Mutually assured destruction is MAD.”

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) organised the march and said that 60,000 people joined it. Tony Staunton, who sits on CND’s national council, said, “It’s not just about the money—it’s about our health and very survival.”

Protester Takako held photos of the destruction wrought by nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. “This is what happens with nuclear weapons,” she said.

Many young people and first time demonstrators joined the march. There was a lot of excitement about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the rally in Trafalgar Square.

Protesters chanted, “Cameron out, Corbyn in!”

Sarah from Guildford had come on her first demo. “This is the first time in my life that I’ve supported Labour,” she said. “That’s because Jeremy Corbyn makes sense.

“People talk about Trident providing jobs, but Corbyn has already set out clear alternatives you could spend that money on.”

People weren’t just marching against Trident. Danielle, a leading student nurse campaigner, said, “We’re fighting to save our bursaries. The money used for Trident could fund 2.5 million student nurses.

“Bursaries are an investment into society’s health and wellbeing—Trident is just pointless and deadly.”

A dense sea of placards and banners snaked through central London and poured into Trafalgar Square.

Kate Hudson, CND general secretary, told the crowd, “This is the largest anti-nuclear protest for a generation.

“If anyone tries to tell you that we’re just a fringe group you know that’s a lie.”

PCS union leader Mark Serwotka cut against the pessimism of so many union leaders.

He told the crowd, “I want to address my colleagues in the trade union movement who are arguing that because we have to defend jobs we have to defend Trident.

That’s nonsense.”

To loud cheers Jeremy Corbyn said, “I said if elected I would replace Trident not with a generation of nuclear weapons but with jobs.

“I’m very serious about that point.”

Other speakers included Scottish National Party (SNP) and Plaid Cymru leaders Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood and NUS further education vice president Shakira Martin.

It showed the strength of opposition to Trident—and the potential to build powerful pressure on the Labour right.

As Sally, a young worker from Manchester, said, “We need a movement that supports Jeremy Corbyn—it can be difficult to stick to your guns without one.”

Internal battles won’t beat Labour right wing

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the CND Stop Trident protest in London

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the CND Stop Trident protest in London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn defied the right in his party when he spoke at the CND rally.

His decision to speak flew in the face of Labour figures such as deputy leader Tom Watson, who wants to keep Trident.

Watson last week spoke to the Engineering Employers Federation. He said, “I have made it clear to David Cameron that if he honours his promise of a vote on Trident I will support it.

“There are enough Labour MPs to guarantee that the vote is won.”

Meanwhile Young Labour members met in Scarborough for their annual conference.

They elected a representative to Labour’s National Executive Committee.

James Elliott, who was backed by Corbyn-supporters’ group Momentum, lost by 0.1 percent of the vote.

Leaked screenshots of a Facebook conversation appear to show his opponent Jasmin Beckett encouraging her supporters to link Elliott to accusations of Antisemitism.

The left in Labour must take on the right inside the party.

But it is a mistake to prioritise internal battles involving small numbers of Labour Party activists.

Corbyn is at his strongest as part of a mass movement.

Nick Clark

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