Trade unionists and activists are holding mobilising rallies and events across Britain to prepare for the mass demonstrations on 20 October.
The TUC protests in London and Glasgow that day look set to surpass the mobilisation on 26 March last year.
In Kingswood, just outside Bristol, around 600 people came to a free “festival against austerity” organised by the South Gloucestershire Unison branch. Unison steward Huw Williams said, “There was a good response in a poor working class area.” Many booked up for transport.
In Islington, north London, 80 came to a rally including many Labour Party supporters. “I still remember last year’s march, which was incredible,” said Catherine West, the leader of the local Labour council.
“So that millionaires can get their tax cut, local people will be made to pay for it,” she added. “In this climate we need to get together.”
Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT teachers’ union, said the march should not be the end of it. “We need to come back to strike action,” he said. “For that reason I think we need to make 20 October a very big demonstration indeed.”
Sean Vernell from the executive of the lecturers’ UCU union said we need to “march together, then strike together”. And Jane Doolan, branch secretary of Islington Unison (pc), said, “I think we need a general strike.”
At a Unite the Resistance meeting in Cardiff, CWU branch secretary and Wales TUC president Amarjite Singh agreed. “We need a general strike to show the people in parliament that we mean business. We have to unite for working class people because no one else will,” he said.
More than 100 people came to a Future That Works public meeting in Leeds, with PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka. He said that 20 October would be part of “the mother of all battles”.
He added that while it was important for strikes to involve large numbers, we “can’t wait” for every union to join in.
In Manchester, 60 came to hear TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes. “I think the majority of people in Britain are now on our side,” he said. “That gives us a huge platform.”
Students too are organising for the demonstration. Nathan Bolton is president of Essex university student union. “We’re saying the struggle for education can’t be separated from the struggle against austerity,” he said.
The student union has booked two coaches, and plans to fill them with university students and workers. It is planning a general assembly in the first week of the new term.
The Unite the Resistance (UtR) national conference is on 17 November. It will bring together trade unionists who want to escalate the strikes and the fightback against the Tories’ austerity.
It has launched a statement to raise in union branches and community campaigns. This calls for more united strikes in the autumn, stating they “should be only the start of a campaign” and says more strikes will be needed.
The motion welcomes the TUC vote for a general strike, calling for the day to be named as soon as possible after 20 October.
UtR has also launched a petition. It calls on the TUC “to build rallies and public meetings in major cities and towns” to “cement support for a general strike and regional/national demonstrations to coincide with it.”
These are useful tools workers can use to create networks and win an argument about the need to build pressure from below in every branch.
At the November conference’s opening session, speakers will discuss where next in the fight against austerity. The workshops will discuss different elements of the fightback.
This includes the international struggle, defending the public sector, and organising the unemployed, migrant workers and young people. After a debate on the aims of UtR, conference rooms will be given to union groups to discuss their ongoing struggles against austerity.
Unite the Resistance conference: 17 November, Emmanuel Centre, Marsham St, London SW1P 3DW (nearest tubes Victoria, Westminster, St James’s Park, Pimlico). Registration from 10am, sessions 11am to 5pm. Go to uniteresist.org
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