On November 30th the fightback against the government's cuts agenda stepped up a gear. This was a tremendous reply to a government that only the day before arrogantly imposed a 1% cap on public sector pay rises for two years.
Around 10,000 people marched in the centre of Brighton; the biggest demonstration at least since the Miners strike of 1984-85. Three feeder demonstrations of between 500-700 people each joined the demonstration in town from Moulscoomb, Whitehawk and Hove. Picket lines across public sector workplaces in the morning were well covered, and many workplaces were shut outright. The Jobcentre was barely open, Brighton University was shut, council services from council offices to the bin depot practically stopped for the day, most schools were shut or nominally open.
Phil Clarke of the NUT, along with Tom Hickey UCU made the call for an escalation of the action if the government does not back down. They called for a 48 hour all-out public sector strike to take place. Socialist party leaflets (text can be found here) described a strategy going forward, and were well received by striking workers and marchers. There was general agreement that one day is not enough, and a strong mood for further action to defeat the government's pension 'reforms'. However the attack on pensions is only a foot in the door. Squeezed pay, job losses, rising workloads and privatisation are also key issues that need to be fought against.
The rally received support from Caroline Lucas Green Party MP, one of the few MPs to stand side by side with the strikers. Ed Miliband 'heroically' refused to condemn the strike, but couldn't bring himself to support it! The Green Party delayed releasing their budget proposals by one day due to the strike, however it is clear that they have no strategy to fight the £20m of cuts imposed by the government this year. The demonstration on November 30th is proof that the working-class of Brighton and Hove will fight against injustice, including cuts in council spending!
The Socialist Party public meeting immediately after the rally was well attended (with many young people whose support on the march and generally was a huge encouragement to strikers) and discussed the way forward after the 30th. The need to press the trade union leadership from every (striking and non-striking) branch to move from a 24 to a 48 hour public sector strike was clear from the discussion. Likewise the trade union leadership needs be very clear that any deal or concessions posed by the government has to be put to the membership of those unions for approval or rejection. More broadly there has to be democratic control over the negotiation process itself which restarted again today by the membership of the striking trade unions.
This was balanced by recognition of the need to rebuild and reinvigorate trade union branches, using the strike day to help achieve that. Brighton and Hove Trades Union Council which became the organising centre of the strike day has and will continue to play a bigger and bigger role in this crucial process.
Click image for video:
The meeting also pointed out the need for a new workers party. The betrayal by the Labour party is not only a disappointment; it is a block on the development of a genuine political voice of the working-class. Many unions on strike on the 30th continue to fund New Labour, what do they get for it? We think there is a need to build a new workers party, where strategy for the movement can be debated and a political voice worth voting for and supporting can be built, as part of the growing struggle against the Tory/Lib Dem government. We are supporting Pip Tindall, candidate for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
in the Westbourne bye-election, to build a fighting alternative with a strategy to defeat the cuts. Come along to the TUSC meeting on Monday, 7-30pm Phoenix Community Centre.
In order to defend our hard-won wages and pension rights it is necessary to defeat this government, along with every government attempting to make us pay for the crisis. That means campaigning at every level to rid society of the real motivation behind these attacks; the profit system. We are fighting for a socialist transformation of society, where the economy and our lives are not held to ransom for the profits of the few, and the needs of society can be democratically decided by society itself. If you agree join us or browse this website to find out more.
Click on the image below for a video produced by Brighton Socialist Party introducing the alternative to cuts and crisis: