Mass Demonstration across Manchester Demands an End to Austerity
Actions took place in Manchester over several days during the Conservative Party conference to demand an end to austerity and the implementation of the alternative.
The mass demonstration on Sunday, October 4, brought 100,000 onto the streets of Manchester. The demonstration stretched further than the eye could see, and it was impossible to walk from one end of the demonstration to the other before the front had reached its destination. The march was remarkable for the broadest possible sections of the people involved, in line with the surge in the anti-austerity movement since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour Party leader. It proved that, far from this movement living in a “bubble” divorced from society, it is those in the government and the rich they represent who are the outcasts from the mainstream of society, attempting to impose an anti-social agenda on the people that is causing immense suffering, but also resistance, from working people and the vulnerable. Participants did literally come from all sections of society and from innumerable social movements, and included the very young to seniors, with a wealth of variety of home-made placards. Large contingents from across the trade union movement also took part.
The representatives of the Conservative government were left in no doubt from the whole range of protests and demonstrations that the people as a whole will not sit by and let the anti-social agenda pass. The irony is that it was Cameron himself in the immediate aftermath of the election who declared that passive tolerance was at an end.
The anti-austerity activities ran right throughout the Tory conference, encompassing activists from disabled people, health workers, students, those fighting for the rights of refugees, and campaigners against neo-liberal globalisation, including against TTIP and the EU of the monopolies. The activities had begun on Friday, October 2 and continued until Wednesday, October 7, and included a huge range of cultural and political events, as well as the “No to Austerity, Yes to Workers’ Rights” demonstration.
Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the NUT, in summing up the mood of the demonstration, spoke of the “joy of working class people standing up for their rights in a working class city that the Tories have come to; a city that’s proud of its traditions and proud of the people who stood at Peterloo to defend working people”. Dave Prentis, General Secretary of Unison, as the demonstration was marching through Manchester, also reiterated the message of the organised workers’ movement that “now is our time”.
Other speakers, including Natalie Bennett, Charlotte Church, Owen Jones and Mark Steel, underlined the point at the Castlefield Arena at the conclusion of the demonstration.
Monday saw a huge protest by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) with multi-coloured balls of all descriptions being pelted at Tory delegates. A giant Trojan Horse was erected outside Manchester Town Hall to draw attention to the secret negotiations of TTIP which enshrines monopoly right over public right. In the evening, around 8,000 gathered at Manchester Cathedral to hear Jeremy Corbyn and the CWU oppose the privatisation of Royal Mail. This was a gathering which needed no “ring of steel” to protect it, as did the Tory Party conference!
On Tuesday there was the “wall of noise” protest, as hundreds of people marched through the city centre before deafening delegates with drumming, sirens, whistles and chanting to demand that they wake up to the wrecking and privatisation of the NHS under the Conservative government. In the evening there was a lively Refugees Welcome Here rally, following Theresa May’s scandalously Hitlerite speech at the conference.
On Wednesday, as David Cameron was due to make his main speech to the Conference, the VIP car entrance to the Conference Centre was blocked by Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts supporters chaining their wheelchairs together. “We’re bearing the brunt of what his government is doing” explained Ric from MDPAC. “People are dying because of their policies.”
A vigorous contingent of RCPB(ML) participated in the October 4 demonstration, as well as distributing hundreds of the special edition of Workers’ Weekly printed for the occasion, which was very warmly received as addressing the crucial questions of the hour.
As the lead article declared: “The times are calling for a new direction for society in which the working class and people are empowered to make the decisions. The opportunity has opened up for the working class and people to make headway in turning things around, with unbounded potential to challenge and defeat the austerity agenda.” The article ended with the calls: “For an End to Austerity! Build the Movement against the Anti-Social Offensive! For a Pro-social Economy and the Empowerment of the Working Class and People!”
Jeremy Corbyn addresses anti-austerity rally
The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) and the People’s Assembly hosted a “People’s Post” rally in Manchester Cathedral, addressed by Jeremy Corbyn. The Cathedral was full two hours before the meeting, and 7,000 or more gathered outside for the overflow rally. Speaker after speaker called for a break with the old politics.
“Our party is committed to opposing austerity, committed to opposing the privatisation of Royal Mail, committed to public control of Royal Mail and other services,” Corbyn said. “Our party is committed to doing things in a very different way.”
The event came hours after George Osborne announced the sale of another £2bn of Lloyds shares. “[It is] the most crass disposal of public assets I’ve ever heard of since Margaret Thatcher was privatising BT and other companies in the 1980s,” Jeremy Corbyn said. “This year alone, the government is selling off £30bn worth of state assets. We know where those assets go, we know who benefits and, above all, we know who loses from those kinds of sales.”
The Labour leader urged his supporters to take the anti-austerity message out to the country immediately. “The election victory of 2020 won’t be won in the three or four weeks leading up to that election day itself; it will be won by winning the ideas, the imagination, the hopes, the optimism, the brains, the hearts and minds of every ordinary person in this country.”
(with files from the Salford Star and PoliticsHome)
Film extracts compiled by the media group of RCPB(ML)