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Thursday, 1 December 2011

Pensions Strike in Brighton







Is this the largest Brighton Trade Union Demonstration Ever?


Unsurprisingly the strike that Cameron did his best to avoid was remarkably successful. I can’t remember a time when The Level in Brighton, traditional meeting point for the Labour movement was so packed. I went first to the PCS demonstration outside the Job Centre. Even though nearly all of the workers were on strike management kept the place open though given that the post refused to cross the picket line it is doubtful whether they were able to do much.

The Police estimated a march of 4,000. I would guess it was at least 6,000. It took half an hour for the march to pass a fixed point.

But the Police largely kept in the background and there were, as far as I am aware no arrests. The march started at Victoria Gardens, where there is an Occupy Tent Protest and marched via the Clocktower and North Street along Queens Road and down to the Level.

There were a number of mainly trade union speakers and one, Pip Tindall, from Brighton Benefits Cuts. Pip herself is active around the NHS and Unison.

What is clear today is that the action, despite the BBC and Cameron was remarkably successful. It showed, just like the TUC March 26th day of protest, that people want to come out and defend what they have against the bankers’ representatives in Parliament, but that it is the misleadership of the Labour Movement that wants to damp things down. There is no doubt that attitude of the TUC in 1926, when it was said that the TUC feared its own membership more than the ruling class and Baldwin.

Today the same is true. Prentis, McCluskey, Kenny and other leaders who would rather avoid strike action at all and achieve a compromise. The problem is that the government is not interested in compromises. But the role of the trade union bureaucracy is to mediate between those they represent and the employer.

November 30th has to be a start not an end, as union leaders would wish. There is no doubt, with the probability that the Euro will collapse that the economic situation we have currently is going to get far worse. Capitalism has dug its own graves but the left is too busy fighting among themselves to get a decent posse of grave diggers together.

But in one sense at least there is greater clarity than previously. New Labour does not support the strike. The best Ed Miliband could come out with was that he wasn’t prepared to condemn the strike. Presumably we should be grateful for small mercies. It was therefore doubly ironic that despite Labour’s lack of support for the strike, that Labour councillors in Brighton (or those who are left) led by Gill Mitchell and Brian Fitch, demanded that Mitchell be allowed to speak on behalf of the Labour Party. The organisers told them that if they were part of the labour movement they would know that they had to get a trade union branch to sponsor them first!

But maybe they were jealous of the fact that the only speaker representing a political party was the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, who spoke well.

The critical need now is to unite both the employed and unemployed and to break down the divisions that have been fostered between public and private sector employees. Today was just a start.

Tony Greenstein

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