Friday, April 1, 2011
Massive protest vs. ‘austerity’ in Britain
By Caleb T. Maupin
Published Mar 31, 2011 8:39 PM
Hundreds of thousands of workers and students demonstrated in London on March 26 under the unifying slogan of “All together against the cuts!” to protest the austerity program the Conservative Party government is imposing on the people of Britain.
The Trades Union Congress, the largest coalition of labor unions, was the major force behind the march, which also had the support of the student movement fighting increases in tuition and the Stop the War Coalition. Estimated at 500,000 participants, the march was the largest since the anti-war actions of 2003.
Edward Miliband, the current leader of the British Labour Party, was the keynote speaker. Miliband holds the title “Leader of the Opposition” in Parliament. He invoked the British movement for women’s suffrage, the U.S. Civil Rights movement, and the anti-apartheid movement in his talk. His address focused on the evils of the Conservative Party, which currently seeks to cut education, fire public workers and reduce social spending in health care and elsewhere. (Morning Star, March 27)
The TUC, Miliband and other organizers of the march sought to use the rally to build political support for the British Labour Party. This party lost its leading position in the last general election after running the government from 1997 to 2009.
Despite its name, the Labour Party during this period led the British into wars of aggression against Yugoslavia and Iraq and carried out some cuts in social services, though it proceeded with caution compared to the Conservative frontal attack on working people.
The Stop the War Coalition made clear that the idea of cuts in social spending being necessary was refuted by the bombing in Libya. A statement released by the coalition pointed out that nearly a billion dollars could be spent enforcing the no-fly zone there. Some left groups urged the workers in Britain to break with the Labour Party.
A group of several hundred young people broke off from the main protest and smashed windows of banks and other capitalist institutions. Police arrested 201 activists. Reports say the youth also fired flares and explosives at the police and fought them with makeshift clubs. A tourist who observed the confrontation between the demonstrators and the police in London’s Trafalgar Square said: “I have never seen such a fast escalation of violence in my life. Everything just kicked off, glass everywhere, police hitting people, people being dragged across the ground. I just can’t believe it.” (The Guardian, March 27)
Footage of the battle on Russia Today (rt.com) showed youth who battled the police carrying flags bearing the face of Che Guevara and images of a hammer and sickle.
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