Two demonstrations had been organised in Manchester- one to start in Salford, the other to start on Oxford Road, with the idea being that they would converge for a rally at the end of it all. REVOLUTION members joined with other anti-capitalists and marched behind the Greater Manchester Anticapitalists banner, which some trade unionists liked so much that they demanded we go to the head of the march.
It was a lively, vibrant demo of a few hundred. Plenty of chanting and noise, flags all over the place, a range of union banners, and lots of applause from onlookers (even after we decided to take over the road). The real downside was the turnout – on November 30th last year, the Manchester demo had thousands of trade unionists marching and chanting through the streets. For all the passion and determination of the marchers present, you couldn’t help but feel that somehow we were just re-enacting the previous protests but with a smaller group.
Similarly, the rally seemed to be the same speeches that we’ve heard before. Speakers from local UCU and Unite branches said that we needed to escalate the struggles, with the UCU speaker emphasising that in June the UCU would have TWO days of strike action instead of one. The Unite speaker spoke about the importance of getting Unison members back into the fray, which is a reflection of many of the left trade union leaders’ strategy of relying on the big unions for strength, rather than committed or militant action from their own members.
The rally quickly finished as the BBC were outside doing some filming. So we all picked our flags and banners to go outside and chant for a couple of minutes in front of the cameras- you couldn’t ask for a better metaphor for the strike.
The union leaders rely on strikes as a form of protest. Rather than seeing them as action which can stop the government through shutting down the economy, they are instead a way of flexing muscles in preparation for returning to the negotiating table.
The slow trickle of one-day strikes is not working- the government is just as committed to pension ‘reform’ now as they were six months ago.
Our future is slipping away from us. Young people can expect to work longer than their parents, doing more work for a shitter pension. We need to help grassroots members of the trade unions challenge their leaders’ strategies for defeat. REVO members will be going to several trade union conferences this summer and autumn to argue that we’re losing our pensions too, and that stronger resistance is needed which uses mass, indefinite (ie we don’t go back to work until our demands are met) strikes to win.