Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/10462
The fight back begins: reports of protests against the cuts
Updated 9.30am Thursday 21/10/10, 5.30pm Thursday 21/10/10
If the government manages to implement the announcements in the Comprehensive Spending Review it will mean the comprehensive destruction of the living standards of the majority of the population.
The massive axe being wielded by Osborne and co. is the biggest taken to public services for eighty years. The retirement age is to rise, council services are to be slashed by 28 % over four years, higher education spending is to be cut by 40%, and social housing spending to be cut by 60%.
Public sector workers face major job losses and pay and pension cuts. Benefits are going to be slashed by a massive £7 billion, pushing hundreds of thousands of people into appalling poverty and even destitution.
But the government will not get away with this. Already protests are springing up around the country. In the hours after the Comprehensive Spending Review thousands took to the streets across Britain.
Sheffield Socialist Students protesting outside deputy prime minister Nick Clegg's constituency office on 20 October 2010, photo Sheffield Socialist Students
This Saturday tens of thousands will demonstrate (see what's on for details of your nearest demonstration) but that will only be the start of the wave of protests and strikes that will develop.
The Socialist Party is campaigning for the immediate calling of a massive trade union led demonstration against the cuts.
At the same we are arguing for trade unions to co-ordinate their strike ballots for action against cuts, job losses and attacks on pensions.
The next step should be for the successful ballots to result in co-ordinated strike action - a 24 hour public sector general strike - within the next two months.
Today protestors across the country supported our demands:
The Rally at Leeds City Square at 5pm tonight was brilliant. It was organised by Leeds Trades council and Leeds Against the Cuts and it was very well attended with over 500 public sector workers coming to hear speakers from PCS, UNISON, UCU, CWU and NUS.
A feeder march of over 100 students joined the protest. Rob Williams, PCS NEC member and Socialist Party member, opened the rally saying "there is an alternative to the cuts - collecting the £120 billion of uncollected and avoided tax for a start."
Rally at Leeds City Square organised by Leeds Trades council and Leeds Against the Cuts on 20 October, photo Iain Dalton (Click to enlarge)
"The fight back has started with anti-cuts campaigns like this one springing up in every town and city following in the footsteps of the anti poll tax unions that brought down Thatcher 20 years ago." The mood at the rally was very positive - inspired by a number of Leeds bin workers there who won their cuts battle against Leeds city council with a tremendous all out strike last year.
A lot of people have wondered what this big society is that Cameron is on about. Tonight in Leeds we saw a glimpse of it - it was made up of trade unionists and students and people who don't want to pay for the bankers' crisis with their jobs and services and they are ready to make a stand.
I don't think this is quite what David Cameron had in mind.
Jane Aitchison PCS (personal capacity)
This protest was on Monday 18 October, ahead of the cuts announcement. On 18 October 1,000 school support staff from Nottingham city schools (teaching assistants, midday supervisors, admin workers) protested in Nottingham's Market square against plans to cut their pay by up to 25% with no pay protection from April 2011.
Under the guise of equal pay legislation, the City Council attempted to drive through these pay cuts.
They were mortified at the response from these workers, who demanded that UNISON immediately ballot them for industrial action.
The City Council quickly realised they were not going to able to get away with this and, though not withdrawing the proposals, have put back the plans for several months whilst they talk further to employees and their representatives.
This is one of the biggest trade union protests Nottingham has seen in many years.
100-150 trade unionists gathered in Victoria Square Hull to protest against the cuts. Organised by "Hull against Cuts" workers from the local authority, the health service, civil service and community activists showed their anger at what is being proposed.
The mood in Hull is one of increasing confidence as speakers likened what was happening to the anti poll tax movement of 20 years ago.
Passers by added to the confidence of the protesters by their overwhelming support. The militant struggle of French workers is also lifting morale. Many trade unionists stated that we need to start "acting like the French". The rally got extensive media coverage.
On the 21st October (tomorrow), Hull against the Cuts is organising a lobby of Hull City Council led by Liberals.
We have already got 5,000 names on petitions against the cuts and are addressing the council to demand that no cuts be carried out.
Over 50 people packed the Friends Meeting House as Lincoln & District Trades Council launched its campaign against cuts with its first public meeting in decades after the Comprehensive Spending Review announcement.
Nick Parker, PCS (personal capacity)
The meeting heard first from Elaine Smith, a carer for her elderly mother, about how they will be hit by cuts by Lincolnshire County Council to respite care.
Robert Parker, Labour County Councillor for Lincoln West, explained that there was an alternative to the Tories' cuts, that it was wrong to blame Labour, and that we should get active.
Unfortunately, he later suggested that the alternative was spreading the cuts over a longer period of time.
John Andrews, from the PCS DWP East Midlands Regional Committee, showed how both ideas and action are so important.
He put across very eloquently the relevance of the PCS tax justice campaign. He then referred to Made in Dagenham and hoped that there would be more victories like that, rather than the glorious defeats that working people have sometimes got used to in Britain.
Kevin Pattison explained to the meeting the important role that the National Shop Stewards Network is playing in building anti-cuts campaigns.
Kevin encouraged the audience to attend the NSSN's open conference on 22nd January. John Sharman, Lincolnshire County Council Branch Secretary gave an inspiring and rousing call to arms, appealing to the audience to take to the streets this Saturday for Lincoln & District Trades Council's march against cuts.
The meeting then heard from students and lecturers angry at cuts and fees, social workers facing job cuts, and a HMRC worker explaining how much is lost to the Treasury because the wealthy don't pay their way.
A running them throughout the meeting was the need for unity. It can't just be public-sector workers fighting to save their own jobs. The campaign has to involve service users and the wider public. As I said in my closing remarks, unity must be on the basis of opposition to all cuts, otherwise we will start to argue amongst ourselves about who most deserves to face cuts.
No one does. The bankers caused this crisis. The bankers should pay. We need a national demonstration now to oppose cuts, and for the TUC to set a date for a one-day strike across the public-sector.
As John Andrews said in his speech, we can't have a glorious defeat. This battle is too important to lose.
Coventry against the Cuts protests against the savage cuts announced in the ConDem Comprehensive Spending Review (Click to enlarge)
Around 150 people attended a protest called by Coventry against the Cuts against the savage cuts announced in the ConDem Comprehensive Spending Review.
There were speakers from many different organisations, trade unions and community campaigners who outlined the situation facing their members but also those who will be on the receiving end of draconian attacks on benefits.
John Mutton, Labour Leader of the council, addressed the crowd saying he was really against the Tory cuts.
These words ran hollow for many council workers present - the Labour council had that afternoon sent out letters urging staff to take voluntary redundancy and that there were likely to be compulsory redundancies as well (the previous day the Labour council had approved a £146 million cuts package - even the Tories voted against it!) This was another successful action called by Coventry against the Cuts, which has now held several protests, rallies and meetings.
After the rally, nearly 50 people attended a Socialist Party meeting to discuss the way forward, with Dave Nellist and Glenn Kelly the speakers.
There was a wide ranging and open discussion about the way forward. The Tories have declared class war on workers, our organisations and our communities. If ever a strong, unified, militant response was needed it is now. The Socialist Party will be at the forefront of helping to organise this struggle.
150 workers and young people from local trade unions and the community rallied at the Bargate in Southampton in defiance of the ConDem cuts, under the banner of Southampton United for Public Services (SUPS).
Angry chants caught the attention of many passing by, and some stopped to join in. Others took leaflets and signed petitions. Speakers from Unison, PCS, Napo, Unite and the trades council reflected the anger of everyone at the direct impact the cuts will have on jobs and frontline services.
Activists from local campaigns were present including council library staff, campaigners opposing the closure of the Bitterne NHS Walk-In and fighting the closure of sheltered housing Erskine Court.
Youth workers spoke about their anger at the closure of youth centres and threats to jobs. Tim Cutter, assistant branch secretary of Hampshire Unison attacked the announcement: "There is nothing fair about these proposals which hit ordinary people and leave the bankers who caused the crisis alone.
We have to say no to all cuts in jobs and services, stand by every local campaign like the Bitterne Walk-In and link our communities into a national campaign to stop the cuts".
After the rally SUPS had a meeting to discuss local plans for the campaign with calls for a public meeting and demonstration to be organised.
Over 20 students from Huddersfield university and Greenhead college marched against the government's cutting of Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and against the huge hikes in university tutition fees.
Iain Dalton, Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs organiser
We set off from Greenhead college and made a striking impression on those we passed along the way, decked out with placards protesting against the Con-Dems' plans to destroy our future.
Our noisy and vibrant march was cheered as we joined the 200-strong anti-cuts rally organised by Kirklees Unison in town.
Myself and Ummah from Greenhead college spoke at the rally. She summed up the thoughts of many college students when she pointed out: "Cutting EMA means that young working class people can't have an education - we must fight back!"
Press release from Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition and Brighton, Hove and District trades union council:
Brighton Trades Council demonstration against cuts earlier this year, led by the save Our Nursery campaign, photo P. Knight
Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition campaigners held a mass leafleting protest in Churchill Square on 20 October, where a large banner was unfurled from the roof of the Imperial Arcade building.
Trade unionists, socialists and community activists took part in the event to publicise the fightback taking place in Brighton and beyond against the Con-Dem cuts "spending review" announced that day.
During the event thousands of leaflets were snapped up by passers by who were eager to help build the fight back.
Campaigners were approached by one woman who said: "We need to be doing what the French strikers are doing right now".
Another woman asked: "Why isn't there a campaign being organised of non payment of our council tax!"
A demonstration the following day outside the full council meeting at Hove town hall was advertised along with a Brighton March Against Cuts event.
150 attended a lunchtime march and rally called by the local government branch of Unison.
Dave Murray, Basildon Socialist Party
The crowd, mainly Unison members and PCS members from the nearby DWP office made a short but colourful and noisy march through the town centre before rallying in front of the council offices.
Unison official Debbie Dougan-Turner had a message for George Osborne: "Tell your friends to pay their taxes!" She stressed that the cuts are not inevitable given a determined campaign by unions and the community.
PCS branch secretary Rachel Heemskerk spoke from the platform calling for all public sector unions to come together to fight the cuts.
The mood was positive, though most of the workers recognised that the demo was only the opening shot in what promises to be a tough campaign.
And in other areas...
Brighton 200 students protested, Cardiff 200 UNISON and PCS member demonstrated, Exeter 50 students and workers took part in a protest, Huddersfield 200 at a protest, with 30 students marching to join them from the college, London around 1,000 workers and students marched to Downing Street, Sheffield Socialist Students protested outside Nick Clegg's office, Walthamstow 40 college students took to the streets.