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Posted on 8 October 2012 at 14:59 GMT

'Millions crying out for leadership and for an alternative'

Thousands of people demonstrated against the Con-Dem government as the Tory party conference started in Birmingham on Sunday. Vice president of the PCS union, John McInally, spoke at the demo rally.

The following is an extract from his speech.

John McInally, national vice-president of the PCS, photo Paul Mattsson

John McInally, national vice-president of the PCS, photo Paul Mattsson

One thing's for sure - austerity isn't working. It is a disaster for the vast majority of people in this country.

It means unemployment. Youth unemployment itself is up to over one million. It means job cuts and pay freezes for us, while the richest 1% stuff their bank accounts with obscene, unearned wealth.

The Tories are intent on using the cover of an economic crisis caused by their friends in the banks to force through the biggest transfer of wealth and power in history.

Their cuts and privatisation programme means the destruction of our welfare state and the public services that provide the basis of a civilised existence.

All in pursuit of a dogma that puts the pursuit of profit before the needs of millions.

They are conducting a brutal hate campaign against unemployed and disabled workers in an effort to spread division and despair.

And also to give out a stark warning - if you are of no use to us we will crush you into the ground.

This government has cut 30 billion from the welfare budget with more to come - at the same time the rich have received 30 billion in tax breaks.

We now have food banks, or rather soup kitchens, in the sixth richest country in the world.

Estimates vary, but only 15 to 20% of the cuts so far have been implemented.

Class war

The Tories, aided and abetted by the Liberals, are conducting nothing less than vicious, unremitting class war against us. We cannot wait until the next election to get rid of these crooks and psychopaths.

Life in Britain is becoming increasingly brutalised. The new anti-squatting law claimed its first victim.

A young man was recently jailed for three months, in the process losing his apprenticeship and possibly having his life destroyed - it is those who enact such laws that should be behind bars - not the homeless.

More widely, anyone concerned with civil liberties should be very worried. The shameful caricature of legality that put a British citizen, Babar Ahmed, in prison for eight years without trial is a disgrace.

His extradition to the imperialist American government - currently slaughtering innocent men, women and children through drone attacks in Pakistan - should be condemned unreservedly by our movement.

The austerity programme is a fundamental attack on democracy. No one voted for these cuts and only the multi-millionaires will benefit from them.

Yet these cuts are not necessary - there is an alternative based on tax justice, job creation and investment.

So let's be clear - the problem is not they are cutting too deep and too fast. The problem is they are cutting at all.

But the truth is they couldn't get away with this were it not for the fact the Labour Party is committed to protecting the corporate interests of the billionaires rather than representing working people.

Miliband's One Nation slogan is sanctimonious gibberish - it isn't one nation - it is us and them - and we must organise to defeat them.

Telling us the pay freezes, cuts and privatisations will continue if Labour is elected is absolutely unacceptable - not least because it raises the incredible possibility the Tories could actually be re-elected, if no clear alternative to austerity is given.

If the main political parties in this country are incapable of representing the interests of the vast majority of working people then it is time we do so ourselves.

We need to state what we stand for.

We need to say loud and clear that public sector spending is not a debt. It is an investment in people, services and communities and that the real division in society is not between public and private sector workers but between the haves and the have-nots.

This government has no mandate for these cuts and we are entitled to oppose them by all means at our disposal, including civil disobedience.

Mass action

But the best way to defeat them is by mass, coordinated industrial action across the public and private sector.

November 30th last year showed our potential strength - if we had followed up with further coordinated trade union action we would have defeated them, or at least won concessions on pensions.

The surrender by some that followed sent out a message of division, despair and defeatism. But now we have an opportunity to send out a message of hope and defiance.

October 20th must be more than another protest march - it must be the platform on which we build mass, coordinated action on the widest front across the public and private sectors.

Campaigning works and action gets results. That is the lesson of recent strikes in the civil service where thousands of jobs have been won.

Every union in the TUC has a legitimate trade dispute on pay, pensions, privatisation or a related issue.

So, let's hear no nonsense about the 'difficulties' or 'legalities' of organising coordinated industrial action.

The TUC must - as a matter of urgency - get all its affiliated unions into a room and agree a date for joint, mass, coordinated action as soon as possible after October 20th.

A 24-hour general strike as a start to an effective programme of coordinated industrial action can stop the austerity programme in its tracks.

Let us fight for our members and our class with the same determination the Tories fight for their class.

Millions are crying out for leadership. Millions are crying out for an alternative to a government and to a system that puts the interests of profit before people.

Let's have confidence in the justice of our case, let's have confidence in our collective power too. Let's stick together.

We can win. If we stick together - we will win.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 8 October 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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