Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/922/23845

From The Socialist newspaper, 26 October 2016

Five years on from the March for Jobs

Jarrow March: an inspiring show of solidarity between workers and youth

Jarrow March for Jobs 2011 arrives in London, photo Paul Mattsson

Jarrow March for Jobs 2011 arrives in London, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Ian Pattison, 2011 Jarrow marcher

Eighty years ago, 200 unemployed workers from Jarrow in the north east of England - a town that relied on the shipbuilding industry, hit hard by the Great Depression - set off from home, marching 300 miles to London to deliver a petition.

In 2011, to mark its 75th anniversary, Youth Fight for Jobs followed in the footsteps of this Jarrow Crusade. We weren't just commemorating long-past pioneering struggles. We were marching for jobs, homes, grants, youth services and free education at a time when youth unemployment reached one million in Britain, and surpassed more the 50% in Greece and Spain.

The conditions of people who are forced out of work today are awful. Benefits do not cover the cost of living or housing. The Tory government secretly sets targets to kick people off benefits.

In 1936 it was worse. The inter-war poverty of the 1920s and 1930s threw millions of workers out of their jobs. The welfare state was still just an idea. The only assistance available - the poor relief - was measly and humiliating.

The first 'hunger march' took place in 1922. There were many more throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Some were organised by trade unions, but most by the Communist Party and an organisation it set up called the National Unemployed Workers Movement.

1936's march is the most famous and celebrated of the hunger marches. This is partly because it has been sanitised by politicians. The radical history of the unemployed movement has been airbrushed out.

Tory MP for Scarborough Robert Goodwill said the Jarrow Crusade had "genuine cross-party support from all sections of the political divide." Despite his apparent sympathy, he made it clear he had no truck with the demands of Jarrow marchers - then or in 2011.

In reality the original Jarrow marchers did face opposition. For example, in one area police encouraged game keepers to stop the march - the game keepers refused. Undoubtedly, if Goodwill had been making trouble in 1936, he would have been egging on the police.

One Jarrow march supporter said: "Robert Goodwill isn't fit to clean the boots of today's Jarrow Marchers." Sadly we never received a reply to our invitation for Goodwill to join the march for a week.

The 2011 Jarrow March consisted of a group of unemployed young people marching from Jarrow to London - between ten and 15 miles a day. We stopped for protests and meetings at many towns along the way, and were joined by trade unionists, students and activists for different stretches - some for an afternoon, some for a week. The march's demands were:

From the outset Youth Fight for Jobs was clear that we wanted to unite workers, young and old, to fight for decent jobs for all. We didn't blame people in work for youth unemployment. We put the blame at the feet of austerity and the capitalist profit system.

We were clear that workers organised in trade unions are key to changing society. Our Jarrow March took place during the public sector pensions struggle of 2011, which, shortly after our march, culminated in a huge public sector strike in November. That movement demonstrated clearly the potential power of the working class.

Trade union support

That's why we appealed for support from trade unions - eight national trade unions supported Youth Fight for Jobs already and we got a great response for the march. Trade union general secretaries like the RMT's Bob Crow, PCS's Mark Serwotka, FBU's Matt Wrack, and UCU's Sally Hunt wrote in the press in support of us.

The FBU donated woolly hats and waterproof coats which kept us warm and dry. They also donated use of their campaign fire engine for us to hold our final rally in Trafalgar Square. And I still have my Bob Crow Jarrow March t-shirt. In every town we stopped in trade unionists provided accommodation, social events, rallies, food and meetings.

We used our five-week march to build support across the length of the country for the 30 November strike. We pointed out that this issue was relevant to young people. We were faced with the crazy situation where millions of public sector workers were forced to work longer, denied their right to retirement, while millions of young people couldn't find a decent job.

The pensions struggle wasn't the only big political movement that fed into the anger we wanted to express through our march. Students had been the first to move into action against the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government in 2010.

Tuition fees where tripled to 9,000 a year and EMA college grants were scrapped. 50,000 joined a National Union of Students protest, dwarfing the organisers' expectations. This sparked a wave of protests and occupations.

Frustration poured out in inchoate anger in August 2011. English cities, starting in Tottenham, north London, erupted in riots sparked by the police killing of Mark Duggan. Youth Fight for Jobs immediately set to work in Tottenham, organising a protest against cuts to youth services with Turkish and Kurdish youth organisation Day-Mer.

Internationally, anti-capitalist protest movements like Occupy and the Indignados were springing up as we were marching. During the Jarrow March, Paul Callanan - marcher and national organiser for Youth Fight for Jobs - spoke at Britain's biggest Occupy camp in central London. When he called for free education for all, he was met with rapturous applause.

Long marches weren't new to Youth Fight for Jobs. Our inaugural demo in 2009 was through the poorest boroughs of London to where the G20 world leaders were meeting.

Then in 2010, we marched through Barking where the leader of the far-right racist British National Party, Nick Griffin, was standing to be the MP. We said yes to jobs, homes and services for all, and no to racism.

The march

Drama began before we even set off from Jarrow. South Tyneside Labour council wanted us to pay thousands of pounds for our right to march. We flatly refused, and, backed up by local trade unionists, forced the police into a total climbdown. 500 marched us out of Jarrow, headed by a brass band.

At the end of the first day in Birtley, we visited AEI cables workers. They were on strike after being sacked at two minutes notice.

We tried to donate to their strike fund, but they turned down our donation, saying they were proud to support us and that we needed it more than they did.

Thousands greeted us when we arrived in London - including a 106-year-old who had met the original marchers when they arrived in 1936 too. Police did their best to stop Occupy activists marching to join us.

Hundreds of public and private sector workers united to greet Jarrow Marchers in Hull. We received one of our warmest welcomes at our biggest demonstration outside London, which was organised jointly with workers of BAE Systems who were facing 3,000 redundancies.

Robert Goodwill initiated disgusting press attacks from the Sun, the Telegraph, and the Independent that showed our march was rattling the establishment. The journalists who did actually march with us admired our resolve.

The Jarrow March was great for increasing Youth Fight for Jobs' profile. Despite media bias, journalists still often come to the campaign to get a comment from ordinary young workers. Their massive resources can't give them a channel to working class people on the sharp end of the cuts like we can.

Ordinary people though, were lifted by our efforts. As we said in the Socialist at the time: "As we walked down the pavements and verges of Britain's A and B roads, car horns were beeped and people stopped to wish us well. One woman stopped her car and pressed 100 cash into a marcher's hand, saying she completely supported what we were doing."

I am incredibly proud to have been a Jarrow marcher. Seeing the Tories elected following an economic crisis that exposed their system was difficult. Austerity and unemployment put a question mark over everything in your life. But first hand, nothing has cemented my confidence more in working class people's ability to change the world.

Marching day after day as people came up to you to shake your hand, beep their horn in support, or throw money in your bucket was inspiring. And arriving night after night into town after town of likeminded supporters was a pretty good way to spend October to November 2011.

The issues facing young people then still remain five years on, and they will undoubtedly continue to play a key role in the movement against austerity.


Get involved with Youth Fight for Jobs today

Youth Fight for Jobs continues to campaign across the country. For example, we are involved, with the BFAWU bakers' union and others, in the Fast Food Rights campaign - demanding a 10 an hour minimum wage, an end to zero-hour contracts and the right of all workers to organise in trade unions.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 26 October 2016:


Socialist Party NHS campaign

Protest and strike to save our NHS

Health campaigners announce national NHS demo

Hundreds march and rally to defend Tyneside hospital


Socialist Party news and analysis

'Jungle' camp destruction is no solution

Welsh budget: Labour government makes Tory cuts

Academies mired in debt and corruption

Homeless sleeping rough: councils must build housing

Four in five self-employed workers living in poverty


Corbyn & Labour

Readmit expelled socialists

Wallasey whitewash must be condemned

Battle in Leeds council over care home closure


Jarrow March for Jobs 2011

Jarrow March: an inspiring show of solidarity between workers and youth


Socialist Party workplace news

Teaching assistant pledges ongoing fight against pay cuts

A day in the life of a midwife

Striking Sheffield bin workers picket scabs

Crossrail sparks get organised

Unison higher education seminar points no way forward over pay


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Housing campaigners meet to plan resistance to the Housing Act

Why I joined the Socialist Party: "I really can't wait for Socialism 2016"

"We are all Daniel Blake!"


International socialist news and analysis

US presidential election: The disastrous failure of 'lesser evilism'

Ireland: Jobstown protester found guilty


Socialist Party comments and reviews

Book review: Fighting racism in football

TV: No Place to Call Home

Socialist inbox


 

Home   |   The Socialist 26 October 2016   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Jarrow:

triangleThe Socialist inbox

triangleYouth Fight Austerity

triangleWhat they really think

triangleHuddersfield Socialist Party: Unemployed workers' struggles

triangleGlobal youth unemployment rises

Youth:

triangle4,800 young people hurt after officers 'restrain' them

triangleFight for free education

triangleWhy do young people need socialism?

Workers:

triangleLocal government pay: fight for the 5% claim, fully funded

triangleUnite protest against blacklisting

triangleEnd Tory war on poor

Solidarity:

triangleManchester Socialist Party: Solidarity meeting - hear from Manchester strikers

triangleNSSN meeting brings together workers in struggle

Jobs:

trianglePlans to launch no-cuts campaign at Kirklees College

Youth Fight for Jobs:

triangleUnison Broad Left meeting

Trade unions:

triangleStrikers rally in Liverpool

Young people:

triangleMarch for free education! We demand a future!

Education:

triangleDemonstrations by uni students and staff greet Bath vice-chancellor resignation

Unemployed:

trianglePCS protest

Benefits:

triangleWaltham Forest Universal Credit protest

Working class:

triangleFighting sexism, violence and capitalism - an international struggle

Government:

triangleIrish capitalist state: rotten to the core

Housing:

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

Unemployment:

triangleCapitalism and human progress

Fees:

triangleSocialist Students actions against uni fees on Budget Day

EMA:

triangleCorbyn's alternative for young people

Apprenticeships:

triangleFerrybridge workers protest against 'race to bottom'

Jarrow Crusade:

triangleHunger marches - When the unemployed fought back

Fast Food Rights:

triangleMcStriker addresses Greenwich trade unionists

Economic crisis:

triangleWakefield Socialist Party: 10 years since the economic crisis

Demonstration:

triangleLively student demonstration for free education could have been much bigger

Coalition government:

trianglePacked court laughs down cutter Joan Burton's comparison

Historic events

Historic events

18/10/17

Russian revolution

Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

4/10/17

Che Guevara

Che Guevara 50 years on - revolutionary socialist and fighter

23/8/17

Review

Mutinies and strikes: when Bolshevism threatened British bosses

23/8/17

Anti-fascist

Lewisham 1977: When socialists and workers defeated the far-right National Front

9/8/17

Marx

Marx's Capital at 150: an unequalled analysis and critique of capitalism

26/7/17

Russian revolution

Russia 1917: how art helped make the revolution

12/7/17

Russian revolution

July Days 1917: battles with counterrevolution

6/7/17

LGBT

Lessons from the Russian revolution for LGBT+ struggle today

28/6/17

Liverpool

Liverpool's 1983-87 socialist council

21/6/17

Revolution

The Pentrich uprising: revolution and counter-revolution in 19th century Britain

31/5/17

Russian revolution

June 1917: when workers in Britain first tried to form soviets

26/4/17

May Day

The real origins of May Day

26/4/17

Labour Party

How Blairism sank its claws into the Labour Party

29/3/17

Russian revolution

April 1917: how the Bolsheviks reorientated

8/3/17

Ferries

1987 Zeebrugge disaster

triangleMore Historic events articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle8 Dec Local government pay: fight for the full 5% claim

triangle6 Dec Strikers rally in Liverpool

triangle6 Dec Corbyn's Labour can defeat Tories with socialist programme

triangle5 Dec Victory at Glenfield shows people power can save our NHS

triangle5 Dec Labour council Blairites deselected

triangle30 Nov Victory: Glenfield Children's Heart Centre saved!

triangle30 Nov Dramatic retelling of Grunwick strike

More ...

triangle11 Dec Leeds Socialist Party: Campaigning workshop

triangle11 Dec Bristol North Socialist Party: Christmas Quiz

triangle12 Dec Birmingham South East Socialist Party: Can the Labour Party be changed?

triangle12 Dec Liverpool Socialist Party: Fighting council cuts

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2