The Socialist 10 October 2018 |
Join the Socialist
| Audio | PDF | ebook
Liverpool 47 plaque: "Better to break the law, than break the poor"
Some of Liverpool's Militant-led socialist Labour councillors, including Tony Mulheran (second from left in flat cap), photo Militant (Click to enlarge)
Dave Walsh, Liverpool and District Socialist Party
On 22 September the Casa club in Liverpool, which grew out of the titanic 1995-98 dockers' struggle to defend jobs, hosted an historic occasion.
A plaque was unveiled dedicated to the achievements of the 'Liverpool 47' - the socialist Labour councillors who defied Thatcher in the 1980s.
The councillors built thousands of houses, created jobs, built sports centres, opened nursery classes and successfully fought to win resources back from the government.
Militant supporters (forerunner of the Socialist Party) played a leading role on the council and in the wider struggle.
Several hundred people were present at the unveiling. The meeting included trade union activists, family members of the 47 (children and grandchildren), Socialist Party and Labour Party members (past and present). They all embraced and applauded the stand of the 47.
For refusing to implement the cuts demanded by the Tory government the 47 paid the price. They were fined £106,000 and banned from office by an unelected district auditor - whose decision was upheld by five law lords.
On appeal, punitive legal costs of £242,000 were imposed. The 47 were saved, not only by the generosity of Liverpool people, but also by donations from all corners of the country.
Emblazoned on the plaque is the slogan: "Better to break the law than break the poor" - first adopted by the Poplar Labour councillors in 1921 who were jailed for refusing to cut payments to the poor.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey spoke about the tremendous struggle waged against Thatcherism by the 47 and their magnificent achievements in the city: "Building beautiful semidetached council houses with front and back gardens and building twice as many as all other local authorities put together."
Actor Ricky Tomlinson was present to identify with the 47 and celebrated screen writer Jimmy McGovern unveiled the plaque - initiated by Terry White and funded by people in Liverpool.
Tony Mulhearn, Socialist Party member and former president of the Liverpool District Labour Party, and one of the leaders of the struggle, spoke with passion.
To loud applause, he dedicated the meeting to his wife Maureen and the wives and partners of the 47 family support group.
He described the witch-hunt, which had been unleashed by former Labour leader Neil Kinnock and which was similar in its lies and malevolence to the poisonous charges of antisemitism and bullying made by the Blairites against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters.
But, he noted, the tide of history has turned. Reference to Dawn Butler's praise of the 47, which the Blairites condemned, was greeted with loud applause.
Tony explained that the 47 translated socialism into the language of housing, jobs, services, sports centres, nursery schools and new parks. And because they delivered on their promises, their vote went up each year.
He said the lessons from that period should be taken up by Corbyn and McDonnell. Instead of pleading with the Blairites to get on board, they should instead trust the mass of the party and empower them to remove this 'fifth column'.
Tony emphasised that the 47 were removed by Thatcher's District Auditor, not by voters. By contrast, Kinnock led the Labour Party to two of the worst general election defeats since 1931 and kept the Tories in power for another ten years!
Tony explained that the 47 linked the council struggle with the imperative of transforming society from capitalism to socialism, as any gains made by working people would be clawed back as long as the capitalists retained control of the levers of power.
Tony received a standing ovation from the packed house for his inspiring speech.