The Socialist 6 April 2011
Cuts wreck people's lives
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Bristol meeting - The battle of our lives has begun
In what veterans of the Bristol labour movement agree was the most inspiring public meeting since the launch of the anti-Poll Tax movement in the city in 1989, over 200 fired-up workers and young people cheered from the rafters as Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, threw down the gauntlet to the Con-Dem coalition and warned that the struggle to defend all jobs and services was only just beginning.
Robin Clapp, BADACA press officer
The marvellous 26 March demonstration was the backdrop to this gathering, organised by the Bristol and District Anti-Cuts Alliance. BADACA has already led two hugely impressive demonstrations, both attracting over 2,000.
Our explicit opposition to all cuts has attracted an individual membership of over 900, the affiliation of almost every major trade union and four-figure donations from Unite and Unison branches.
A spirit of defiance permeated the audience, buoyed up by the news that Cameron's flagship NHS reforms have hit the iceberg. Mark Serwotka lifted the lid on a meeting he and other trade union leaders had had in Downing Street before Christmas.
Every arrogant cabinet minister sat opposite them had been a millionaire, dumbly unaware of the necessity of public services for working people. He lambasted those Labour leaders who say that some cuts are necessary, pointing out that Ed Miliband's argument for sugar-coated, slower cuts was nothing more than a poisonous recipe for division and defeat.
Mark called for coordinated strike action by the trade union movement: "If you are going to get into a fight, make sure you have as many people supporting you as possible".
At present, PCS, NUT and UCU are looking to coordinate action on the issue of pensions and he urged other public sector unions to follow suit.
From the floor of the meeting came an avalanche of examples that gave the lie to the myth that we're all 'in this together'. A worker from the Ministry of Justice pointed out that her PFI-owned office costs an incredible £650,000 to rent each month.
"Justice stops at the door of the Ministry of Justice for those who work there" she said, before going on to detail the effects of low wages and plunging staff morale.
This was a theme taken up by a worker from JobCentre Plus, who explained how management monitor your comfort breaks and threaten you with corrective training if you take too many visits to the lavatory.
Presumably your bladder is given a strict talking to, he speculated.
A probation worker drew a frightening picture of what a privatised probation service would look like, while a Year 11 school student criticised the hesitancy of those trade union leaders who failed to support the actions of young people demonstrating against university fees and the snatching away of Education Maintenance Allowance.
When I spoke I got a cheer for exposing the hypocrisy of Labour MPs like Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper who marched in London wearing suffragette sashes and then rushed into TV studios to attack those peaceful UK Uncut demonstrators who had had the temerity to trespass in the toffs' shop Fortnum and Mason.
A disabled worker recounted how his local support service has gone from providing five-day support to just two-day support since 1st April. "This is not the big society - it's the small-minded and selfish society".
He was followed by an angry pensioner, who clenching her fist throughout her fiery contribution, urged the audience to reclaim May Day from the Tories' attempts to hijack it.
An older black worker summed up the sentiment of the meeting: "To the rich I say - give it back. It's you that messed it up.
"We must take it from the top and not the bottom".
There was support for the news that the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is standing 16 anti-cuts candidates in Bristol in the local elections.
Tom Baldwin pointed out that the alternative to a Tory-Liberal government making cuts is not a Labour government making cuts.
In closing this electric rally, NUT president Nina Franklin alerted the audience to another meeting taking place next week. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber will be speaking at the Bristol Business School and for just £15 you can enjoy canapés and networking with the great and the good of commerce and finance.
What a contrast, but some of us may go along... . What is clear though is that the battle of our lives has begun.
Our forces are growing and are organising across every community in the city. Like Thatcher before him, Cameron will rue the day he decided to take on everybody at once.
This nasty and brutish government shows every sign of becoming a short one as well.
In this issue
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party youth and students