The Socialist 2 November 2011 |
Join the Socialist
Battle for Bexley Square
Salford Socialist Party member Paul Gerrard has produced a new pamphlet on Salford's 1931 'Battle for Bexley Square'. Clive Dunkley from Coventry East Socialist Party reviews the pamphlet, looking at the lessons which today's anti-cuts movement needs to absorb from this momentous event.
On 1 October 1931, 10,000 Salford people marched on the old Town Hall in Bexley Square demanding no cuts to unemployment benefit, free coal for the unemployed in the winter and free milk for children under five.
The march was organised by Salford branch of the National Unemployed Workers Movement (NUWM) in response to the council's plans to impose on working class people the cuts made by central government. The NUWM opposed all cuts and had clear demands, including 'Not a penny off pay' and 'Not a worker off benefit'.
As the march reached Chapel Street it was cordoned off. When organisers asked for a deputation to be let through to put their demands to Salford council, the protesters were attacked by mounted police and plain-clothes and uniformed police attacked the demonstrators with batons.
The opening paragraph immediately links battles against cuts and mass unemployment in the 1930s with those today. "In 2011, as in 1931, the burden of the crisis in the bosses' system is being off-loaded onto working people by a coalition government pretending to act 'in the national interest'. Cuts in the level of benefits, public expenditure and public sector workers' jobs and pensions, closely parallel those applied in the Great Depression".
The marchers understood that there are no 'nice' or 'acceptable' cuts and there could be no trade-offs, cutting one job or service to 'save' another that was more deserving. This vital lesson for today's anti-cuts movement needs to be restated.
Although today any partial victory against cuts should be welcomed, a total victory against all the cuts would take mass trade union action and the bringing down of the Con-Dem government. Of course Labour also intend to make cuts, only more slowly and therefore would provide no solution for working people. However the defeat of the coalition would bring huge confidence for further struggles.
This pamphlet shows those fighting the cuts today the importance of demands which cement unity, rather than appeal to one section eg the unemployed, or public sector workers, as against those in employment or in the private sector, hence the necessary demand at this stage for a 24-hour public sector strike.
This pamphlet shows what it means to defy the state, a government determined to drive down the living standards of the working class and local councils unwilling to stop them. It will be available at Socialism 2011, £2 or £3 solidarity price, or from Paul Gerrard direct on 07999 951869 or firstname.lastname@example.org (£3 will cover postage).