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4 April 2011

On the move in London to fight the cuts

"The smiles on people's faces said it all: We're on the move - we don't have to take the cuts!" Martin Powell-Davies, a member of the national executive of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), summed up the mood of workers on the 26 March TUC demo.

Sarah Sachs-Eldridge

120 trade unionists, campaigners and young people, inspired by the march, turned out to discuss and debate the way forward at an excellent London Socialist Party meeting on Thursday 31 March.

The first platform speaker was Joe Simpson, assistant secretary of the POA prison officers' union. Joe introduced himself by saying that he was not speaking in a 'personal capacity' but on behalf of the 34,000 members of the POA.

Battle lines are being drawn in the prison service as the Con-Dems plan to sell off public prisons, with Labour backing them up. The prison unions - POA and civil servants' PCS union - are forced to defend a public service, jobs and conditions.

Joe reported that the POA has been attacked for being one of the "unreconstructed unions that needs to join the 21st century" but made it absolutely clear that his is a fighting union.

He thanked the Socialist Party for support. Vik Chechi from Tower Hamlets, fresh from being elected as a Unison branch secretary, spoke (in a personal capacity) on the struggles of young people against unemployment and education cuts.

Vik explained that "the country's not broke - it's awash with cash". It's just that the top 1% have got it! He invited everyone to support Youth Fight for Jobs' Jarrow anniversary march in October.

Video of Peter Taaffe addressing the London Socialist Party meeting, in four parts (below). Audio: mp3 of Peter Taaffe's speech

Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary, was the final platform speaker. In response to the "cold cruelty of the British ruling class", the working class has marched.

Peter described how the effect of the 26th March demo on the working class, in terms of raising confidence to fight the cuts, was like a stone dropped in a huge pond with eddies still feeding out.

But the question on everyone's mind is 'what now?'

The general council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) leadership must meet urgently to discuss how a 24-hour general strike, uniting public and private sector workers, can be organised.

Martin had previously pointed out how the widespread attack on pensions provides trade unions with an issue around which coordinated strike action can be organised, despite the anti-trade union laws.

Peter added that if united strike action is not immediately possible, then a midweek demonstration in support of action by individual unions is urgent.

Speakers from the floor in the discussion included campaigners and trade unionists from Unison, PCS, RMT, and Unite. 40 of those attending were either new members of the Socialist Party or not yet members, with five joining and agreeing their membership dues on the night.

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