Tolpuddle festival shows fightback needed today

Sean Brogan, Exeter Socialist Party

Every year trade unionists make their way to the village of Tolpuddle in Dorset to mark the imprisonment and release of six agricultural labourers in the 1830s.

The six Tolpuddle Martyrs were arrested for trying to form a trade union, and sent to Australia. But, after three years of trade union campaigning including a march through London and an 800,000-signature petition, the six were pardoned and returned to Britain.

At this year’s festival, the anger against this government was vocal. Railway workers in the RMT, TSSA and Aslef unions voiced their concerns about the massive redundancies proposed in the McNulty Report. Teachers in the NUT, NASUWT and ATL are being swamped by attacks from the new academies and so-called ‘free schools’. PCS and Unison members campaigned against cuts in the public sector. The POA prison officers’ union is fighting for the right to strike. Postal workers in the CWU are continuing to fight the privatisation of their service. The list of grievances was massive. There was even a ‘Kids Union’ marching!

Trades Union Congress

In these circumstances, it is the responsibility of the Trades Union Congress to organise a fight back against an unprecedented undermining of jobs and services. It has called a national demonstration against austerity on 20 October, but the question is what next?

Socialist Party members handed out leaflets calling on the TUC to organise a 24-hour general strike and urged support for the National Shop Stewards Network lobby of the TUC in Brighton on Sunday 9 September. We received a lot of support with over 100 copies of the Socialist sold.