Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/783/17541
Newport council destroys workers' mural
Over 500 angry people protested on 5 October against Newport Labour council and Queensberry property developers' destruction of the town's Chartist mural.
The council pre-empted the protest by sending diggers in early to smash the mural, trying to erase the memory of working class struggle from Newport people's lives.
The mural was built in 1978 from 200,000 pieces of mosaic. The 35-metre wall cleverly depicted the march of the Newport Chartist uprising of 1839 when 30 workers were massacred as they rose up to demand democratic rights for the working class.
You could see individual workers marching as a mass carrying the six demands of the charter, only to be shot down by the army.
This massacre ranks alongside the 1819 Peterloo killings as one of the worst atrocities to try to stem working class struggle for democratic and social rights.
When plans for the mural's destruction became known, the movement to save it grew. So the council smashed the mural to pieces two days before the protest was planned. Stunned passers-by protested as diggers ripped the mural from the wall.
Generations of Newport children learnt about their working class heritage from the wall. Newport people are proud of their revolutionary tradition - but not Newport Labour.
Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West, tried to derail protests, saying in February: "To suggest that the council would disrespect that memory is nonsense on stilts". But the council turned the memory to rubble.
Newport council could have moved the mural. They claim the cost would be £600,000, but even that exaggerated figure pales into insignificance compared to the millions to be spent on the shopping centre and the £40 million of public money spent attracting the Ryder Cup to Newport in 2010.
Flynn says there are more important things than murals to protest about. Probably there are. But the mural's destruction is a visible expression of working class people being robbed of their NHS, their jobs, their rights.
The capitalists want to wrest away all the gains of the generations after the Chartists, like the NHS, the welfare state and protection at work. And Labour walks alongside them while they do it.
In The Socialist 9 October 2013:
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