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Posted on 11 April 2016 at 12:46 GMT

Carnegie library, start of march, 9.4.19, photo by James Ivens

Carnegie library, start of march, 9.4.19, photo by James Ivens   (Click to enlarge)

Library occupation ends with march on cutting council

James Ivens, Lambeth Socialist Party

The community occupation of Carnegie Library in Lambeth, south London, ended proudly and defiantly on 9 April. Over a thousand local residents and workers marched in protest - including a rebel Labour councillor. But the fight to save this and three other libraries is not over.

The Blairite borough council won the right to evict occupiers, effective at 5.30pm on the day of the demonstration. Police were not allowing entry or re-entry, and public sector union Unison has not followed up on earlier strikes. Parents and children inside the Carnegie faced extra pressure, with school holidays due to end.

In this context, occupiers decided to walk out together and march on the town hall. Trade union and political banners bristled from the crowd. An enormous brass fanfare trumpet sounded the advance.

Socialist Party banner on the march to save Carnegie library, 9.4.16, photo by James Ivens

Socialist Party banner on the march to save Carnegie library, 9.4.16, photo by James Ivens   (Click to enlarge)

Joining school children at the head of the protest was Councillor Rachel Heywood. Pressure from the libraries campaign has forced her to break ranks and criticise Lambeth's leadership.

Speaking at the closing rally outside Brixton Library, Heywood said: "I would not be representing you, or any of the people who live on the Loughborough estate or the Angell Town estate, or anywhere else around Brixton, if I were to say let us close the libraries down and turn them into private gyms."

Lambeth Socialist Party welcomes this u-turn from a councillor who had previously backed the borough's sociopathic austerity programme. But Heywood herself recognises that her party is unlikely to wear it. "I don't know if I will still have a job tomorrow," she said.

The last Lambeth councillor to waver over cuts was Kingsley Abrams, who abstained in one vote. The Labour group quickly suspended him. He later stood as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition 100% anti-austerity electoral challenge last May.

Pro-Corbyn Labour group Momentum has been out canvassing for the very Blairites that library campaigners have targeted. A Lambeth Momentum activist at the closing rally opened with: "Now don't boo, but I'm a member of the Labour Party." The crowd booed, loudly.

Marchers then cheered a mention of Jeremy Corbyn. But he has not answered calls to intervene in support of the libraries campaign.

Socialist Party members were excluded from the rally platform, so we could not highlight these contradictions and propose our alternative. But the contradictions are clear. Unison must take advantage and call escalating strikes, coordinated with other workers, to push the Blairites back.


This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 11 April 2016 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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