Young people and workers unite

Fight for the right to protest

Fight the capitalist profit system

Demonstrating for the right to protest, Newcastle, April 2021, photo Elaine Brunskill

Demonstrating for the right to protest, Newcastle, April 2021, photo Elaine Brunskill   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Helen Pattison, West London Socialist Party

The Tory government is preparing to recoup the billions of pounds it has been forced to spend during the Covid crisis. Step one is the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Step two will be a fresh round of mass austerity, from the NHS to poverty wages, cuts to local services to benefits, and more.

The government knows its attacks will provoke mass protests and struggle, so it is laying down its defences now with the biggest curtailment of the right to protest in a generation.

It’s not a coincidence that the last time this bill was amended, was under Margaret Thatcher, who made the organised working class her enemy and pushed millions into poverty.

That said – the growing anger that already exists in society will not be so easily stopped. Covid has helped expose the rottenness of capitalism, which means misery for millions of ordinary people.

There has been mass protest already, against inequality, oppression and poverty. From all those who took a stand against the bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli government and their move towards a new war, to the protests last year as part of the Black Lives Matter movement, where working-class youth flowed onto the streets to protest racism from both the US and UK governments, and for a real alternative. As well as this, there has been a wave of strong and combative strikes against workplace victimisation and ‘fire-and-rehire’ tactics. And the movement against sexism and women’s oppression.

While these movements might remain unfinished, they have also shown the strength of working-class people when we organise on a mass scale.

Black Lives Matter gave confidence to the students at Pimlico Academy to protest against a racist uniform policy and bullying headteacher. They have changed the uniform policy and the headteacher has left.

The National Education Union forced the closure of the schools at the beginning of the year, keeping staff and students safe from growing Covid rates. Last year, the weak Tory government was forced to U-turn on its disastrous A-level algorithm.

The right to organise and protest links all of these struggles. As does the need to stand up to capitalism, a system which whips up and relies on oppression at every turn.

Throughout the last year, capitalism has shown how little it has to offer. It failed to stop the spread of Covid, provide PPE, and the NHS struggled to cope on its shoestring budget. It failed to adequately support people during the lockdowns and let the virus surge through overcrowded neighbourhoods. We need a socialist system which puts the needs of ordinary people before the profits of a few.