The organisers of the TUC anti-cuts demonstration on 26 March have felt obliged to put out a statement that no, they are not actually banning placards from the march.
They couldn’t, of course. But unions are being asked to produce flags rather than placards. The stated reason is that people can take flags away with them, whereas placards generate a big clear-up problem at the end of the march.
But no placards also means no slogans and demands, and that’s a real issue. The demonstration is entitled “March For The Alternative”, but the TUC leaders say as little as possible about what “The Alternative” is.
The nearest the march website gets is the wish that “rich individuals and big companies [should] have to pay all their tax, that the banks [should] pay a Robin Hood tax”.
None of this should discourage activists from mobilising as strongly as we can for 26 March. Whatever about the TUC leaders’ wishes, the bigger and livelier the march, the more confident workers will be after 26 March about resisting the cuts.
Nor should activists allow ourselves to be discouraged by other bits of TUC finagling. People trying to get places on trains and coaches to London for the march have too often been told “no, it’s full up”, or “no, that transport is reserved for members of our union only”. But there is some transport open to all, and there are other ways to get down.
The TUC is positively encouraging people to arrive late and leave early. “People... from London and the South-East may not want to arrive for the start”, and “not everyone who arrives early will want to stay through to the end”. Coaches will drop off and pick up in outer London — Wembley or Canning Town — so that people may have to hurry away promptly to reach them.
But activists will understand that we want the maximum numbers on the streets, for the biggest impact.
Insider reports tell us that the official platform of speakers, in Hyde Park at the end of the march, is being carefully controlled to exclude militant voices. But no-one can stop demonstrators talking to each other on the coaches, on the trains, and on the march. No-one can stop us setting up “fringe” platforms at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park so that rank and file activists can get a hearing.
The cuts will be condemned, from the Hyde Park platform, by the same union leaders who have “sat on” demands for industrial action ballots from their members and put pressure on Labour councillors to implement the cuts — but “in consultation with the unions” — instead of defying them.
In some parts of London, such as Islington, “feeder” events for the demonstration are being organised by Labour council leaderships who this month have been calling cops to clear protesters from their Town Halls as they comply with the Tory/ Lib government and vote through huge cuts.
So? We should be there, telling councillors that if they rightly condemn cuts as “unfair”, then they should join the fight against those cuts rather than help carry them out.
Activists in every union should use 26 March as an opportunity to get together and put pressure on their leaders.