Around 10,000 people marched through torrential rain on the Scottish TUC anti-cuts demonstration held in Glasgow on Saturday 1 October.
How many would have turned up for the demonstration if it had not been for the weather is anybody’s guess — but probably as many as turned up for last October’s STUC anti-cuts demonstration in Edinburgh.
The continuous downpour also resulted in the concluding rally being restricted to just one speaker – Tony Benn, who spoke in his capacity as an “elder statesman”.
Speakers who had no chance to take to the platform included representatives of the Church of Scotland, the Muslim Council of Scotland and the Women’s Institute. Some trade union speakers had also been due to speak.
Continuing a long-standing tradition, dating back to the UCS sit-in of 1971, the STUC had sought to build the demonstration as a mobilisation of “civic society”, representative of the Scottish people in general, rather than as a specifically trade union event (albeit one open to others to support).
This explains why the demonstration was called under the banner of “People First”, why its slogans were so woolly, why support for it was sought from bodies such as the Church of Scotland and the Salvation Army, and why a speaker from the Women’s Institute was included on the list of speakers.
But this attempt to be “broad” and “all-inclusive” – at the expense of the political clarity and focus of the demonstration’s demands — achieved nothing.
Trade unions mobilised for the demonstration (along with the organisations of the left). But there were no contingents on the demonstration representing “civic society”, in the shape of religious organisations and similar institutions.
The next “big event” in anti-cuts campaigning in Scotland, as in the rest of the country, will be the strikes scheduled to take place on 30 November.
Campaigning to win support for those strikes means putting the working class and its organisations back centre-stage.