The TUC has called its second mass demonstration in two years against the Coalition Government’s cuts agenda.
The first, on 26 March 2011, was successful in mobilising a large number of people from labour movement, campaigning, and community organisations to take to the streets.
The focus of 20 October (slogan: “a future that works”) is against job cuts as well as against “austerity”.
The TUC is in a unique position to call this demonstration. It is the only organisation with links to all the unions and the ability to reach out to community and campaigning organisations.
Individuals and groups of marchers will all have their own agenda, from the “pink/black bloc” called by Queers Against the Cuts, to those fighting to keep their local library open. The show of the strength and diversity of the opposition to the brutal policies of the Tories and Lib Dems is very important.
Precisely because of the diversity and breadth of support the demonstration will attract, the bourgeois media will both downplay and misrepresent the march. They will construct a negative narrative, as they did in March 2011, by juxtaposing pictures of speakers at the rally with those of protesters breaking glass, and by overreacting to any additional peaceful protests (such as the occupation of Fortnum and Masons in 2011). They will use the power of the media to suggest that supporting even the moderate demands of the march is in fact to side with “troublemakers”.
Our business as socialists is to recognise the popular support for the calls to reverse austerity and make clear political demands that mobilise people to fight the cuts in their workplaces and their communities.
This is the time to organise and popularise the case for a socialist response to the economic crisis. To explain politically what being “against austerity” really means. Our enemy is not “austerity” (which always comes over to me as a positive albeit moralistic demand that I should diet/go the gym/ not waste my disposable income on intoxicating substances). It is the capitalist class. It is they who are asking working-class people to pay for the crisis, and demonising different sections of the class in order to divide and rule.
On a gut level, large numbers of people in the UK know this. They know that the attacks on benefit claimants, people with disabilities, public sector workers, the cuts in the provision of the services they rely on, or the fact that their young relatives or friends cannot get a job, are not the result of an inevitable economic fate. They are rather the deliberate actions of a class which wishes to shrink the state, take away our rights at work, and intimidate working people in order to increase economic exploitation.
But there are also large numbers of working-class people who do not know that these things are not inevitable. To them, they appear as immutable economic laws rather than political choices by a partisan bosses’ government.
It is our job to organise with those who know, and persuade those who don’t, of the real causes of “austerity”, the real way to fight them, and our real alternative.