Camden United, March 26th and Labour

I’m just back from the pub following a very productive and interesting Camden United Against Cuts meeting. The productive bits mostly involved plans for building for the 26th March march, leafleting etc. and having a coordinated day of leafleting on Saturday 19th  around Camden with the possibility of a little shindig afterwards. I’m very much up for that: my experience campaigning against the BNP in Barking and Dagenham last May was made all the better for the social events after the leafleting. I think they build enthusiasm and make folk more likely to spread the word in the days that follow. Funding and organising could scupper the idea but I hope we can pull it off.

Another productive bit was the election of officers but I’ll leave the detail of that until there’s an official Camden United statement.

The most interesting bits for me were the discussions around support for Labour. Some said that we should welcome Labour councillors into the campaign; others said that Labour councillors voted for the cuts and the Labour party is officially pro-cuts so we can’t work with them. I expressed the latter view in the meeting but have to accept that it’s an ideological stance and I think we have to be more pragmatic.

As a civil servant and PCS member I have taken industrial against, and been a member of a union which has taken legal action against, a Labour government. As a leftie I have been dismayed by Ed Miliband’s lack of opposition to the Deficit Deifiers (have I just coined a phrase?) and, as a trade unionist, absolutely disgusted by Labour’s inability to muster enough support for John McDonnell’s ‘Lawful Industrial action (Minor Errors)’ Private Members’ Bill. I have no love for Labour.

Having said that, Labour councillors aren’t the same as Labour MPs. Councillors are closer to their communities and more likely to see, and feel, the effects of legislation and budgets which they impose. I feel that Camden’s Labour council should have voted to reject the budget on Monday. I feel that all Labour councils should have done the same. Maybe it wouldn’t have helped the spending in those councils in the short term but it could have emboldened the anti-cuts movement and would certainly have given those councils a credibility which, for many, they have now lost. Regardless of that, I do think that we have to work with labour councillors if they want to work with us. Many more Camden voters weren’t at Monday’s protest than were, many of who know and voted for their Labour council, many of who still feel Labour are the best hope. If we distance the anti-cuts campaign from Labour councillors we are distancing ourselves from a lot of potential support in the much bigger battle ahead.

Which brings me to March 26th.

The TUC have actually done pretty bloody well. Like most folk I know I was appalled last year when the TUC response to the coalition’s cuts was to announce that they were organising a protest for March this year. Now we’re getting closer to it I don’t think it’s been such a bad move. I doubt very much that the TUC anticipated the scenes at council meetings, the student protests, UK Uncut etc. popping up to fill the gap that an active TUC should have filled but, whether by luck or design, March 26th promises to be huge and a fitting end to the first chapter of the fight.

I don’t think anybody’s naive enough to think that the march will end in Hyde Park. For most it will, for many it won’t. I also don’t think anybody’s naive enough to think that there will be a single crowd of people marching from Victoria Embankment to Hyde park without anybody else trying to occupy and agitate elsewhere. The TUC have organised a march by the book but such is the scale of the day, and such is the anger, that I would be very, very surprised if other actions didn’t happen on the day.

I hope the TUC march will be everything it’s intended to be: peaceful, organised and massive. It needs to be safe and it needs to be big. We need trade unionists, community groups, families and all who are affected by the Coalition’s agenda to be there. There will inevitably be people who want to go off and smash stuff and I absolutely don’t condone that. I think it’s counter productive and plays in to the hands of the right wing media.

I do however have a feeling that a lot of peaceful people will have travelled a long way to be part of something important and won’t want to go home once the last speaker’s finished. It doesn’t take many people to fill a square. In the inspirational words of John McDonnell:

Bring your sleeping bag

Well, I found them inspirational but I’m probably just easily impressed.

The Camden United Against Cuts website is here: http://camdenunited.org.uk

The TUC’s March For The Alternative Site is here: http://marchforthealternative.org.uk/

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Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 Political Bits

2 Comments to Camden United, March 26th and Labour

  • “here will inevitably be people who want to go off and smash stuff and I absolutely don’t condone that.” Of course there will – they’ll be in uniform and it’s heads they will aim to smash of anyone who tries to deviate from the agreed walk from a to b and home for tea – http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/mar/01/police-kettling-manager-cuts-protest

    If we do this right, we could achieve what New Unionism didn’t in the 1890s, the Great Unrest didn’t 100 years ago, the 1926 General Strike didn’t – real democracy.

    ¡Ya basta!

    • Dave P says:

      I hope all those who want to go from A to B then home for tea (who I think will be the majority) can do so without hindrance from the Police or others. There will be many who don’t want to walk from A to B though, and I hope they don’t smash stuff. This ain’t Egypt yet!

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