“We are going to organise in our trade unions, our campaign groups, every church, every mosque, every gurdwara… whether it’s a library or our NHS, we’re going to save our services and we’re going to kick these Tories out of government.”Mick Lynch, RMT General Secretary
By Sam Browse, Labour Outlook
Thousands gathered at the Peoples Assembly Against Austerity demonstration in central London over the weekend to demand an immediate general action.
The mass protest came in the midst of crises and political turmoil, with Rishi Sunak anointed the second unelected Prime Minister in so many months; his Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, announcing a fresh wave of eye-watering austerity; the Bank of England raising interest rates by 0.75%, while anticipating the longest recession in recent history alongside a 6.5% unemployment rate; and as the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, faced mounting criticism for the humanitarian crisis in the Manston asylum processing centre.
The demonstration saw representation from a range of causes, campaigns and trade unions with placards demanding an immediate general election, ‘wages not warfare’, and the defence of migrant, asylum and trade union rights, public services, and living standards – alongside a host of trade union banners and flags, and large blocs from Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil.
As protesters surged into Trafalgar Square to the beat of samba bands and coloured smoke flares, they could hear the gathered crowds cheer in support of the speakers in front of Nelson’s column.
Rallying the sea of people in front of the stage and those watching from the terraces around the square, RMT General Secretary, Mick Lynch, said, to mounting applause, ‘we are going to organise in our trade unions, our campaign groups, every church, every mosque, every gurdwara… Whether it’s a library or our NHS, we’re going to save our services and we’re going to kick these Tories out of government.’
‘There are no neutrals in this struggle. We need everyone who declares themselves a progressive to stand up and ‘say no more!’, no matter what [the establishment] think – they will always hate us but we don’t care. If the workers are united we are an unstoppable force and we will change this country for the better.’
‘We are a united working class and we are going to win for our people!’
Picking up the theme of unity, Diane Abbott excoriated the racism seen in the recent Parliamentary debates on Manston and the treatment of people seeking asylum. To cries of ‘shame!’, she said that the Government ‘would have you believe that it is immigrants and asylum seekers that are to blame for all the problems of working people today. That’s an old slogan – an old way of playing divide and rule.’
‘I was in parliament last week and I heard Tory MPs saying that if asylum seekers don’t like the conditions in these holding centres, they need to go back home. That is what they said to my parents’ generation. It is as disgusting now as it was then.’
‘I’m here to say this racist divide and rule politics is not new and we have to defeat it. We need to be one working class – black, white, wherever you come from.’
‘And I’m here to say that nobody elected Rishi Sunak and he and his government need to go’.
The mood in the square was energetic and defiant. As John McDonnell roared, to the crowds approval, ‘if it’s class struggle they want, that’s what we’ll give them – bring on the strikes, bring on the protests, and bring on the resistance!’