Massive protest vs. ‘austerity’ in Britain
Published Mar 31, 2011 8:39 PM
Photo: Indymedia London
Hundreds of thousands of workers and students demonstrated in London on March
26 under the unifying slogan of “All together against the cuts!” to
protest the austerity program the Conservative Party government is imposing on
the people of Britain.
The Trades Union Congress, the largest coalition of labor unions, was the major
force behind the march, which also had the support of the student movement
fighting increases in tuition and the Stop the War Coalition. Estimated at
500,000 participants, the march was the largest since the anti-war actions of
Edward Miliband, the current leader of the British Labour Party, was the
keynote speaker. Miliband holds the title “Leader of the
Opposition” in Parliament. He invoked the British movement for
women’s suffrage, the U.S. Civil Rights movement, and the anti-apartheid
movement in his talk. His address focused on the evils of the Conservative
Party, which currently seeks to cut education, fire public workers and reduce
social spending in health care and elsewhere. (Morning Star, March 27)
The TUC, Miliband and other organizers of the march sought to use the rally to
build political support for the British Labour Party. This party lost its
leading position in the last general election after running the government from
1997 to 2009.
Despite its name, the Labour Party during this period led the British into wars
of aggression against Yugoslavia and Iraq and carried out some cuts in social
services, though it proceeded with caution compared to the Conservative frontal
attack on working people.
The Stop the War Coalition made clear that the idea of cuts in social spending
being necessary was refuted by the bombing in Libya. A statement released by
the coalition pointed out that nearly a billion dollars could be spent
enforcing the no-fly zone there. Some left groups urged the workers in Britain
to break with the Labour Party.
A group of several hundred young people broke off from the main protest and
smashed windows of banks and other capitalist institutions. Police arrested 201
activists. Reports say the youth also fired flares and explosives at the police
and fought them with makeshift clubs. A tourist who observed the confrontation
between the demonstrators and the police in London’s Trafalgar Square
said: “I have never seen such a fast escalation of violence in my life.
Everything just kicked off, glass everywhere, police hitting people, people
being dragged across the ground. I just can’t believe it.” (The
Guardian, March 27)
Footage of the battle on Russia Today (rt.com) showed youth who battled the
police carrying flags bearing the face of Che Guevara and images of a hammer
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