12 May Trades Union Congress demonstration report

The demonstration

The Anarchist Communist Group comments on the recent TUC demonstration in London.

The demonstration organised by the Trades Union Congress in London on May 12th attracted tens of thousands from around England and Wales. It included large contingents of postal workers, rail workers, transport workers and seafarers, firefighters, health workers, shop and store workers, white collar workers in the civil service and other government agencies, teachers, etc., who marched under the banners of ASLEF, CWU, FBU, GMB, NAS-UWT, NEA, PCS, RCM, RMT, UCU, Unite, Unison, USDAW. Mobilisation for this was done primarily through union branches, the Morning Star paper and the various leftist organisations, with little or no street publicity.

What is the significance of this, the biggest demonstration in London in years?
The TUC pushed a New Deal in language reminiscent of the American New Deal of the 1930s and the old “a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work”. The demands of this New Deal are:

1. We need a minimum wage of £10 an hour, now
2. Ban those exploitative zero hours contracts
3. Fund our NHS and public services properly
4. Repeal the trade union act which makes it harder for us to stand up for working people
5. Crack down on tax dodgers who starve our schools and hospitals of funding

In addition, the leadership of unions like the postal workers union, CWU, who seem to be a main architect of this New Deal, are talking about the end of zero hour contracts, fixed-term contracts, short-term contracts and specific event contracts, as well as the need to appeal to the young and organise unemployed workers.

The trade union bureaucrats in the TUC and allied unions are seeking ways of restoring their importance within the Labour Party and dream of the good old days of beer and sandwiches with Labour government leaders. They also wish to strengthen and reinforce the hold of Corbynism over the Labour Party. They are also concerned about the shrinkage of trade unions, which will affect their positions in the TU bureaucracies. They are responding to this by the merger of unions and by recruiting drives. The talk about organising unorganised workers is in response to the relative success of the base unions (CAIWU, IWGB, IWW, and UVW) in organising workers often neglected and considered “unorganisable” by the mainstream trade unions.

At the same time, the large turnout on this demonstration shows a mounting anger within the working class in the UK against privatisation, wage freezes, work conditions and attacks on pensions and social services. The trade union bureaucrats need to respond to this by the usual safety valve of an A-B march. In addition they are talking about raising the need for a day of action at the approaching TUC Congress. This day of action would take place “early in the New Year”!

Cast your minds back to the TUC Congress in 2010 where there was much talk about militant action and finally a day in March the following year (!) was assigned. There were half a million on that march on March 26th 2011. Again it was the usual A to B march with nothing achieved. The same thing happened in July 2014 with another A to B march, followed by days of action and strikes called by trade unions on different days (!) in October of the same year. The safety valve tactic was used once again and the TUC maintained a radical aura by talking militant (and actually doing nothing). Meanwhile the attacks on the NHS, pensions, wages and work conditions have continued without letup.

Workers have gone into action without waiting for the trade union bureaucrats to tell them what to do and they have done this all over the world. The trade union bureaucrats and their allies in the UCU Left sabotaged the recent university lecturers' strike. Workers have to start organising at a grassroots level. We should not wait for a worthless day of action or the possible election of a Corbyn government at some point in the future. We need to rely on our own strength, solidarity and organisation.

Final thoughts
Apart from ACG comrades distributing propaganda there was no visible presence of anarchists. This is not surprising taking into consideration the increasingly marginalised and ghettoised "anarchist" "movement" in the UK. Nor was there the presence of a Radical Workers Bloc as on previous TUC demos. Serious class struggle anarchists need to fight this malaise, look for unity with those of a similar mind, and increasingly turn away from the anarchist ghetto and face outwards towards our class.

Original article on the ACG website

Comments

Uncreative
May 14 2018 09:25

Shame that theres wasn't much of a radical presence. Do you have an online copy of what you were handing out on the demo, Serge? Was it Jackdaw?

Btw, just noticed that in the tags section, all the union names are ran together as One Big Tag.

Serge Forward
May 14 2018 09:48

Thanks for flagging the tags up. I've just had a shuftee and I'm not sure why it's happening. Can a more techie minded mod sort it out please?

Not sure what they were handing out though. Battlescarred will know.

Fall Back
May 14 2018 10:24
ACG wrote:
Cast your minds back to the TUC Congress in 2010 where there was much talk about militant action and finally a day in March the following year (!) was assigned. There were half a million on that march on March 26th 2011. Again it was the usual A to B march with nothing achieved.

While it wasn't revolutionary, this is a bizarre re-writing of history.

M26 had huge amounts of militant (if symbolic) actions - ranging from the Ritz getting smashed up on one end of the spectrum, to hundreds occupying Fortnum and Mason on the other. It had huge, rowdy feeder marches without official sanction (and in fact denounced by the TUC before they happened!). While the effect was temporary, it provided a huge boost to anarchist and radical anti-austerity organising.

I'm not sure what is gained by this - it didn't stop austerity, but pretending it was just another A to B seems deeply obscuritant.

the button
May 14 2018 10:25
Quote:
There were half a million on that march on March 26th 2011. Again it was the usual A to B march with nothing achieved.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDLxkbFEGK0

Whether anything was achieved is another question, but not *quite* your usual A to B.

rat
May 14 2018 10:58

But where have all those cool looking anarchists gone now? Maybe they've got into Corbyn and Momentum?

Uncreative
May 14 2018 11:34
rat wrote:
But where have all those cool looking anarchists gone now? Maybe they've got into Corbyn and Momentum?

Maybe, but that wouldn't mean that the rowdy feeder marches etc didn't happen. As i recall, AF were distributing this on the day (which i still think is brilliant), so its not like it was just some cool kids doing the latest hip thing before moving on to something else with no engagement with the political ideas, or without any attempt to spread the ideas to new people.

Serge Forward
May 14 2018 11:48
Fall Back wrote:
ACG wrote:
Cast your minds back to the TUC Congress in 2010 where there was much talk about militant action and finally a day in March the following year (!) was assigned. There were half a million on that march on March 26th 2011. Again it was the usual A to B march with nothing achieved.

While it wasn't revolutionary, this is a bizarre re-writing of history.

M26 had huge amounts of militant (if symbolic) actions - ranging from the Ritz getting smashed up on one end of the spectrum, to hundreds occupying Fortnum and Mason on the other. It had huge, rowdy feeder marches without official sanction (and in fact denounced by the TUC before they happened!). While the effect was temporary, it provided a huge boost to anarchist and radical anti-austerity organising.

I'm not sure what is gained by this - it didn't stop austerity, but pretending it was just another A to B seems deeply obscuritant.

I think you're misreading slightly there. The writer's focus is on the TUC A-to-B March of M26. Though yes, accepted there were more militant minority actions at that time. Pity the anarchist and radical organising was non-existent this time round.

Fall Back
May 14 2018 11:59

I imagine a lot of it was about anarchists wanting to get out of the leftist ghetto. If you want to avoid that, then leafleting a relatively small TUC demo isn't really the way to go.

Fozzie
May 14 2018 12:06

Tags fixed (there were no commas between them)

Serge Forward
May 14 2018 12:18
Fall Back wrote:
I imagine a lot of it was about anarchists wanting to get out of the leftist ghetto. If you want to avoid that, then leafleting a relatively small TUC demo isn't really the way to go.

Miaow.

Anyway, tens of thousands isn't relatively small. Most of those on the demo weren't exactly "leftist ghetto" either.

Cheers for fixing tags, Fozzie.

Fall Back
May 14 2018 12:32

It was small relative to every national demo against austerity since the crash, on the basis that it was by all accounts the smallest one yet.

Would be much better if the ACG, perhaps, called a radical workers block or similar themselves, rather than moaning that no one did it for them - especially when plenty other anarchists were actually out organising.

R Totale
May 14 2018 12:32

Would be (vaguely) interesting to look at how this one compared to the previous ones, both in terms of size and anything interesting/spiky happening - guessing 2011 was both the biggest and the most militant, but a few of the ones in between had both DPAC and Boycott Workfare getting up to stuff, while my impression this time round is that BW seems to have kind of fizzled out, while DPAC seemed to sack the whole thing off: https://dpac.uk.net/2018/03/disillusioned-with-mass-marches-through-london-organise-your-own-tuc-demo-at-home/

This one seemed to have hardly any publicity, even compared to the last few - I was going to say that it might just me being less plugged into the lefty ghetto atm, but thinking about it I went on the ritual may day trudge through town the other week and I don't even remember being given any leaflets for it then.

the button
May 14 2018 12:35
R Totale wrote:
This one seemed to have hardly any publicity, even compared to the last few - I was going to say that it might just me being less plugged into the lefty ghetto atm, but thinking about it I went on the ritual may day trudge through town the other week and I don't even remember being given any leaflets for it then.

Yeah, the first I heard of it was people on Twitter moaning about there being a media blackout about it, shortly before the BBC and The Guardian made it their lead story.

Serge Forward
May 14 2018 16:26
Fall Back wrote:
Would be much better if the ACG, perhaps, called a radical workers block or similar themselves, rather than moaning that no one did it for them - especially when plenty other anarchists were actually out organising.

Do you actually think the ACG is "moaning" that others didn't do something for us? Blimey, you really know how to put a spin on things!

rat
May 14 2018 17:02
Uncreative wrote:
Maybe, but that wouldn't mean that the rowdy feeder marches etc didn't happen. As i recall, AF were distributing this on the day (which i still think is brilliant), so its not like it was just some cool kids doing the latest hip thing before moving on to something else with no engagement with the political ideas, or without any attempt to spread the ideas to new people.

Yes, I agree with that. I was a member of the Anarchist Federation at the time and handed out those excellent leaflets alongside a fair amount of other AFers on the demo. Several of us also joined the 'black bloc' as it charged through the Soho area. All good fun.
But I still do wonder where all those anarchists are now. Maybe they are still around and involved in all sorts of things? Or maybe there has been a dwindling of class stuggle anarchist numbers? Maybe not?

wojtek
May 15 2018 05:41
rat
May 15 2018 09:37
Fall Back wrote:
I imagine a lot of it was about anarchists wanting to get out of the leftist ghetto. If you want to avoid that, then leafleting a relatively small TUC demo isn't really the way to go.

But Fall Back, why not hand out anarchist leaflets and papers at at TUC demo? Do you think there is good reason to not leaflet such a demo?

A range of people go to those demos, and a few of them can be open to anarchist communist ideas, so it is a possible way of connecting with them.

I've already spoken to people who aren't anarchists that went on the demo, but were interested in the Rebel City paper that was handed out.

Fall Back
May 15 2018 10:58

I've no problem if people want to do that. Go for it. There are plenty times when going to a march and presenting your politics is a good use of time, and a way of engaging people who are fucked off about austerity (or whatever other issue).

But don't berate other anarchists for not doing it. And certainly don't act like tail-ending a relatively small TUC demo is getting out of the ghetto, when it's pretty much the exact opposite.

If you think there should be an organised anarchist intervention/block/whatever on a march like this then go make your case and organise it. But putting out shitty snide articles about how everyone else needs to get out of the ghetto and do it isn't doing that, it's just going to wind people up the wrong way.

(oh and the M26 rewriting of history didn't help either, but that's a different issue)

Mike Harman
May 15 2018 11:21

If I think of what's going on in London, these are all good examples of outward facing activities:

Angry Workers of the World who produce a local industrial bulletin: Workers Wild West: https://angryworkersworld.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/workerswildwest-no-7-a-west-london-workers-paper/

Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth: https://housingactionsouthwarkandlambeth.wordpress.com/

The Anti-Raids network, for example Haringey Anti Raids does a regular stall: https://twitter.com/HaringeyAR/status/992725022560215041

If you know about these, then it would be possible to promote them as possible things to get involved with (and between those three groups they cover South, West and North London).

rat
May 15 2018 12:32

And those comrades who were on the TUC demo are also involved with those struggles mentioned above. Also Rebel City reports on those campaigns and actions too.

rat
May 15 2018 12:49
Fall Back wrote:
And certainly don't act like tail-ending a relatively small TUC demo is getting out of the ghetto, when it's pretty much the exact opposite.

Hi Fall Back, would you be able to explain a little more about what you mean? It does seem that you are suggesting that going on the TUC demo is somehow conterproductive.

Fall Back
May 15 2018 13:09

I haven't said it's counter-productive. But it's a leftist ghetto activity, so imo not hugely productive either.

But as I said, go for it if you think it's a worthwhile use of resources. My issue however is with ACG using a write up of their participation in an entirely leftist ghetto activity to berate other anarchists for being stuck in a ghetto. It's beyond hypocritical. A viable, successful, active anarchist movement enmeshed in working class struggle might well end up having a presence on evens like this, but it absolutely wouldn't be presence on such events that made us outward facing.

Serge Forward
May 15 2018 15:32

The TUC demo is a lot of things we might not like, but one thing it isn't is a "leftist ghetto". The anarchist scene, certainly in this country, has become more and more ghetto-like in recent years, totally divorced from most working class people's experience. I wasn't even aware that such a view was particularly contentious - though you, Fall Back, seem to think it is. Whatever, it's worth criticising though I accept you disagree.

Battlescarred
May 16 2018 07:39

So all those workers I saw ion the demo were part of the leftist ghetto? I think not.

Fall Back
May 16 2018 09:39

In the sense that they're the self selecting subset of of people who go on a (relatively) small, poorly advertised trade union demo, yes. Seriously like, we're not talking about a mass demo here.

As I said, sure go for it, but just don't kid yourself it's anything more than it was, a London day out for the left, followed by speeches by the trade union bureaucracy and the Labour Party.

Sure, there are issues with anarchist practice being ghettoised (altho I very much reject the idea that it's particularly worse at the moment than it's been at any point in the last 15 year or so), but if the limits of your horizons are tail ending a TUC march, then the problem is much closer to home, and you are in absolutely no place to be lecturing anyone else.

Battlescarred
May 16 2018 10:39

It was people from all over England and Wales. A mass demo? Depends what you mean by that. One involving tens of thousands, not seen in London for years
And No one is saying that "tailending" a TUC march are the limits of our horizons. You seem to regard the article as a personal attack on yourself and your organisation, when if anything Solfed has tried to face away from the anarchist ghetto to its credit,
So was the Radical Workers Bloc called for South London Solidarity Federation for The March FOr The Alternative(Another TUC venture) in 2011 the same sort of thing? Please enlighten us.

Battlescarred
May 16 2018 11:07
Mike Harman wrote:
If I think of what's going on in London, these are all good examples of outward facing activities:

Angry Workers of the World who produce a local industrial bulletin: Workers Wild West: https://angryworkersworld.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/workerswildwest-no-7-a-west-london-workers-paper/

Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth: https://housingactionsouthwarkandlambeth.wordpress.com/

The Anti-Raids network, for example Haringey Anti Raids does a regular stall: https://twitter.com/HaringeyAR/status/992725022560215041

If you know about these, then it would be possible to promote them as possible things to get involved with (and between those three groups they cover South, West and North London).

I don't really know what you're trying to say here, Mike. We've both given publicity and written about the above networks and actions as well as being involved in some of the above as well as other housing and land initiatives.

Mike Harman
May 16 2018 12:46
Battlescarred wrote:
I don't really know what you're trying to say here, Mike. We've both given publicity and written about the above networks and actions as well as being involved in some of the above as well as other housing and land initiatives.
Battlescarred wrote:
This is not surprising taking into consideration the increasingly marginalised and ghettoised "anarchist" "movement" in the UK. Nor was there the presence of a Radical Workers Bloc as on previous TUC demos. Serious class struggle anarchists need to fight this malaise, look for unity with those of a similar mind, and increasingly turn away from the anarchist ghetto and face outwards towards our class.

What is the basis for this claim?

Given all the participants in this thread know that there are multiple ongoing outward facing things in London which people are involved with, are there less of those than 5, 10 or 15 year ago?

HASL, AWW, and Brighton SolFed as a functioning solidarity network all didn't exist 15 years ago. I can't really think of great outward facing things from that time that have disappeared (at least definitely not more of them than the new ones).

This doesn't have to be an optimistic view, just things either seem about the same, or a bit better.

I get the impression there was a glut of new people between 2010-2012 (when I really was not keeping track of London/UK developments much) which many of whom have joined the Labour Party, this is not so much the anarchist movement being inward facing as abandoning it, so doesn't seem covered by the above.

Maybe I've got that wrong, but no such information is contained in the post which would answer the question one way or the other, it's just given as an statement with no evidence. Instead of justifying the statement, you're questioning the motives of the people who noticed it.

If things really have got inward facing, then what is it that has disappeared and not been replaced? (other than blocs on TUC marches, which would seem to be at most a symptom rather than cause).

If someone reads this who is not familiar with any of these things (maybe after googling the ACG after reading your leaflet from the march), does the article give them any pointers on what to get involved with, or rather the impression that there used to be more people turning up to TUC marches and now there is less?

Battlescarred
May 16 2018 13:35

I'm still not clear what your point is. It should be obvious to anyone involved in what passes for an anarchist movement that there is an ongoing crisis with hardly any local groups, Class War a parody of a parody, Solfed's attempts to create a revolutionary union ending with an actual shrinkage of membership, the split in the AF, Meanwhile increasing illusions about nationalism, whether Kurdish, Scottish or Catalan are rampant, whilst Corbynism has accounted for propagation of illusions in Labour in anarchist ranks. And meanwhile class struggle is seen as just one of many in a pick and mix bag of oppressions,
The outward looking efforts involve a minority, and include people who would not describe themselves as anarchists. Class struggle has to be re-affirmed against the increasing turn towards lifestyle and irrelevance., We have constantly stressied the positive nature of these outward looking initiatives, so really don't see what yu are talking about,

rat
May 16 2018 14:47
Fall Back wrote:
In the sense that they're the self selecting subset of of people who go on a (relatively) small, poorly advertised trade union demo, yes.

Fall Back, I have to admit that I don't understand what you mean here. What is a "self selecting subset of people"?