(Photo courtesy of Jude Jackson)
Last Saturday, the people of Leicester demonstrated their anger against the Con/Dem cuts to our public services. Around 500 people came together in a lively demonstration, supported by local PCS, UNISON, NUS and NUT branches, as well Youth Fight For Jobs and Keep Our NHS Public. There were also banners from UCU, UNITE and GMB branches, representing a feeling from rank and file members across public sector unions in Leicester that a fight is required. Everyone from students to pensioners spoke of the devastating effect that cuts would have on local services, housing and jobs. The reality for ordinary people is that the cuts will hit Leicestershire hard around 10,000 workers are facing unemployment across the county as a result.
As we approached the rallying point under a large TV screen in the town centre, a huge cheer greeted the French strikers’ demonstration which happened to be on the news at the same time. The same mass movements will take place in Britain when the reality of what the cuts mean will hit home to working class people.
The Socialist Party has played a leading role in the Leicestershire Against Cuts campaign, which seeks to bring together all those who are opposed to cuts. While the demonstration was a great success, we need to build on the campaign by going out into communities and arguing against the lies of the government that cuts are inevitable. The crass attitude of the Tories and Lib Dems who cheered on the announcements of cuts in Osborne’s speech will have caused a lot of anger. The co-operation between different trade unions in Leicestershire has been very positive, but the trade union movement nationally has yet to show similar resolve. The TUC has called a national demonstration, but as this isn’t till next March, the danger is that it will become a funeral march for public services rather than a march to defend them. We need to campaign for this to happen much sooner.
All three main parties are saying that cuts are inevitable. It is only socialists who are putting forward a bold strategy to fight the cuts rather than debating about how deep they should be, or how quickly they should be carried out. Tony Church, the Convenor of Leicestershire Against Cuts and a branch officer of the PCS branch which represents tax workers, pointed out that there is no need for any cuts to be made and commented on the hypocrisy of millionaire Tories saying that “we are all in this together”, while the rich evade income tax to the tune of £120billion a year. Becci Heagney from Youth Fight For Jobs said that young people had been amongst those hardest hit by the recession, with 1 million youth unemployed. At the same time, funding is being cut for Connexions, an organisation which helps young people find jobs!
We say that it was capitalism which caused the financial crisis in the first place, so why should working people have to pay? By building a party to fight for socialist ideas, we can put forward a real alternative to cuts and privatisation – one that would mean a stable future for everybody, with free education and real employment opportunities for young people, democratically controlled public services in place of private profiteering and secure council housing.
We are holding the next meeting of the Leicestershire Against Cuts campaign on Saturday 13th November at 3pm in the Secular Hall, Leicester. It is open to all those who are against all cuts to public services, regardless of their political affiliation.