Sunday, October 24, 2010

SERTUC Rally: organising to defeat public service cuts (and splitters and wreckers)

Yesterday there was a successful and vibrant Labour movement rally at Congress House about grown up trade unionists organising with others to defend public services.

There were a few problems which I will return to later. This official trade union rally of affiliated trade unions and trade councils from all over London and the South East was organised by SERTUC. Who had spent a lot of time, money and energy organising an event to unite the Labour movement against the Coalition cuts and to be a springboard to organising against them.

The Rally started at 12 noon. There was an excellent and diverse line up of speakers. I was there with London UNISON convenor Gloria Hanson and other delegates to the SERTUC Council meeting that had been held immediately beforehand. Trade union branches who had marched to the Rally arrived at about 12:10 with their banners.

At about 12.30 Gloria and I were concerned, since numbers seemed a little light and many UNISON members that I expected to be there were missing. I went out to look for them. I knew the march had finished at nearby Bedford Square, which is just around the corner from Congress House. I went there and was astonished to find that a separate rally had been organised by the “NSSN” (aka as SPEW - Socialist Party of England & Wales) in Bedford square with speakers and a PA. There was around 300 people present I guess, The speaker’s at the time were busy happily attacking trade union leaders and “New Labour” (don’t think they actually understand that there has been change of government).

I went looking for London UNISON members. I said hello to an old UNISON Hackney mucker but most UNISON members I found actually thought that this was the SERTUC rally. I pointed the way to Congress House. I eventually found a bunch of London UNISON members having a chat together about 75m away from the main SPEW rally and gently chided them to come to Congress House as soon as possible.

When I got back to the Conference hall it was pretty full. CWU leader Billy Hayes gave a passionate speech about how hard work and organising had saved the Post office from privatisation in the past and will do so in the future.

FBU President Mick Shaw spoke about the cuts that fire-fighter’s have already faced across the country and that there is nothing less to cut. Today’s strike action in London by fire fighter’s is as much about protecting the service to the public as about stopping them all being sacked and re-employed on inferior terms and conditions.

Brand New Labour MP, Chuka Umunna, gave an assured Labour movement family speech (I’m trying to upload it to YouTube but having a few technical problems) pointing out the real differences between Labour and the ConDems.

Other stuff I found interesting was that the annual interest rate on new government debt (gilts) is 1.8%... in 1945 National debt was 250% of GDP yet we then went on to create the welfare state... the NHS, nationalised Coal and Steel and a mass public house building programme... the journalists who vilify trade unions would not be able to write a sentence if they had not been properly taught by trade union members.

RMT leader Bob Crow gave his usual high octane, finger waging and podium thumping speech. Great fun to listen to and highly entertaining if you are a trade union activist and but essentially empty and forgettable to everyone else (except for the hat – which was memorable). This is a problem. Which I think Bob knows.

By the time Steve Hart, the London UNITE regional secretary came to the rostrum the wanabee alternative SERTUC organisers had turned up and made the mistake of trying to repeatedly shout him down (as they do – it reminded me of a London UNISON AGM). Steve stopped and just took the abuse for about 30 seconds then laid into the “Peoples Front of Judia” and the “wreckers and splitters”. To which the hall erupted into loud clapping and cheers . This shut ‘em up and Steve continued with his attack on the real enemy – the ConDems.

Why do we put up with these Rule or Ruin sects?

SERTUC regional Secretary Megan Dobney spoke next to close the conference. The usually mild mannered and consensus Megan asked the idiot fringe present to “shut up and listen for a change”. She pointed out that the unions must either change government policy or change the government...from 1920-1960 national debt in this country was never less than 100%...72% of the cuts will come from purse not from the wallet.

On 26 March we need to have a successful TUC March against the SERTUC there are about 1/3rd of all trade union members nationally...we need therefore to get at least 1 million members from SERTUC on that march, if we cannot even do that then we will risk losing the battle... we must not forget the elections next May.

Everyone must remember the discipline and commitment by this Government to their manta that this recession was left to them by the Labour Government...we must show the same discipline and commitment to our manta and show that this recession is due to a global banker’s crisis - not ours.


Anonymous said...

swp calling for a general strike

would help if they could even get their members to lobbys

Anonymous said...

These idiots are not just an embarassment to our movement, they are fundamentally damaging our prospects of bringing ordinary people together to fight the cuts. How on earth do we build that movement when someone comes on a march for their first time in their life and is then subjected to some moron with a megaphone shouting the odds about smashing the state? Kick them out now.

Anonymous said...

When I joined the march at Unity House I had assumed that we were marching to Congress House to join the rally. I was confused when it ended in the corner of some leafy square and made my way down the road to Congress House myself. It should have been made clearer at the start that the only reason the PA had been set up was that there might have needed to be an 'overflow' from Congress House itself.
I left just before all the shouting so missed the excitement but any speaker worth her/his salt knows that they have to put up with hecklers.
Personally I agree with Bob Crow's condemnation of those cowardly Labour MPs who did not support John's Bill. Yet again they are absent when the chips are down.

Anonymous said...

As ever John in your eagerness to attack socialists the truth is the first casualty in your posts.

As you are well aware it was always planned to have a rally in Bedford square as well. Read your own post on the 18th Oct when you write "The first 500 will be admitted to the rally in Congress House on a ‘first come’. The over-spill will be directed to Bedford Square, where there will be an over-spill rally".

The demonstration had 5000 on it when it got to Bedford square the chair of the NSSN directed those who wanted to go to the SERTUC rally. Clearly the majority would not get in, what did you want them to do send them home?

The only reason the SERTUC rally was eventually full was those who went from the demo onto it.

What you of course fail to deal with, is was why did the unison reps on SERTUC oppose a regional demo in the first place and instead in an example of its lack of confidence propose a meeting for just 500 which no members of the public would see. If it were down to you there would have only been 500 not 5000 protesting in london on saturday.

If the NSSN can organise 5000 what could the regional TUC movement have done if it had built for it?

The mood is clearly there now for a a major protest as can be seen from the 20,000 on the streets of Edinburgh on a demo called by the STUC.

It is good the TUC was pushed to call a demo in March, however as you know well for many unison members facing redundancy their notices will have run out by then. we want it to be a march in preperation for a fight not a funeral march mourning our lost members. That is why we need the TUC to call it now before christmas in preperation to build for a 24hr public sector general strike.

Glenn Kelly

John Gray said...

Hi Robwilk48

There is a difference between heckling and trying to deliberately shout someone down - IMO.

Why do you think the Labour MPs were "cowardly"? were they scared of turning up? Will it make them more likely to turn up for the 2nd reading? Or have we had enough problems with the politics of betrayal to try something slightly more grown up?

Hi Glen (if it is you - but would appear so)

I am glad you are taking such a keen interest in my blog - there is hope for you yet!

The key words are "over-spill" - in no way whatsoever was the official TUC rally "full"! that is why I went looking for UNISON members.

There was 300 at most at your counter rally not 5000. Most of whom thought this was the SERTUC rally point. We must stop fooling ourselves which such stuff and nonsense about numbers. Such silliness discredits times when we do get decent numbers to turn up.

You lot knew exactly what you were doing and deliberately tried to wreck an official TUC rally. That is a disgrace and you know it.

John Gray said...

PS Glen

I forgot to mention that "you lot" are not socialists either - in my opinion of course.


Anonymous said...

Don't you get it? They have the word 'Socialist' in the name of their party, therefore they are socialists. A bit like the Socialist Workers Party, although I suppose that means Glenn's lot are only socialists and not workers?