Last week saw national co-ordinate strike activity across the UK as civil servants and NHS staff went on strike for higher wages. The TUC held a national demonstration under the slogan “Britain needs a Payrise” on Saturday the 18th of October.
One of the Banner Drops in Leeds
Plan C were active in their local regions. We hosted regional discussion events which gave us the opportunity to think about what the function of the TUC’s demands really was and how we wanted to intervene in the strikes and on the demonstration itself. From these we decided to support local strikes and to attend the TUC demonstration under the slogan “a pay rise is not enough – we need a plan C” . In Leeds banners were dropped promoting the strike at visible sites. For the strike days we attended picket lines in our regions, distributed a flyer made by a member of ours who is a midwife and tried to #strikeup conversations with participants and passers-by about the strikes and the nature of work today (report coming soon). The majority of these sites were NHS related but job centres were also visited. The energy of the midwives was noted in particular as well as feelings that the unions were not demanding enough or organising effectively enough.
On the 18th we met in London and attended the demonstration in a group. Our group of 40, with buggies and babies in tow, were proud to march with the Radical Housing Bloc and alongside the brilliant E15 mothers. We were also very happy to have comrades from Beyond Europe marching with us as we continue our process of international exchange. We distributed copies of our new publication b a m n and flyers our comrades in Thames Valley had produced for the day. Although we had lots of interesting conversations and pleasant re-unions it was sad, though unsurprising, to see the turn-out was significantly lower than in previous years. The 100’000 (by the police’s estimation) to 150’000 (according to the TUC) is significantly smaller than seen in recent years: railings covering the entire route of the demonstration, large numbers of police outside Fortnum and Mason and the closed shutters at the Ritz seemed more likely to be a public relations act for the police with business owners than an example of serious concern for public order. The large, organised and militant blocs of students and precarious workers we saw in 2011 already seem a long time in the past.
Marching with the Radical Housing Bloc
In the evening we hosted a fully packed after-party celebrating the launch of our unofficial magazine and raising funds for b a m n, the Anarchist Bookfair and The Common House. We raised a large chunk of money and met lots of friends old and new. We’d like to say thanks to everyone that joined us over the course of the week and hopefully we can keep thinking about ways to improve our ability to intervene into events like these.