Last Saturday, September 22nd, was a day of action here. Several hundred people took part in a demonstration organised by the Trades Council and Brighton Stop the Cuts to mark the arrival of the Liberal Democrats for their conference. More significantly, many of the protesters joined a mass anti-workfare picket after the demo.
Before the last general election, the LibDems fooled voters by pretending to care about anything but their own careers. Trailing a string of broken promises from scrapping tuition fees to protecting the NHS, they have instead shown themselves willing to do anything for a sniff of political power. Thanks to their collaboration, the ConDem coalition has been able to vastly accelerate the ongoing comprehensive assault on the public services on which we all rely, and the massive transfer of wealth from the poorest to the richest in our society. A process which began decades ago and has since been advanced by every government – irrespective of party – but the LibDems pretended they would oppose and even roll back some of the worst excesses.
Although the march from the Level to the conference centre was not as huge as some we have seen in Brighton, numbers were more than made up for by vocal enthusiasm and the accompaniment of drums, tambourines, whistles and vuvuzelas. With the media in town for the conference, the demo was also widely reported on TV and in the press and received fairly sympathetic treatment, including this report in the Argus.
The end point of the march was the seafront opposite the Brighton Centre – the nearest we could get because of the security fencing around the centre and the Grand Hotel, although unlike Labour the LibDems don’t warrant tank traps, rooftop snipers and very visible very large weaponry! Here we held a short rally making plain the effects of austerity. The final speech, on workfare, ended with an invitation to all present to join activists from SolFed, Brighton Benefits Campaign and Brighton Uncut in disrupting this high profile coalition policy, by taking part in a mass picket of city centre workfare exploiters.
Followed by a gratifyingly large crowd of protesters, we then marched back up West Street to the Clock Tower where we split into groups, to picket Primark, Argos, Superdrug, Costas, and two branches of Poundland. With so many involved, we were able to distribute around 3000 leaflets and speak to large numbers of passers by, many of whom were sympathetic. One of the Poundland stores was shut down for a time, and police helpfully blocked most of the doorway of Primark themselves!
The mass picket was a great success, not least because of the involvement of members of so many groups. Now we need to ensure that those groups remain involved in further actions, spreading the anti-workfare message far and wide, and taking the campaign to the heart of the trade union movement.
Austerity is a massive con-trick played on working people. Join us to find out why and how we must oppose it.