By Philip Stott. Posted 22nd October 2012
10,000 trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners took to the street of Glasgow on Saturday 20th October to protest against cuts and austerity. Organised by the STUC, and taking place at the same time as demonstrations in London and Belfast, the mood on the demonstration was serious and determined but with a clear understanding that another demo was not going to be enough to halt the austerity juggernaut.
The support for the demand, raised by the Socialist Party Scotland and the National Shop Stewards Network, for the TUC to name the day for a 24-hour general strike was overwhelming. The one speaker who made the call for coordinated national strike action against the cuts, Lynn Henderson Scottish secretary of the PCS, received the biggest cheer and applause of the day at the rally.
Thousands of workers eagerly grabbed the SPS leaflets calling for a 24-hour general strike. Our stalls were extremely busy with marchers eager to sign the petition demanding the TUC/STUC name the day.
Despite being smaller than some of the previous demonstrations this was still a very significant turnout. It was no accident that one of the biggest trade union mobilisations was from PCS whose militant and socialist leadership has inspired confidence among the members of the union. PCS mobilised an estimated 1,500 members to the demo, there were also big delegations from Unison, RMT, Unite and the FBU among others.
It’s been two and a half years since the election of the ConDem government and this is the fifth major trade union mobilisation in Scotland since then. 25,000 marched in October 2010 in Edinburgh, thousands travelled to London in March 2011 for the monster 750,000 strong TUC protest. More than 10,000 rallied in the monsoon of October 1st 2011 in the run-up to the mass strike on N30. November 30th 2011, the day of the public sector shutdown against attacks on pensions, saw 300,000 on strike in Scotland and over two million across the UK. An incredible 75,000 strikers took part in marches and rallies in towns and cities across Scotland. (see report here)
After the high point of the movement on N30 the TUC and leaders of Unison and some other major trade unions adopted a conscious policy of deescalating the movement. Rather than call further action they went into negotiations with the government and employers without any significant concessions, which resulted in the implementation of the pension attacks. The defeat of the pensions struggle (although a number of unions are still in dispute) alongside the refusal up to know to call further action had an impact on the turnout.
At the same time a continuation of the cuts and austerity agenda by the ConDem’s has hardened the mood of anger still further and this was evident on Saturday. As Brian Smith, Glasgow City Unison branch secretary and SPS member pointed out at a well attended Solidarity fringe meeting after the demo “there is not a union anywhere that could not ballot their members on pay, pensions, workload or whatever. What is needed is to mobilise this mood of anger into a 24-hour general strike.”
Glasgow City Unison’s 150 shop stewards are meeting this Thursday to consider a resolution calling for a 24-hour general strike. If this is passed it will go to the Unison Scottish Council later in the year for discussion by delegates from all Scottish Unison branches. The need for a 24-hour general strike should be discussed urgently in every union branch.
As well as distributing thousands of leaflets calling for a 24 hour general strike, 135 copies of the Socialist were sold, hundreds of NSSN leaflets advertising the Scottish conference on 27th October were distributed and £120 was raised for the Fighting Fund from donations and in particular the selling of SPS No Cuts badges. We also received the names of eight people interested in joining Socialist Party Scotland.
SPS members were also central to the hugely successful Scottish march for jobs and public services, organised by Youth Fight For Jobs and PCS young members that marched from Stirling to Glasgow and received massive publicity in the Scottish press. (see report here) The marchers took pride of place at the head of the PCS delegation on Saturday.
Building for a 24-Hour General Strike
National Shop Stewards Network Scottish conference
Saturday 27th October 11am
Glasgow City Unison offices
84 Bell Street
Janice Godrich PCS national president
Rob Williams NSSN chairperson