London: 100,000 Participate in Union Led March Protesting Austerity

London: 100,000 Participate in Union Led March Protesting Austerity

     On October 20, 2012 more than 100,000 people took to the streets of London to protest government austerity measures.  The protest was led by the labor movement and was called for by the Trades Union Congress.  The Trades Union Congress of Britain is an affiliation of 54 unions that represent approximately 6.2 Million Britons.   Thousands turned out at simultaneous protests that also took place in Belfast, Ireland and Glasgow, Scotland.  The protests were seen as sign of the growing anger that the British people are feeling towards austerity measures.  The protests were also seen as a show of strength of the British Labor movement.

      As in America, the official British unemployment rate has been falling slowly, but steadily, and is now below 8.00%.  However, as in America, the jobs that the British economy are primarily low wage jobs that have contributed to an increase in income inequity.  The UK GINI coefficient, which is used to measure income inequality, is now higher than at any time in the last 30 years.  The implementation of austerity measures has created more inequality.  Over the last 4 years living standards have fallen by 13%.  The current government is following the lead of nearly every European government and is vowing to continue on the path of austerity.  Earlier in the year the UK government promised to eliminate more than 700 thousand public sector jobs by the year 2016.  It is not expected that the weak economy will be able to provide new jobs to those displaced government workers. 

      The labor movement in the UK (as in all of Europe) is increasing their protests over the austerity measures that continue to be pushed on the British population.  This economic crisis was not caused by the excesses of the working class, yet the working class is being asked to pay the price for a recovery that is excluding them.  As in America, Europe has yet to enact regulations that will prevent the financial industry from once again engaging in fraudulent activities that will destroy the world economy.   When the next economic disaster is again caused by the top 1% of the world, it will again be the 99% that are asked to pay the clean-up costs. 

      It would be nice to see the American Labor movement taking to the streets and demanding that their voices be heard.  Austerity is being planned for America.  Regardless of who wins this election progressive voices must be the loudest in demanding that austerity not be imposed on those who did not cause this economic crisis.  American Labor and progressives need to be protesting in the streets to ensure that their voices are heard.  In my opinion, the most important lesson from the Occupy Movement is that one must shout until one can no longer be ignored.  As long as labor continues to grumble silently it will be ignored.  Politicians are a reactive species and normally they react only as a result of continued pressure.  There are few (if any) proactive politicians.  As long as American labor and progressives remain silent, we will be ignored.  I hope the U.S. Occupy and labor movement is watching the protests that are taking place in Europe and that they begin to follow their examples.    

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Breaking News: Sartoris Will Behave

sartoris's picture

Extremely reliable sources from around the world are reporting that Sartoris will behave........and that he really likes this place.........

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Yay!

aigeanta's picture

Your absence was short but I missed you.

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misbehaving?

shaharazade's picture

I haven't noticed you misbehaving you seem the very model of good and intelligent behavior. Perhaps I was too busy figuring out how to navigate VOTS. If you went somewhere glad your back.

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don't think I ever mentioned this but I love your name

sartoris's picture

I'm something of a reader and I have an extremely nice 1927 Tudor Publishing Company edition of The Arabian Nights.  Excellent condition.  Because my nest is so crowded with so many fledglings that are reluctant to take flight, I have not quite been able to purchase the copies of books that I would like.  Nearly every book I own is what one would call a 'reading' copy.  Someday........when the birdies have flown off to build their own freaking nests and eat their own freaking worms.......I'll start my collection in earnest.  Anywho, just wanted to compliment you on your literary name.  Oh, and great to have you here, you participate a great deal and always have valuable contributions to the discussions.   

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well in fairness to me.........

sartoris's picture

it was a decision that I made in the grips of a long period of sobriety.......I am well past the age in which I should have realized I rarely make good decisions when I am sober......

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Torches and pitchforks.

Mehitabel's picture

That's what it's going to take at this point, because the ballot box has failed us. 

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we have a bunch of

triv33's picture

shithead fake progressives in this country who exist to make sure we never mount an effective protest. I won't mention any names, but....some initials would be O.F.A~

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Oh how I agree about marching in the streets.

aigeanta's picture

And not only that, but you must fully document yourselves. I'm really into the idea of organizing simulataneous nationwide marches and rallies. Each one must have a group of citizen journalists covering the activity, and broadcasting it to places like Ustream so that the movement can't be ignored. On top of that, we need to develop alternative modes of documenting, discussing, and putting into action solutions to our issues. I'm hoping that our development of VOTS is leading us in that direction. It is certainly our intention to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. As the features we have planned for the site progress, I think you'll see what I mean.

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complete agreement that the marches need to be simultaneous

sartoris's picture

Aigeanta, we are in complete agreement.

It's easy for the Chicago media to ignore an event in Boston and vice versa, however, if simultaneous events take place all around the nation, then coverage is virtually guaranteed.  At a minimum, it certainly becomes harder to ignore multiple protests.  I'm hoping that the AFL-CIO could partner with the Occupy movement to begin staging nation wide protests.  The 'leaderless' Occupy movement could certainly see some of their enthusiasm channeled effectively by some old labor hands.  This is not a 'you're doing it wrong' statement, just a thought I have had.  I would love to see the silence of the labor movement become a thing of the past.  The catfood commission is coming and it is going to kick the middle and lower middle classes right in the teeth.  Now is the time for aggitation.  Not after the passage of the austerity measures but BEFORE the passage. 

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Spot on comment, Priceman

sartoris's picture

I have long dreamed of a third party in America that is led by labor movement.  I'm not necessarily a one issue voter but for me labor concerns take priority over virtually all other issues.  Can you imagine the appeal to the average American of a 'labor' party?  The Democratic Party is only marginally more concerned with the U.S. labor movement than the Republican Party.  Time for Labor to have their own party.

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So I did this thing called March4Healthcare

aigeanta's picture

Back in 2009, during the health care reform debate, us single-payer advocates were trounced. The president offered up the public option and we were willing to take that compromise. By calling it March4Healthcare we framed it as a common struggle, not one constituency against another. This was a movement that could be supported by everyone, and we had a lot of enthusiasm. However, it was very difficult to interface with the unions and especially the OFA. Some of it, I believe, is the heinous "not invented here" syndrome that takes hold when an established group is confronted by new ideas being developed by grassroots. Another part was the disingenuousness of an administration and its political arm that had basically pulled a bait-and-switch with their support for the public option in the first place. They were more interested in building a coalition around whatever we ended up with than pushing the specific issue, which resulted in phone banking and house parties rather than what we accomplished: marching in the streets. The powers-that-be don't want those kind of images because they indicate discord amongst the populace, not the gentle herd of compliant sheeple they'd like to portray.

Someday I will post about my experience with March4Healthcare.

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Veal Pen orgs.

shaharazade's picture

I am completely fed up with the bogus local get togethers meet ups etc that try to pass themselves off as grassroots and populist and then when you arrive they hand you a sheet of OFA talking points and do not allow any snickering, dissenting  or debating. Van Jones org. is a case in point, and Moveon another.

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Great to see you, Sartoris!

priceman's picture

They plan to bring spending levels below the US and you're right; more austerity is in our future. You can't negotiate with deficit terrorists, you must march! You must protest! You must strike!

 

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another person from Britian also made a similar comment

sartoris's picture

Thanks for reading N.Y. Brit Expat.  Your comment troubles me.  By American standards a protest of 100k is huge.  What sort of turnout is normal in London and what sort of turnout was expected.  Do you know if the locals were calling this protest a failure?  Do you know if labor is attempting to organize further protests?  Austerity is slaughtering Europe and I'm not sure how much longer the people can survive these budgets.  The latest economic forecasts are predicting another recession in Britian for 2013.  Growth is expected to crash for the 4th quarter of 2012.  Austerity is a complete and utter failure. 

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Organisers and the anti-austerity movement wanted

NY brit expat's picture

to see numbers along the lines of the anti-war demo against Bush and Blair, that is 2 million people. With 100,000 as a national demo, and with large numbers of union members not turning out, this is rather bad.

So while the unions are talking coordinated action (e.g., a general strike), if they cannot get people out for a demo on a saturday, that will not happen.

Here is a good analysis of the demo that I think you will appreciate and which explains my worries:

http://socialistresistance.org/4109/grander-rhetoric-but-smaller-demonstration

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No question that austerity is a failure

NY brit expat's picture

But that does not mean that we can get people to oppose things so easily; the general line here is that we have no other choice. Irrespective of the fact that this is a grotesque lie, getting people to realise that they can and need to fight takes a lot of hard work. Developing consciousneess and recognition of your power is a process and like all processes they take time, which I do not know if we have much of becfore things crash even worse

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Thanks for the link. Now I'm depressed.

sartoris's picture

Sorry for the late response, I stepped away to prepare dinner and catch some news. 

Well, this quote from the article answers the question that I was going to ask:"Compared to the mobilisations in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy protests in Britain are smaller and more resigned." Now, are you currently in the States or are you in Britain?  The reason I ask is that I’m wondering if you’re on the ground there if you know why the protests, are just not catching hold in Britain, as they are in other countries, I’m thinking specifically of Spain.  Catalonia is actively and loudly agitating for independence and just might achieve their goal.  At a minimum, the austerity movement seems to be in danger in Spain, Greece and Portugal.  It’s alive and well in Britain.  Why?  What is it about America and Britain that makes us so willing to eat whatever shit sandwich is served? 

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I am an American that lives in the UK

NY brit expat's picture

I have been here since 1993; so I am on the ground, am working in anti-cuts and anti-austerity work both in the UK and in solidarity with Greece. A part of me is wondering if the fight-back would be easier here if it was being imposed by the IMF rather than by British politicians and with all mainstream parties saying "we have no choice." The UK and US are rather similar unfortunately in that the attack on industry and manufacturing and the deliberate attack on the trade union movement began earlier than in other European countries; our union movements are weaker. The leadership was also bought into a capital-labour accord.

Divide and conquer is very successful in both countries, the left has been weakened. I also think that people are just beaten down and resigned at the moment. Everyone I speak with is angry and upset, but cannot see how they can stop it.

There are movements, there is a left, there are left-wing unions (much further left than in the US at this point); the problem is that they are isolated ... people are trying to build at grass-roots level, but that is long hard work.

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The unions are discussing further actions

NY brit expat's picture

but many are tied to the Labour Party which has shifted solidly to the right; but there are those that are far more militant. There are local strikes and actions as well. So, for example, on Monday, there is a strike at the British Museum by cleaners and maintenance staff in the PCS union (http://pcs.org.uk/pcs/en/culture_media_and_sport_occupational_associatio...).

Cleaners and maintenance staff organised by both PCS and IWW are very militant. The Fire Brigades Union is militant, RMT is militant. But many others are not and many of these are in public sectors and are facing bad cuts and militancy is essential.

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thanks for the extremely informative responses

sartoris's picture

Very much appreciate your perspective.  Any chance that you could be persuaded to write about your efforts and the on the ground situation?  I have tried to bring information to this site by posting to various European News organizations (see my News From Around the Globe series), however, there is absolutely nothing like an eyewitness report from one of our members.  I'm sure you are terribly busy, but please do consider writing about this extremely important matter.

I'm sorry to keep bothering you but I have a couple more questions.  How large is the Fire Brigades Union and the RMT and the PCS?  I suppose you are most likely correct in that if the IMF was mucking about in the economy people would be much move vocal in their opposition.  Homegrown stupidity is always tolerated better than imported stupidity. 

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