A great wave of defiance against Theresa May’s government swept through central London on 1 July.
Tens of thousands of people marched who are angry at austerity, racism and pay curbs. The Grenfell Tower fire was seen by many as the symbol of all that is wrong with a society that puts profit before people’s lives.
And there was universal fury at the grubby deal with the bigots of the Democratic Unionist Party that is enabling May to stay in office – and continue to implement her toxic policies.
Several of the speakers at the rally said 100,000 had joined the “Tories Out, Not One Day More” demonstration.
Called by the People’s Assembly and backed by many trade unions and campaigns, it showed the mood to resist the Tories – and also a sense of optimism and confidence after the surge for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the general election.
It was a very positive sign of the readiness for a fightback and to push for a different sort of society.
In front of a crowd singing “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” in Parliament Square, the Labour leader said, “When we met in Parliament Square two years ago we had a Tory government in office, hell bent on austerity.
“We said we’d fight that and that’s what we’ve been doing the last two years. We were written off by the mainstream, but something happened.
“It was the people registering to vote and the people getting involved in the social media campaign – and it was the tens of thousands who came to rallies saying that the people are united and determined.”
Len McCluskey, the Unite union general secretary, said, “You have come from all across the land to fight for a people’s government.
“To Theresa May, your party and cruelty have failed the people – let Labour get on with the job. Prime minister, for the good of the nation, go and go now.”
But some of the marchers were clear they expect more from the union leaders.
Theresa, a Doncaster care worker on the march, said, “Everybody’s had enough of year after year of the 1 percent pay cap, and that mood has intensified with Corbyn’s election campaign.
“Unison is the biggest health union but we’re not taking a lead over fighting for health workers’ pay. We should be balloting for action. If you don’t have a go you’ll never win.”
Mark, a Unison rep from Manchester said, “I’d like to see the union at a regional level getting branches connected more and start pushing for action, holding big local rallies. They’ve got to give a lead”.
Trade Union Congress (TUC) leader Frances O’ Grady said, “Working people are hungry for change. We want a pay rise. We’re not going to put up with it anymore”.
But the TUC has just called off a rally planned for 17 July against the pay cap, and shows no sign of trying to coordinate strikes to break it.
PCS union leader Mark Serwotka said that May is weak and Corbyn will be the next prime minister. “We need more demonstrations, more campaigns and one way we can make that happen more quickly is through a public sector strike”, he said.
There is a new sense of hope after the election. But although Conservative MPs could topple May for their own reasons, getting rid of the Tories will require a serious mass mobilisation.
The mood for change needs to fuel action in the streets and the workplaces, not just inside the Labour Party or in elections.
First published in Socialist Worker (UK)