Sunday, 29 March 2009

Put People First demo

Yesterday's demo was notable for a number of reasons. It was the biggest protest on economic issues in this country since the crash of last September. It got better than usual media coverage and, astonishingly, the police gave an accurate report of the numbers, saying there were 35,000 people. It had official backing from TUC and major unions, and represented the re-engagement of NGOs with mass mobilisation after a quiet period since their high watermark in summer 2005 (with Make Poverty History in Edinburgh). There were loads of union banners, strengthened further by international delegations of trade unionists.

The mood on the demo - and at the rally - varied, but the Stop the War contingent (which I was part of) was very lively, vibrant and radical. It was a serious weakness on the part of organisers that they refused to incorporate anti-war slogans, speakers etc into the event. We could have had an even bigger and more political event if they'd tapped into the recent upsurge of anger and protest about Gaza.

Not far behind us on the march was a magnificent banner displaying the names of Scottish universities which had occupations for Gaza, surrounded by students whose energy and ceaseless chanting of anti-war and anti-capitalist slogans represented the best things about the event. There was at least a glimpse of what we can achieve if students and trade unionists are brought together, if we join the dots between various issues, and if we move beyond the moderate NGOs and union leaders in the demands we make.

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