THE LONDON May Day Rally of over 5,000 workers, trade unionists, students and youth marched from Clerkenwell Green to Trafalgar Square in central London on Tuesday.
Zeta Holborn, PCS National President, told the Trafalgar Square rally: ‘There are three key things I want to say. After frozen pay followed by a 1% pay cap for several years we have voted overwhelmingly in a consultative ballot for our 5% pay claim and we are now going for a statutory ballot and we will be embarking on a serious programme of industrial action.
‘In ACAS, yes ACAS, there is industrial action going on and on 11th May and 6th & 7th June our ACAS members are striking. ‘My family is of the Windrush Generation. May’s Immigration Act was the most racist legislation and then the Go Home vans and now Windrush. We don’t want an amnesty.
‘None of the people are “illegal”. There is a charter flight of mass deportation to Jamaica happening actually now, in the midst of this. People are held in Yarl’s Wood. Stop these charter flights. And what about the people who have already been deported!’
Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary said: ‘RMT fully supports the TGI Friday workers and the Bakers Union campaign for trade union rights at McDonald’s. ‘We’re in the third year of our fight to Keep the Guard on the Train. If the government gets their way they will have a million trains without safety-critical guards. ‘We are determined to back our members and passenger safety 100%, not the spivs and profiteers the government is backing. Renationise the railways. We need a change of government – a government for the many, not the few.’
Peter Kavanagh, Unite London & Eastern Region Secretary, said: ‘Whatever this government does, we will never surrender. Unite members are striking and winning, at Balfour Beatty, Crossrail, EDF, Bromley Libraries, they’ve all taken strike action in recent weeks and they’ve all won. ‘At TGI Fridays in the last few months we have recruited hundreds of workers into the union. We’ve had a 75% turnout on a ballot and a 100% strike vote. ‘We’re getting more and more strike action today – let’s build on this and let’s bring this government down.’
Workers spoke to News Line before and during the march. Louise Downes from Hammersmith said: ‘I was down at Grenfell from the first day, 14th June, supporting Kids on the Green. There are a lot of real horror stories. People said they saw dozens jumping. Every fire extinguisher on every landing was condemned. I blame the government 100%. All the lies, cover up. For them the working class don’t matter. We’ve got to get the Tories out. ‘I’m wearing a Palestine badge because I’m with Palestine completely. Israel is the biggest terrorist, fully supported by the UK and US governments.’
Isobelle Charlot, from the Chagos Islanders Movement told News Line: ‘We are here to raise awareness of our situation to get support from the British people and the trade unions. We are less than 3,000 Chagosians in this country. We are all British citizens and there are probably around 7,000 in Mauritius. ‘We want to go back to Diego Garcia and we need everybody’s help to get us back there to promote our peaceful culture. We are so angry that our island has been turned into a military base because of British and US selfishness and we can’t get back.
‘We must get back our identity which was robbed from us. It’s about time to end it. Our island is rich but we are poor. Our message here today is please come and join us on our demonstration in London this summer which we are about to announce details of shortly. Please look out for it.’
Suzette Almeida, PCS Tate Galleries, said: ‘I’ve never missed May Day for 20 years. We’ve been waiting far too long for a general strike. We should have had one a long time ago. For the last eight or nine years since the crash we’ve had nothing but low pay. ‘The TUC has the responsibility for the workers and definitely should call one now. I’ve got two small children in primary school and we are being asked to contribute money to support their education.’
Andy Derrett, Ipswich Aslef, said: ‘I’ve worked 36 years on railways all in the footplate grade – first, second man, then driver. I started at Ipswich, then London Bridge and then back at Ipswich. British Rail was much better. Under privatisation the railway is run badly, with enormous waste of money. I would agree with a general strike. Aslef is very strong within our industry, with all our members train drivers, able to stop the whole system. The NHS is the most important thing we’ve got and a general strike to defend it is the main issue of the day.’
At end of the march the WRP and the Young Socialists meeting at the Sun Tavern in Covent Garden was opened by Chairman Frank Sweeney, who said: ‘All over the world workers are rising against the austerity, racism and war which the economic crisis of capitalism is inflicting on them. ‘We send a special greeting to the Palestinian people. Those demonstrating in Gaza at the fence with Israel, have suffered more than 50 killed and over 5,000 wounded. I read an account of a medical report from Gaza, of 17 patients having to have their leg amputated and four to have their arm amputated, due to these dum dum bullets which rip the flesh open.
‘This is intended to terrorise people. We look forward to the establishment of a Palestinian state where people of all religions can live together. ‘We also send special greetings to the Syrian people who are fighting against this imperialist war for oil resources and to control their land strategically. There are three million displaced Syrians outside the country, and five million internally displaced.
‘In the last year there have been victories against the terrorist groups financed by imperialism. We also send greetings particularly to those struggling in Zimbabwe and South Africa who have got rid of the rule of Mugabe and Zuma. It is a very revolutionary May Day. The capitalist crisis has created the conditions for revolution.’ A minute’s silence was then held for Comrade Peter Chappell who died on Monday.
Bill Rogers, chair of Chingford ASLEF branch, speaking in a personal capacity, saluted the struggle of the French railway workers. ‘Macron is bombing Syria and also attacking the railway workers, in his aim to privatise the railways. ‘Here, they privatised the railways in 1994, and it has been chaos since. A public integrated system was split, divided, and handed over to multiple subcontractors. Since privatisation, we have lost 150,000 jobs in the industry. All smashed up and gone. The RMT and ASLEF supported Brexit.
‘The EU does not defend workers rights. We’re for reversing all this privatisation, and for renationalising the railways. A general strike is needed to smash this government. The Windrush fiasco shows that this week government must go. Labour is not really calling for them to go. Railway workers would like this government to go and would welcome a general strike.’
Isobelle Charlot, from the Chagos Island Movement, said: ‘You might not have heard about our island. I will make a few points and we will need your help in the future. How would you feel if armed forces entered your house and forced you out in a boat? ‘Our beloved pets were gassed. We were intimidated to leave our homeland and left in the slums of Mauritius and Seychelles. Home is home. We have the strength and determination to get back what belongs to us. This is the protest by the natives of the Island.
‘We Chagossians are living in poor conditions. Our Islands were used to threaten the whole world. Help us to unite with our families. We are very few here. We are a minority ethnic group. We have had court battles again and again, but did not win. We are British Citizens.
‘We are ready to follow all the ideas, so that this government can hear us. We are not threatening any one. The US is using our country for military purposes. They say the natives are a threat. How can we be a threat? We have no guns, no money. We are ready to take a stand. Please help us, however long it takes.’
The chairman told the meeting that the WRP and the Young Socialists support this struggle. Diego Garcia, was a British overseas possession and the Chagossians were removed by the British state, transported out and their animals gassed. This is part of the struggle for the world socialism.
Elder Munro-Bedeau spoke about Windrush, saying: ‘We must learn the lessons of history. We hand on principles, culture and customs to the next generation. Crimes have been committed against me and my people. We came here as British citizens from the colonies. I am a working man. The middle class were the managers on the slave estates. We were exported.
‘In 1966 the SS Excabia arrived at Southampton docks. I went to school and worked as an engineer. The privileged are parasites. Black persons get denigrated. I remember the day the Tory government and press were in bed together.
‘In the seventies we had the three-day week, no work, working people in big battles. The working class is the best friend of poverty. Doomed to put a label on yourself, we are a nation from West Africa. ‘Disposessed in South America and Brazil, we came to look after those who enslaved us. We must stick together. Youths in all countries are ready for transformation and revolution. Don’t treat us by our colour but by who we are, recognise us for who we are. We want our rights constitutionally.’ Frank Sweeney said millions of working class people in Britain support the Windrushers. Capitalism has reached the end of the road.
Jonty Leff, Editor of the News Line, said: ‘May Day is an international day. Millions march in Asia, Africa, Russia and Europe, filling the streets. Working people are international. Karl Marx said: “Workers of the world unite, You have nothing to lose but your chains, you have a world to win”. This is the 200-year anniversary of his birth. ‘Capitalism is in a state of collapse. The US has a debt of 20 trillion dollars, Europe has a mountain of debt, in Greece the debt to GDP ratio is 170%, the economies of Portugal and Italy are crashing. Germany repatriated its gold last week.
‘As capitalism crashes, they try and make us pay; they cut pay, cut jobs, get people to do three people’s jobs. We’ve had enough. ‘There is defiance. In Palestine, every Friday there are demonstrations. Last Friday young people tore down the border fence. Trump plans to open the US embassy in Jerusalem on Monday 14th May. This is most provocative.
Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine. On 11th May, from 5.30pm to 7.30pm there’s a demonstration; on 14th May there’s a march and on 12th May at the TUC march we will call on them to boycott Israeli goods. The UK government sold Israel millions of British-made weapons. The world must recognise Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital. ‘Zuma and Mugabe have gone. This is the beginning of revolution across the whole of Africa. In France, there are transport strikes two times a week. Macron did not ask parliament before launching the strikes against Syria.
‘May did not go to parliament. She just joined Trump. In Palestine and Gaza they use gas against Palestinians. In Syria for seven years, the imperialists call “rebels”, the terrorist groups of Jaish el Islam, ISIS and others. They trained them. We send revolutionary greeting to the Syrian people and Assad.
‘The British working class played a massive role by voting for Brexit. After a few days Cameron was out. They voted against a customs union, and against a single market. People are finding an extra-parliamentary form to express themselves, such as the Grenfell marches. ‘The problem for Labour is they haven’t called for May to go, just answer questions. It is up to us to call a general strike and bring down this government. There are so many issues. This government is rotten to the core.
‘In the NHS, it’s not the fault of the staff that there has been this winter crisis, with A&Es shut down. NHS staff work so hard just to keep going. They have had pay cuts for eight years. The “great deal” is 2% when the cost of living is going up by 3%. It’s a pay cut. But the union leaders are saying “go with it”.
‘In the Marx Memorial Library, they quote Marx: “ Philosophers have only interpreted the world … the point however is to change it.” In particular, we need to build the Young Socialists and organise young people to come together with the working class and achieve socialism. We need jobs, housing and education. It is our job to fight for revolution in Britain as part of the world revolution.’