Saturday, October 30, 2010

Uniting against the cuts in Lambeth

There are some good pictures of this afternoon's demonstration in Brixton on the urban75 blog (http://www.urban75.org/blog/lambeth-save-our-services-march-demo-and-rally/).

As well as a couple of fine shots of the Lambeth UNISON Banner, there are good pictures of Ellen, who addressed the rally on behalf of the Lambeth Pensioners Action Group and of the UNITE speaker who spoke about the attacks on the NHS.

Today's demonstration was a positive step forward and one which poses all the more clearly the importance of building united action against cuts in the borough.

Lambeth Save Our Services, which meets on the first and third Thursday of each month at 7pm at the Vida Walsh Centre was initiated by the local authority trade union branches in response to the Council announcing hundreds of job losses in May (http://lambethunison.blogspot.com/2010/06/opposition-to-public-service-cuts-in.html). It immediately attracted support from the UCU Branch at Lambeth College and the Lambeth Pensioners Action Group and now has the backing of the Tenants Council.

Lambeth SOS has two important strengths. It is a campaign against all cuts, whoever makes them, and it has a bias towards organising action. The campaign needs to continue to grow - it has the potential now to do so. Of course it goes without saying that these are early days and the campaign has a long way to go and much to do.

Other initiatives have also emerged.

Local supporters of the Right to Work Campaign (which appears to have no local organisational existence independently of the Socialist Workers Party) organised a well attended meeting (at which I spoke alongside Kate Hoey) in early September under the name of "Lambeth United Against Cuts" (http://www.lambethunited.org/about-us.html). This was an excellent meeting.

Following the September meeting the organisers had denied any intention to establish an organisation separate from Lambeth Save Our Services (SOS). They now aspire to "bring us closer to a broad delegate based anti-cuts campaign run by no single group or union, which allows participates to continue their own campaigning work." (A project requiring its own website).

This is a worthy aspiration and almost certainly most likely to be achieved if their authors turn up at the twice monthly SOS meetings which have been arranged, will take place and will organise resistance to cuts in Lambeth (at which their welcome contribution will be most helpful).

Meanwhile the officers of Lambeth Trades Council (which has not itself met as a full Trades Council since June) have kept their distance from the SOS campaign created by their most active affiliates. The Trades Council officers organised an "open" meeting which was markedly less well-attended than the "Lambeth United Against the Cuts" meeting and have initiated discussions with Streatham MP Chukka Umanna to develop a "broad based" campaign. These are positive initiatives in and of themselves.

The Trades Council could and should be central to opposition to the ConDem cuts in Lambeth just as Trades Councils in (for example) Barnet and Camden are. Almost certainly the crucial next step is for the Trades Council to meet so that delegates elected to represent Lambeth workers can discuss and agree how we move forward.

Separately the leadership of the Labour Group (http://www.lambethlabour.com/) put proposals to the Council trade unions for a "Lambeth Campaign for Fair Services" which are unlikely to make much headway since it's tough to campaign against cuts whilst making them.

However, it is important that Labour Party members and Councillors remain welcome in anti-cuts campaigning activity - whilst those of us who work for them may have disagreements with the Council as our employer we need unity against the ConDem Coalition who are, without doubt, our real enemy.

The discussion about how Labour Councillors - and Labour Councils - should respond to these cuts is only beginning and an active engagement by Labour Party members in anti-cuts campaigns will be as important as the openness of anti-cuts campaigners to such engagement if we are usefully to have this important discussion.

The people of Lambeth should no doubt be grateful that so many different approaches to how to respond to the ConDems are on offer in the borough!

As the cuts bite deeper we'll find that it is those prepared to act, to campaign and to fight who will be to the fore as working class people resist the attempt to put the clock back two generations and to eliminate our welfare state.

In Lambeth, those are the people who marched through Brixton this afternoon.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lambeth Trades Council met on 25 October.

Anonymous said...

Lambeth Trades Council met on 25 October. The TC sends out dates of meetings to all affiliates well in advance of its meeting.


I haven't seen a Unison member at a meeting for most of this year; yet, there are Unison Branches affiliated.