Demonstration against Cuts- Huddersfield

Got back earlier from a demonstration outside/inside Huddersfield town hall, as the council were setting the budget today.  As demonstrations go, it was reasonably positive.

It was jointly organised by Kirklees Save Our Services, UNISON, UNISON Health Branch, Trades Council and the NUT.  There were even some anarchists involved in the organisation, but nobody tell Comrade Newman or he might get all grumpy (actually, this brings up an interesting point.  Is Uncle Joe Newman prepared to follow the logic of his position and openly call Yorkshire UNISON members “scabs” for working with “enemies of the labour movement”?  I suspect he doesn’t have the courage of his convictions, but maybe I’m being unfair.  I’m telling you, I wouldn’t be allowed to make posts like this in the worker’s utopia of East Germany).

I’m even worse at estimating numbers than the cops, but I reckon maybe a hundred people turned up, militant, but generally good natured.  We tried to get into the chamber itself, but were unsuccessful.  The council refused to let more than 12 people in to watch proceedings, instead trying to shuffle people off into a “viewing room” with a webcast.  So, most of us decided to stay in the lobby.  We tried to get in through the theatre door, but it was locked.  The council had also hired on extra security (apparently protecting themselves from the opinions of the people they supposedly represent wasn’t the kind of expense to cut) plus about 20 cops/community support officers.

The local Tory MP turned up to talk to the demonstrators!  I have to grudgingly admit, the man has guts, even if he is the class enemy.

Couple of really positive things about the demonstration for me.  Firstly, the militancy.  When people were trying to get into the council chamber, there wasn’t what you sometimes get with a divide between ‘direct action activists’ and ‘demonstrators’, outside obvious considerations of people having kids with them etc.

The other main thing that stood out to a veteran hack like myself was how democratic the whole thing was.  As opposed to the usual list of ‘safe’ speakers, a couple of the organisers spoke, then the floor and megaphone were freely available to anybody who wanted to talk about their experiences.  Which led to a speech by a couple of people from Libya about events there, which we wouldn’t have got with the usual heavy handed management of protests favoured by much of the left.  And, for me, is real internationalism in action- letting ordinary people talk about their views and experiences.

One issue that is going to arise again and again is that Labour voted for the budget.  Some Labour party members, even on the left, are arguing that we should only oppose Tories, not Labour councillors.  For me, that does suggest we need to watch the Labour left a bit carefully.  It’s reasonably obvious that they are torn between loyalty to the party and loyalty to the class and it’s unlikely they’ll all jump the same way.  This also means that the suggestions from some on the Labour left that the movement needs to work out its relationship to the Labour Party are playing with fire.  I don’t think they quite get how angry with the Labour Party (specifically) a lot of people are. Somewhat cynically, as part of the anti-Labour left (and for a lot longer than the johnny come latelys like the Trots), I don’t want us to be pushing this issue.  As it will lead to us being bashed with the ‘sectarian’ stick.  However, part of me really would like the Labour left like Owen to try and force this issue.  As instinct tells me that doing so is more likely to produce a result to my liking than theirs…

  1. February 24th, 2011

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