John McDonnell – March 2011

March 26th is Resistance Day. The demonstration which the TUC has convened for that day will be the key to the future of resistance against this government of the rich, the City, the bankers and big business. If we are going to motivate people and give them confidence that this Government and its cuts can be resisted and defeated, this can be no ordinary TUC demonstration.

By the time we march, there will be more than two and a half million people unemployed, over a million of them young people…
By the time we march, 500,000 public sector workers will be in the process of being sacked in councils, health bodies, colleges and government offices across the country…
By the time we march, the next generation of students will be receiving, alongside their offers of university places, notice of the £6,000 to £9,000 they will have to pay in tuition fees to take up their offers.
By the time we march, the Government will be forcing through Parliament its plans to cut social security benefits, pensions will be under threat and many, many more people with disabilities will have lost their Disability Living Allowance.

There are enough injustices being perpetrated by this Government to mobilise us all. If we can create a vast sea of angry but determined faces marching through London that day, we shall be able to give heart to those who still believe that resistance to this Government is futile.

We are clearly not alone.

The heroic resistance struggles in the Middle East are not just about the struggle for democracy. They are motivated as much by the economic injustices the people are experiencing at the hands of globalisation which has brought them unemployment, low wages, high food prices and poverty.
Opposition has also not died out in Europe, as unemployment and cuts in people’s living standards are beginning to bite.

The lesson for the Labour Party is that increasingly people are starting to feel that we are indeed “all in this together”. That slogan, which Cameron appropriated to gain support for his cuts programme, is now being turned into a weapon to rally opposition to that programme. Instead of being “all in this together” to endure the demolition of our welfare state and the undermining of our living standards, people are joining up to be “all in this together” against the Coalition that is inflicting these hardships on our society.

The rail unions report that every spare train in the country has been booked to bring demonstrators to London on 26th March. There are so many coaches arriving that the police have run out of parking spaces in central London. Feeder marches are being planned so that people can swell the numbers demonstrating as the marchers move through the streets of the capital on the way to the main demonstration.

The TUC will stuff the platform with their own speakers, petrified that they may lose control of the event – but we are in a new era, when it is the demonstrators themselves who will determine the nature of the march.

As the demonstration approaches and on the demonstration itself we need to discuss the question: what next? Already a number of trade unions within the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group are working together to plan co-ordinated industrial action. Anti-cuts groups are also increasingly engaging in effective direct action campaigns.

This ferment of growing unrest needs a political voice and political representation. The Labour leadership appears transfixed by the fear of putting a foot wrong and incurring the wrath of the media. So far it has constrained itself to a few press releases and speeches criticising elements of the Coalition’s policies and attempts to perfect its performances at Prime Minister’s question time.

It is, therefore, left to the rank and file of the Party to get out there, alongside all those who want to fight back, and show the leadership that this is no time for timidity. As the Coalition begins to ratchet up its attack on the welfare state, we all have a responsibility to do all we can, in whatever position we hold and whatever role we play, to bring this Government down.

26th March can be the start of that process in earnest.

John McDonnell is MP for Hayes & Harlington and Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and the Labour Representation Committee.

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