National Days of Action in Lancaster and Morecambe
The march reaches Great John Street, 1st October 2022
It’s impossible to pinpoint the highlight of Lancaster’s Enough is Enough[i] rally on October the 1st, there were too many. But for me the most memorable phrase was coined by former headteacher Siobhan Collingwood, so aptly describing the unelected and plummeting Liz Truss regime as the “bin juice of conservative governments!”
Neil Parker, postal worker and member of the CWU gives a striking debut speech, 1st October 2022
The National Day of Action[ii] would have been big anyway, but on top of the reckless, fracking[iii] stupidity of the current non-Government – losing its marbles all over the place – came that shameful Sheriff of Nottingham style budget, guaranteed to swell opposition numbers. There is no way I could put it as succinctly as Tom Peters does in his piece, The Great Tax Robbery[iv] in The Tribune[v]:
“Tax is about political choices. At the worst possible time, our government just made all the wrong ones.”
Dalton Square, 1st October 2022
This inequality “budget for bankers”[vi] was the last straw – and should serve well as a blatant incitement to revolutionary system change. With determination and maximum involvement from all who feel aggrieved, the conservative coffin is just waiting to be filled.
The reality of life below the poverty line: one man – Dusty – speaks up for countless thousands who often can’t afford to either eat or heat.
One of fifty[vii] Enough is Enough[viii] demonstrations in cities all across the country last Saturday[ix], it was inspiring to be part of an inclusive crowd taking control of Lancaster’s streets. Inspiring to see and hear first-hand, the supportive coalition of anti-government groups, their justified despair and anger.
Lancaster City Centre, 1st October 2022
As well as strikers from the CWU[x] and the RMT[xi], also present in support were the NEU[xii], Extinction Rebellion[xiii], CND and Just Stop Oil[xiv]as well as numerous other community groups such as TaCU – the Lancaster and Morecambe Tenants and Community Union[xv], Don’t Pay UK (join the Don’t Pay UK pledge here: dontpay.uk/pledge/bills/ ) Lancaster & Morecambe LGBT group, East Meets West and Stand Up to Racism.
Pete Bailey of Just Stop Oil, vilifies the thoughtless profit-to-destruction culture, 1st October 2022 “They scalp our planet, and they scalp us!”
The mood of the day perfectly matched the tone of speeches made in London by both trade union leaders and climate activists. Back in August, XR stated: “As a movement XR UK seeks to stand in solidarity with workers striking for liveable wages and secure jobs”. Several speakers reiterated that we need everyone opposed to this government to pull together, be they anti-racists, ‘crusties’, hippies, pensioners, Trade Unionists, members of Liberty, Friends of the Earth, LGBT groups, Quakers, anti-fascists, CND, Greenpeace, and so on. Only together can we change the direction of this country before it’s too late.
Lancaster City Centre, 1st Oct 2022
Mick Lynch, leader of the RMT speaking outside King’s Cross station :
“We are workers and we refuse to be divided. We refuse to pitch rail workers against nurses. We are not going to have it anymore. We are the working class and we are back.”
Dalton Square, 1st October 2022
Dave Ward, general secretary of the Royal Mail workers’ CWU:
“It’s always working-class people who are made to pay the price. We are going to kick the Tories out. Our social movement is growing bigger and we will make sure to drive Labour to stand for working people.”
Sam Ud-din, District Secretary of the NEU.
Meanwhile back on the tax front, Tom Peters continues:
“And so it has come to pass that after a period in the margins, the hard right libertarians have the keys to Number 10 once again. The Truss administration is stacked with ideologues from the opaque Institute of Economic Affairs and the Taxpayers’ Alliance. They were granted access to Downing Street by a tiny group of Conservative Party members, numbering only 0.2% of the wider British electorate”[xvi].
Lancaster City Centre, 1st Oct 2022
Tom Peters concludes:
“It’s hard to overstress just how fringe these ideas are. Yet the free-market faithfuls have wasted no time in prescribing a course of action for the British economy, which is showing symptoms of recession after a decade of under-investment, the shock of divorce from our largest trading partner, inflationary pressures, and post-pandemic strain. Their proposed medicine? The largest single transfer of wealth from the many to the few in half a century.”[xvii]
Siobhan Collingwood – whose speech so unforgettably described Truss and her U-turning puppet cabinet as the “bin juice of the conservatives” – also serves on the national executive of the NEU.
“I don’t believe that economic equality is possible; indeed, some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity.” – Boris Johnson.
Sounds like the classic creed of wasteland materialism to me[xviii]: envy, greed and the illusory god of economics. Anyone with eyes open, always knew duplicitous schoolboy Boris was a dissembler, but in the advent of Liz Truss (not merely incompetent but a malevolent marionette helping to line the pockets of her planet-destroying masters and friends) the floppy-haired, partying liar is starting to look like a chipboard saint! Once we battle him and his yet more arrogantly reckless colleagues back into their crypt, let’s be sure they are adequately staked . . .
Julie Hearn speaking for Lancaster UCU[xix]
Ever modest John McDonnell[xx], Labour MP and Ex Shadow Chancellor, speaking in Lancaster at the end, described the potentially dangerous chaos that has only been exacerbated by the appointment of Liz Truss as the “death throes of Neoliberalism”.
“If corporations & rich people who made fortunes out of us during the boom are not paying their fair share then reform the tax system & close down the tax havens.” John McDonnell.
Socialist Worker (and other more moderate affiliations have implied the same), accurately interpret the mini-budget – on which no-turn Liz is already turning[xxi] – as a “declaration of class war”. Even more importantly, it may prove to be the necessary incitement to revolutionary system change so vitally needed. With Proportional Representation organisations Make Votes Matter[xxii] and the Electoral Reform Society[xxiii], as well as the Progressive Alliance group Compass[xxiv] rapidly growing in strength in the wings, real system change is beginning to seem possible after decades of deflection, dithering, wasted votes and environmental destruction. As XR[xxv] representative Ronja said in London[xxvi] and Pete Bailey of Just Stop Oil echoed in Lancaster: “The climate and cost of living crisis are the same crisis. It’s important to be united because it’s how we will win.”
“MILLIONS FOR THE BOSSES, PENNIES FOR THE WORKERS” Morecambe posties united for fair pay.
On Friday 30th September, I went down to the picket line at Morecambe’s sorting office to meet Tommy Clough and his fellow strikers. Strike action is not something they take lightly. Fully prepared to explain the reasons for their escalating actions over the next few months[xxvii] they were politely apologising to any customers trying to collect or deliver oversize parcels, for their current days of action. The CWU decision to continue and increase the frequency of strikes came partly in response to threats by Royal Mail Group’s senior management to “push ahead with vicious cuts to workers terms and conditions and completely sideline the union.”[xxviii]
Morecambe posties, Market Street, Friday 30th September, 2022
On the walk down to the sorting office, abruptly, I realised I might look weird wearing shorts and sun hat (allegedly paper, but it seems pretty waterproof) on such an overcast and eventually rainy day. Luckily for me, being postmen, several of them were also wearing shorts – though being forced to stand around they joked they were beginning to regret it. Offering my change for the strike fund they laughed and said they couldn’t sing so wouldn’t take my money . . . only my biscuits!
Demonstration growing in numbers, Fenton Street, Lancaster, 1st October 2022
The Lancaster gathering of the following day had begun in support of the pickets outside Fenton Street sorting office and ended in Dalton Square with a rousing rendition of The Strawbs “You won’t get me I’m part of the Union”[xxix]. Updated lyrics repurposed the verses to leave the familiar chorus free for everyone to sing. In Lancaster the police remained notable for their absence – no doubt they are as pissed-off as just about everyone else.
“You won’t get me I’m part of the union!” led by Pete Moser and Eugene Doherty
Encouraged by this protest (which produced strong aural support from slowed traffic and other members of the public and raised £614.33 for the strike fund from people not rich in cash themselves) and by the success of the nationwide Enough is Enough campaign[xxx], a public meeting is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, 14th September, at Lancaster Town Hall. Speakers will include Lancaster MP Cat Smith and Councillor Caroline Jackson, Green leader of Lancaster City Council.
Rousing finale ignited by Eugene Doherty (left) and Pete Moser
This government has to go – and with it, all its self-protecting laws[xxxi] penned by itself to crush the poor and the unselfishly defiant; drafted to enslave us all and exploit the planet.
Coming soon: General Strike in towns and cities near you!
© Lawrence Freiesleben
NOTES All notes accessed between Oct 2nd and 3rd 2022
[i] Enough is Enough is a campaign to fight the cost-of-living crisis, founded by trade unions and community organisations determined to push back against the misery forced on millions by rising bills, low wages, food poverty, shoddy housing and a society they feel is run only for a wealthy elite.
[vii] socialistworker.co.uk/news/enough-is-enough-rallies-see-thousands-on-the-streets/ 2nd Section by Sarah Bates
[xvi] Tom Peters in the tribune tribunemag.co.uk/2022/09/budget-tax-justice-kwasi-kwarteng-liz-truss?
[xviii] See Part 7 of In Her Kingdom by the Sea. Sandylands to Regent Road: The promenade façade, the streets behind and the insanity of i gabbiani internationaltimes.it/?s=lawrence+freiesleben due for publication today or next week.
[xxi] From a 38% petition received today, 3rd October: “Conservative MPs are in open revolt over this botched budget. They know just how toxic cutting taxes for big business and the wealthiest during a cost-of-living crisis would be for voters in their constituencies. Conservative MPs, like David Morris, hearing from constituents, has forced the Government to U-turn once. We can do it again . . . But only MINUTES after his climbdown, the Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, confirmed £18 billion would be slashed from our public services, including our NHS. That’s £18 billion to fund the rest of their disaster budget including tax cuts for big business paid for by NHS patients left waiting, hungry school kids in cold classrooms and pensioners worrying about how to make ends meet.