We present the text of our steward's speech on the coach from Cambridge to the Take Back Manchester demonstration on Sunday 1 October.
This isn't the first time we've travelled to Manchester. In 2015 we were there for the Conservative Party conference, and since then that great city has endured even more savage austerity from Tory governments. That time the Tories came to congratulate themselves on their election victory, but less than a year later we saw David Cameron fall after his failed campaign in the Brexit referendum which he had promised to the right wing of his party. Meanwhile we saw a reinvigorated anti-austerity campaign, and now the Labour Party's turn to an anti-austerity manifesto has produced electoral successes sooner than many of us thought possible. The ending of the Tories' parliamentary majority in June was maybe the greatest push by the anti-austerity movement since the student actions of 2010–11.
The People's Assembly is a non-party political campaign, but we recognise and we're glad that Labour has taken the fight against austerity into Parliament. All the same we believe the struggle has to continue outside of that. The electoral situation is still fluid: only recently the Tories appeared unbeatable, despite the deep divisions within the party. A parliamentary majority never guarantees effective power: a future Labour government pursuing reforms which threatened the profits of capitalist interests could be answered by currency attacks, investment strikes, capital flight, and withdrawal of credit. Electoral success is often pursued at too high a cost, and we've seen a history of bad compromises and betrayals.
So those of us who suffer under austerity have to continue to build our own strength within and without the Labour Party, with protest and strike action playing a large part. We've been inspired by the workers in the precarious reality of Tory Britain who are so bravely beginning to organise and again fight back. We have seen Deliveroo riders strike last summer, the Picturehouse cinema workers this last winter, and of course the McStrikers just last month in Crayford and our very own Newmarket Road branch back in Cambridge.* We have also seen the unions Unite, PCS, and GMB declare that they are prepared to defy the repressive Trade Union Act 2016 to strike against the public sector pay cap. This isn't about public or private alone, and we must support each other in the fight ahead.
Today's national demonstration, and the four days of local action planned afterwards, will make the popular demands for healthcare, homes, jobs and education heard outside the Conservative conference. The Tories cannot be allowed to feel welcome or comfortable in a city of half a million where, for the advantage of a narrow few, they have so undermined those basic rights. They may have a building; but we have the streets, and once again we will take back Manchester. Thank you.
1 October 2017
* Some of the McDonald's strikers were present on the coach.