Today the working class of Leeds marched to celebrate worldwide solidarity. The sunshine in Leeds and the recent buzz from Bradford saw people in a mood to celebrate with approximately 400 people coming to the march.
Andy Smith, Leeds North West Socialist Party
With representatives from various unions including Unison, Unite, GMB, PCS and others joined with Leeds Trades Council, who organised the event in marching through Leeds to the huge encouragement from Leeds shoppers and wanderers alike. The Youth Fight for Jobs contingent were loud and led many chants with other organisations on the left joining in chants to save the public sector from cuts, the NHS, pensions, schools and everything else the con-dem government are intent on destroying. This had an amazing uniting feeling about it inspired exactly the expected feeling on May Day, that of working unity across all organisations against capitalism and this government of cutters and any government who seek to remove the hard won rights of the workers across the world.
Sheila Banks, president of the Leeds Trades Union Council introduced several speakers starting with Jane Aitchison, the president of the DWP group of the PCS. Jane discussed the history of May Day and the great victories of the working class. She called for all workers to unite in opposing this government, who are seeking to add years to the working life and increase the working week. Jane then went on to discuss the upcoming strike on the 10th of May and the need for everyone to support and build for the strike as the next step in bringing down this government. While discussing this, there were even insights into top public servants paying themselves as corporations to allow them to avoid paying their proper contributions to the society they are paid to serve. All of the cuts the public sector are wrong and the Socialist Party have played a significant role in fighting to save the public sector and their excellent workers and unionists to protect all workers rights. Most shockingly Jane discussed the destruction of health services resulting in a doubling of child birth related deaths due to a lack of midwifes. This government’s cuts are literally resulting in a lack of care being provided to the people who need it most.
Socialist Party member and Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs organiser Iain Dalton was next to speak on behalf of the Regional TUC Youth Forum. Iain discussed the generation of young workers need to join a union to be protected against ‘slave’ labour from the workfare schemes and other attacks on worker’s rights. Moving on Iain discussed the threat that workfare poses as young workers are pitched against older workers to compete for the chance to work for free or minimum wage. As a member of USDAW the shop workers union, Iain commented on the effect of corporations such as Tesco and Primark being able to offer jobs without having to pay for the staff. As the working class are forced to pay for the bankers and the ruling classes mistakes, the cruelty of the cuts becomes more apparent.
Next up was another Socialist Party member, Michael Johnson, discussing the urgent plight of workers facing legal persecution in Kazakhstan on behalf of Campaign Kazakhstan. Michael asked the crowd to get involved in the campaign and to take motions back to their unions for solidarity. The workers movement and activists from the Committee for a Workers International, the worldwide organisation the Socialist Party is a part of, have faced legal victimisation and imprisonment for fighting for standards and fair working conditions.
Another speaker called Jack was campaigning to start a Leeds unemployed support group. He has been campaigning outside job centres in Skipton and other areas around Yorkshire to unite the unemployed in opposition to the cuts in jobs when so many youth are being forced into unemployment and then having their benefits cut or being forced to work for free. Several Youth Fight for Jobs activists are planning on attending this meeting and it was later discussed that there are plans to start a Unite community branch in Leeds to help unemployed working class people to gain legal representation and other rights as legal aid also comes under attack from the capitalists.
Finally Labour MP, John McDonnell spoke. He called for Labour to make the most of the faith the voters have put in them and fight every cut locally and called for them to become an opposition. The Socialist Party in Leeds stood four candidates against the Labour Party as they have failed to do this and passed cuts budgets of £90m and £55m in the last two years. However, McDonnell was earnest in his speech and seemed to mean what he said. He called upon everyone in attendance to organise in solidarity across the workers movement and gave his full support to any council fighting all cuts and for the upcoming May 10th strike, which will include public and private sector.
The Socialist Party once again had the strongest presence on the march of the left in Leeds, with over 30 copies of the latest issue of the Socialist and several other books and pamphlets sold as well as running out of copies of our initial stock of Socialism Today magazine. One person joined the Socialist Party after the march concluded with others congratulating us on the votes we achieved standing as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition on Thursday.