Tens of thousands of people gathered in Clerkenwell Green in east London on Sunday for the annual workers’ May Day march and rally – the numbers greatly swelled this year because 1st May fell on a Sunday and the weather was the best so far this year.
The Marx Memorial Library beside the Green was offering free tours of the historic Marx House where Lenin once worked on writing and editing Iskra, the revolutionary newspaper of the Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party back in the early 1900s.
As the Green began to fill the Cuban ambassador to London, Madame Teresita Vicente Sotolongo, presented a new portrait of Fidel Castro to the Marx Memorial Library in a brief ceremony at the door to the library.
There were the usual large and colourful contingents from London’s Turkish and Kurdish communities and all the major trade unions out in force. The actors’ union Equity brought a very large contingent this year.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke from the top of a trade union open-top “battle-bus”, the first time a Labour leader has addressed the May Day parade for half a century.
Nevertheless a group of anti-Labour ultra-lefts made themselves unpopular with the crowd by noisily booing and heckling Corbyn as he spoke, making it difficult to hear what he was saying.
He said: “This is a government more interested in tax cuts than anything else. Why have they taken £4 million out of the care budget? Why did they try to take £3 billion out of the personal independence payments budget for those with disabilities?
“They are a government that is more interested in tax relief for corporations, and tax relief at the top end of the scale."
Corbyn promised to tackle the Government's attacks on workers' and trade union rights. "Two things are going to come in 2020: the repeal of the Trade Union Lobbying and Transparency Bill, which has nothing to do with transparency, and everything to do with stopping NGOs and trade unions from speaking up for ordinary people," he vowed.
"The second is on trade union legislation itself. We will be establishing a commission called Workplace 2020, which will be looking at the need to change and improve trade union and workers’ rights, including self-employed workers, to end the scandal of zero hours contracts and a lower wage for younger workers."
He also spoke of the junior doctors’ strike: “They've been on the march to defend our National Health Service... and it is beyond disgraceful that the secretary of state for health is more interested in privatising 49 per cent of all NHS services than coming to a negotiated agreement with the junior doctors to ensure that they can continue providing the fantastic care and support that they and all others who work in the NHS provide." He said: "We're here today to defend the National Health Service free at the point of service as a human right for all."
He also reiterated that Labour stands against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism and added: “We stand in solidarity now against the growth of the far right across Europe that are more interested in blaming migrant workers, blaming victims of war who are refugees than facing up to the reality that we are all human beings living on one planet and you solve problems by human rights, humanity and justice and respect, not by blaming minorities.”
The march then set off from Clerkenwell Green, through Theobald’s Road, Holborn, Archway and the Strand to Trafalgar Square and completely filled it