By Caroline Colebrook
TENS OF thousands of marchers took to the streets of central London last Saturday in the first of several major demonstrations directed at the meeting of G20 nations for a global summit in east London this week.
Saturday’s event was organised by the trade unions and focussed on three main demands: jobs, justice and climate, with the main slogan being: “Put people first”.
But it encompassed an enormous range of groups with many demands: unions demanding job protection, climate change groups opposing the third runway at Heathrow and the construction of new coal-fired power stations – and peace and solidarity groups demanding British withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories.
The demonstration was colourful and noisy with hundreds of bright banners and bands.
The public sector union Unison had invited its German and Italian sister unions – ver.di and CGIL – to join in and they both sent large, colourful contingents.
The three big unions have formed an historic alliance that brings millions of workers together to defend public services and protect jobs and communities at home and abroad.
They say they are committed to building a fairer future for everyone, and have pledged to take their demands to the heart of every government across Europe.
Justice must be done, they say, social justice – and that means putting people first.
The general secretaries of the three unions held round-table talks ahead of Saturday’s Put People First march and the meeting of world leaders at the G20 summit this week.
Trade union leaders from Spain, France, Sweden, Ireland and the Netherlands joined them to agree a Europe-wide plan of action.
“We have joined forces to bring millions of workers together in a campaign for change,” said Unison general secretary Dave Prentis. “Now is the time to challenge those calling for cuts to pay, pensions and services,” he stressed.
“It is time to reassert the values of fairness, solidarity and democracy that public service workers put into practice every day.”
But it is this sort of statement that betrays the weakness of the union demands compared to those of a generation or two ago.
There is no evidence of class consciousness; no demands for an end to the whole system of exploitation; no demands for socialism.
The demands are only the feeble bourgeois demands for “fairness” and “democracy” – words that the ruling class is happy to hear because they are so vague they can be ignored.