Labour movement mobilises

SOMETIMES London becomes a bit like a Shakespeare comedy -- like an urban forest with different groups of left-wing protesters wandering around until they bump into each other and interact.

Last Saturday there was a particularly rich mix: people protesting about the Government-authorised cull of thousands of badgers, people outside the United States embassy in Grosvenor Square protesting about the imprisonment of Bradley Manning, trades council delegates in town for their annual conference at the TUC headquarters and anti-fascists determined to stop the neo-Nazi British National Party marching along Whitehall to the Cenotaph from Parliament Square.

There was also a static demonstration in Whitehall by Sikhs against death sentences passed in India against members of the Kesri Lohar organisation.

And in towns throughout Britain anti-fascists were out in strength opposing efforts by the BNP and the Islamophobic English Defence League to capitalise on the death of Drummer Lee Rigby — and encountering marches against the hated Bedroom Tax and other austerity cuts.

Some activists were running around covering two or three events. But they were all part of the same struggle — the struggle of the working class against the capitalist class. And this explains how they naturally joined together. The people campaigning to save badgers, when they saw the BNP assembling in Parliament Square, were quick to join with the anti-fascists and soon there were scenes of neo-Nazis being pursued by women dressed as badgers. And the Sikhs also lent their support to the anti-fascists.

On the other hand the police, who not long ago were seeming to mellow towards campaigners against austerity cuts when those cuts hit the police force, had very much hardened their attitude towards the anti-fascists. The anti-fascists were peacefully blocking Whitehall, linking arms and refusing to be moved to let the BNP through.

Police officers from the notorious TSG group made 58 arrests — using as much violence as they could. One young woman was hospitalised with a broken leg after TSG officers stomped on it. Others were piled onto two double decker buses laid on in advance, battered and bruised with clothing gratuitously torn. Nevertheless the line held — gaps left by arrests were immediately filled and the BNP never made it to the Cenotaph.

The police attitude reflected their fear that they were losing control. Too many people on the streets protesting about too many things and coming together in unpredictable ways. According to the Survey of British Attitudes published recently, “The British political regime faces a crisis of confidence.” People are losing confidence in political institutions, political parties and voting. At the same time participation in political protests is growing — as is the number of people who describe themselves as left-wing.

Another round of Tory sleaze, with MPs and peers — Tory and Labour — accused of accepting bribed to ask questions and influence debates — is accelerating the disillusionment with bourgeois democracy.

That is why people are coming out on the streets. Sitting in arm chairs shouting at the television is not enough; sitting in front of a computer clicking your support for various campaigns is not enough.

As the peoples of Tunisia, Egypt, Greece Turkey, Spain, New York — all around the world — are showing, the battle is on the streets and more people are coming out to take part. And even in Britain, on the street it is the Left that is growing.