LONDON — A quarter of a million angry voices challenged the government’s “dangerous and unjust” spending cuts at the weekend.
The hundreds of thousands who turned out to the End Austerity Now demo in London vowed to step up the fight in the months to come with a series protests while trade union leaders at a sister demo in Glasgow vowed to break the law if the Tories push through their anti-strike plans.
In one of Britain’s largest demonstrations, marchers in London wound their way from the Bank of England to Parliament Square on June 20 in a spectacular display of strength and solidarity.
The protest was so large that the last marchers only reached the Parliament Square rally when the speeches had nearly finished three hours later.
But union leaders, politicians and celebrities told the vast sea of protesters that it will take more than one demonstration to kick the Tories out of office.
People’s Assembly Against Austerity organizer John Rees whipped the crowd into a thumping frenzy with his call for everybody to continue fighting against cuts.
He said: “This magnificent demonstration is only the beginning. We cannot win with one demonstration. We have to hit this government again and again.”
Mr. Rees also called for direct action against Chancellor George Osborne’s emergency Budget on July 8 and for people to “lay siege to Manchester for every single day” during the Tories’ conference in October.
Singer Charlotte Church said “the big lie” of austerity is perpetrated by Tories who want to “permanently restructure the economy,” while their big business chums enjoy tax avoidance schemes and profit from privatized public assets.
She added: “We need to get the [economic] blood pumping and that cannot be achieved by stringing tourniquets around the limbs of social welfare.”
Left-wing Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn MP attacked the government for allowing people to sleep rough while bankrolling employers by spending £11 billion on in-work benefits and subsidizing private landlords by blowing £25bn [$39.5bn] a year on housing benefit.
The answer was to build council houses and regulate extortionate private rents, he said.
Speakers also agreed that scrapping the renewal of Trident would save the government a minimum of £25bn [$39.5bn] – more than double that of the latest round of welfare cuts.
Comedian and social activist Russell Brand defended the need for a welfare state as “we are all vulnerable members of society” and because his own life had relied on it before he became successful.
He said: “Without the welfare state, I wouldn’t have been educated, I wouldn’t have had anywhere to live and my mother would have died of cancer, several times.”
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said that it was not benefit claimants who brought down the banks, therefore it is wrong to “make them pay for a crisis that was none of their making.”
She added: “George Osborne, you have no mandate for these cuts so stop your ideological war on welfare and end austerity now.”
People’s Assembly national secretary Sam Fairbairn urged everyone to go back to their communities and workplaces to organize the biggest mass movement to remove the Conservatives from power.
Photo: Communist activists from Iran, Greece, India, Chile and Bangladesh marched with the Communist Party of Britain to condemn the austerity policies of the Tory government. Navid Shomali