Saturday 3 July 2010

Marching for the Shrewsbury 24

Your humble host, Brother S and Brother G attended today's second annual march in solidarity with the Shrewsbury 24. For comrades unfamiliar with the 1972 building workers' strike and subsequent frame-up of 24 trade unionists, the background and fate of the workers can be read here.

Between 150-200 people from trades councils as far flung as Ealing, Islington, Wolverhampton and North Staffs (of course!) and the CWU, PCS, ASLEF, RMT, Unison and FBU unions ran a gauntlet of paper sellers while assembling not far from Shrewsbury Abbey. It wasn't long before we took up off the hill for the short 20 minute march to the rally at the war memorial, which is within spitting distance of the very court that banged up Ricky Tomlinson and Desi Warren 38 years ago.

This year we heard speeches from A Shrewsbury 24 speaker (I didn't catch his name), Bob Crow of the RMT, Janice Godrich of the PCS and Ricky Tomlinson. They were opened with a
Right to Work speaker (his name escapes me too) who argued the trade union movement needs to bring down the ConDem coalition who, in his opinion, were brought into being by a "coup". I wonder if this is the SWP's new line? Next came the Shrewsbury 24 comrade who forcefully argued that the campaign is not looking for a pardon, but complete exoneration, the publication of all the secret documents still kept under wraps (in his stint has home secretary, Jack Straw ludicrously claimed there were matters of national security to consider), an apology and a public inquiry into the stitch-up.

As you might expect, Bob Crow didn't mince his words. While not calling for
widespread mass strikes on this occasion, he did say our priority is the building of a fighting trade union movement. In the face of the coming tidal wave of cuts and unemployment, standing up and fighting is our only option. He also mocked those MPs who ignored the trade union movement while Labour were in power but since the election have reinvented themselves as the unions' best friends. His message to them was stark: back us and we will back you, but never again will there be a blank cheque. The immediate litmus test will be John McDonnell's private members' bill seeking to enhance workplace rights.

My apologies to Janice Godrich and Ricky Tomlinson - I couldn't remember what they said, apart from Ricky warning the youngsters present that the Tories are set on giving them a "good hiding" unless the cuts are fought at every step.

Numbers were roughly the same as last year but significantly there seemed to be a greater proportion of younger people in the crowd - and not all of them were Socialist Party members either (who turned out good numbers).

In all, an excellent day. I hope next year when we meet for the third annual march that we do so off the back of several significant victories over Cameron's Tories and his LibDem poodles.


ASLEF Annie said...

I think you might have rather underestimated the numbers, Phil. Whatever,I agree that it was the diversity of the crowd that was encouraging.

Bob Crow was great! Real John Smiths bitter- no nonsense! I loved his reference to 'anoraks' who sit on this and that committee.

Phil said...

I don't think Bob would appreciate this particular example of leftist bean counting, but as a comrade has been getting on at me for not providing the left group scores, here they are ...

Socialist Party - At least a couple of dozen

SWP - Four or five

Morning Star - Three or four

Wobblies - Ditto

If there were other organised lefties there, I didn't see them.

A few notables were about. These included Tony Mulhearn and Dave Nellist of the SP, and Jerry Hicks of Respect. On this occasion Dave sang the Red Flag and refrained from his anthemic take on 'I'd rather be a picket than a scab'.

Tbh I was expecting more of a turn out from other far left groups seeing as this march had been promoted by several of them.

Final mention has to go to the IWW bloke dishing out flyers for his t shirts. Featuring the legend 'Maggie hurry up and die. We want to party!', the blurb reads "Get your CLASSic T shiry now. Hurry up before it's too late ... the old crone won't last much longer ... hopefully!"