Wednesday 30 November 2011

#Nov30 in Nottingham

Today was an important day for the fightback against 'austerity', with two million public sector workers out on strike all over the country. It was a lovely late autumn day, cold but clear and sunny. We got up at an ungodly hour, by student standards, to support our lecturers on the picket lines around University Park Campus.

We put up posters, held placards and posted pickets on all nearby paths. Picketing an open campus is a little tricky: many of the cars going past you will be private sector contractors, who are not on strike, and students may be going in for more than one reason. Still, we encouraged all who came to turn back, go to the pub etc.: some did and were cheered for it. We got quite a lot of declarations of solidarity from passers-by, but really the old principle that you never cross a picket line needs to be reinstated. (I hope this will happen as the struggle against the government broadens and continues.)

There were tight-lipped managers in Jaguars, too, and scabs who would try to avoid looking you in the eye as they drove past. (We generally didn't denounce them as vigorously as I've seen happen at the 2009 Royal Mail strikes, for example.) Shortly after 10am, we packed up and walked to Forest Recreation Ground, where the trade union march was gathering.

It was a terrific march, certainly the largest I've been on in Nottingham. There were people from more unions I've ever seen outside the TUC March for the Alternative, including unions not commonly associated with protest and industrial action, like the Royal College of Nursing. The local Labour Party branches were there, too, reminding us that Labour is not just the spinelessness of an Ed Miliband. As in March, there were people from all sections of society, including many with children. We marched down Mansfield Road, through the city centre and Market Square (past the occupiers, with whom there was much fraternising) before gathering in Wellington Circus.

The atmosphere was amazing. No march I've been on has ever experienced quite so much support from the general public, I think: drivers honked and raised their fists, people young and old clapped and shouted. I don't want to exaggerate this, but polling data suggests the government has pretty much lost the argument on job losses and cuts to services. The Tories and their LibDem running dogs mishandled the conflict from the start, managing to create a broad front between smaller, more militant and larger, more conciliatory unions. The challenge to the anti-cuts movement is to maintain and expand the front that's been created, and keep pressing the most reactionary government since Caligula until victory.

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