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"A future that works" demanded by youth on Manchester demonstration
"Cuts affect everyone" said one placard on a very lively and youthful march of thousands of people in Manchester on Saturday 29 January. Organised by the PCS and UCU trade unions together with the National Union of Students, it showed the potential for a colossal 26th March national demonstration.
Hugh Caffrey, North West Socialist Party
Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) placards about unemployment and Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) were carried by many demonstrators, who came from workplaces, colleges and universities across the north and midlands. Union banners figured prominently, especially from PCS, UCU and Unison.
This augurs well for the national education shutdown advocated by Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ), for the days when education unions take strike action.
The marchers assembled at Manchester University, unfortunately well outside the city centre, and marched further outwards to the TUC-organised rally in Platt Fields park.
Before we even set off, NUS president Aaron Porter (who two months ago under pressure apologised for his "spineless" lack of support for university occupations) was having a bad day. His high point was, surprisingly, signing our petition for a 24-hour general strike. From there it was all downhill: being shouted at, bursting into tears, and running away to hide for the day in nearby university buildings!
Standing in for Porter at the rally was Shane Chowen, NUS vice-president for FE, whose speech was cut short within three minutes by boos, eggs and apple cores. Such is the fate of those who attempt to sell out to the enemy while attacking their own members.
This should be heeded by Porter's right-wing equivalents in the trade unions. At present the TUC can organise a dreadful line-up of speakers far better than it can organise action. Dull pro-Labour speech followed dull pro-Labour speech, from 'leaders' lacking any real intention of fighting the Con-Dems.
Matt Wrack, General Secretary, Fire Brgades Union (FBU), addresses the 29 January Manchester student demonstration , photo by Dave Beale (Click to enlarge)
The great exceptions were fiery calls to action from firefighters' leader Matt Wrack and from Jane Warburton, regional youth leader of the PCS union. Sadly by this point several hundred demonstrators were leaving the park to attempt a march back into the city centre, subsequently broken up and kettled by the police.
EMA can be saved. The triple threat of higher fees, education privatisation and mass youth unemployment can be defeated. Mass walkouts and demonstrations by workers and youth can smash this rotten government. Today, thousands again proved their willingness to fight.
The 26 March TUC demonstration is the next national focus and could actually be "a million voices for public services". Transport from every area, union branch, trades council, college and university can and must be organised. What a tremendous stepping stone this could be to generalised strike action.
YFJ supporters can claim much of the credit for this demonstration today; from the struggle for it within the component unions of the TUC, to the resolving at the TUC congress in September last year to call a demonstration, to actually making it happen.
YFJ's slogans, placards and leaflets stood out a mile on the demo, and fifty young people and workers attended the YFJ after-demo meeting. Most of them signed up to the campaign and all applauded speakers from the Leeds university occupation, from trade unions, from other universities, and from anti-cuts campaigns.
A bad day for the NUS president but a good day for the swelling movement to drive out the Con-Dems and their hated policies. Building Youth Fight for Jobs and Youth Fight for Education into powerful campaigns is a step in that direction.