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100,000 MARCH WITH ROVER WORKERS
Now build... Workers' action to save jobs
OVER 100,000 working-class people marched through Birmingham last weekend to show their anger at BMW's plans to shut down Rover.
Ten years after the massive anti-poll tax demo and eight years after the demonstrations against pit closures, the streets of a major British city resounded to an angry and massive working class movement. Whilst there was hostility at BMW, this demonstration was also a display of anger against a Labour government, which had stood by while multinational capitalists sold off the car firm to vulture venture capitalists.
Many of those marching on the demo hoped that their show of strength would show Labour - if it was to salvage anything out of the fiasco - that something had to be done. The following day in the Sunday Business newspaper - read by capitalism's elite - Tony Blair deliberately quashed any hope of Labour doing something to save the tens of thousands of jobs threatened by the Rover crisis. Like Thatcher in the 1980s, he said that the government would not intervene.
It sent a shiver down Rover workers' spines. It would also send warning signals to Ford workers and other car workers who are threatened by the perilous state of world capitalism's car market.
The Sunday Business newspaper argued that Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers, despite his incompetence and lack of resistance to BMW's plans should retain his cabinet post as long as "he can accept that ... he is the servant of industry not its master."
Both Blair and Byers - in words and deeds - show they are the willing servants of big business. Car workers and many other working-class people conclude that Blair, Byers or their government will not defend working-class people's interests against big business capitalism.
Last Saturday's demo shows the potential strength working-class people coming together can have.
Workers in France and Germany have shown that industrial action can force governments to 'intervene' to defend workers' jobs. The successful demand for more money for the NHS in Britain shows that the government can buckle under pressure.
Last Saturday's solidarity can be built upon to resist Rover's closure and protect all workers from capitalism's attacks.
In The Socialist 7 April 2000: