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Tolpuddle festival: combative trade unionism and anticipation of general election
Thousands gathered at the annual Tolpuddle Martyrs festival in Dorset on 20-22 July to remember the sacrifices of the early farmworkers who were persecuted and transported to Australia. Their only crime was to form a union to seek better pay and conditions.
There was a smaller crowd this year, not unexpectedly. 2017's massive crowd was a result of the events surrounding the general election, increase in Labour Party membership and heightened expectations. There was a considerable drop off in young people attending.
At a fringe meeting John McDonnell, Labour shadow chancellor, spoke to almost 500 trade unionists. The biggest cheer at the meeting went to Shen Batmaz from the BFAWU bakers' union who has taken part in strike action at McDonald's.
She outlined the struggle for set hours and a £10 an hour minimum wage. She received a standing ovation at the end.
Even with the lower attendance, the Southern and South West regions of the Socialist Party managed to sell over 170 copies of the Socialist and raise £200 for the fighting fund.
Speaking outside the RMT transport union tent, the union's president Sean Hoyle called for support for the ongoing strikes and campaign against driver-only operation on the railways.
He attacked those Labour councillors who are on the side of the bosses in the North West.
He noted that the RMT has been conducting what amounted to mini-general strikes and that the Trade Union Congress general council has a policy of starting to organise for a national general strike - but that the union leaders have sat on their hands doing nothing to support.
Jeremy Corbyn, in his closing speech, reiterated the Labour Party's commitment to the policies in the 2017 general election.
This added to the raised expectations of the possibility of the downfall of May's Tory government and an autumn election.
Sean Brogan, Exeter Socialist Party
18 Sep Building a new left in PCS
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