Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

March against austerity

On October 4, more than 60,000 took to the streets in an anti-austerity protest outside the Conservative party’s annual conference in Manchester, sending a strong message to the government against the harmful cuts and the Trade Union Bill’s attack on the rights of working people and their unions.

Alejandra Ríos

October 7, 2015
Facebook Twitter Share

Photo: @ally_jericho

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) called the national day of action to oppose the government’s ideological agenda of cuts and privatisation, off the back of the 250,000-strong demonstration in London on June 20.

The “No to Austerity, Yes to Workers’ Rights” demonstration was a chance for dozens of thousands to focus their collective anger at the Tories by marching close to Manchester Central, where their annual conference was being held. The march was also seen by many as an opportunity to amplify the mood expressed in Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership contest.

Thousands booked their seats in the transport organised by trade union activists and anti-austerity campaigns from all over the country. The buses set off at dusk from different cities to gather in Manchester central by midday.

On that sunny autumn day, Singer Billy Bragg performed a warm-up set for the crowd, changing the lyrics of his best-known songs to add references like, “Take the money from Trident and spend it on the NHS,” and “These Tory cuts will get me the sack.” Bragg also performed Joe Hill’s “There is power union,” with the powerful first lines:

There is power in a factory, power in the land
Power in the hands of a worker
But it all amounts to nothing if together we don’t stand there is power in a union

Now the lessons of the past were all learned with workers’ blood
The mistakes of the bosses we must pay for
From the cities and the farmlands to trenches full of mud
War has always been the bosses’ way, sir

Large delegations of public sector workers, teachers, health workers, transport and railway workers and other industries winded their way through the city’s streets of Manchester holding placards and chanting slogans against the cuts. Some were pushing prams, others in wheelchairs and there were thousands of pig-headed protestors in reference to the pig-gate surrounding the prime minister and his involvement in a secret society during his university years.

The rally began after midday in bright sunshine – with many holding banners from the country’s biggest trade union, Unite. Its general secretary Len McCluskey told the rally that the protest was “sending a very clear message to this Tory Government. If they think a fluke victory in which 75% of the electorate did not vote for them gave them a mandate to continue their cuts then they’ve got another thing coming. If they think they are going to have a smooth ride over the next five years, they’ve got another thing coming.”

The Prime Minister is pushing an attack on trade union rights. The Trade Union Bill will introduce minimum thresholds on strike calls and unions will have to achieve at least a 50 per cent turnout for a ballot to be legal. In addition, in key public services, such as health, education, the fire brigade and transport, any industrial action must also be supported by at least 40 per cent of those entitled to vote. This is ironic, coming from a government elected with less than 24% of the British population’s vote. The same government has set out plans to slash welfare by £12 billion, abolish maintenance grants for the poorest students and clamp down on the right of trade unions to take strike action.

The protesters walked through the city shouting, “Tory scums” as they passed by the Conference, where a “ring of steel” had been built around the conference venue and the nearby Midland Hotel. A colourful moment was when a young conference delegate was hit by an egg as the demonstration made its way through the city centre.

Students’ unions from around the country took part in the demo. Several universities have agreed that one of their priority campaigns is to resist austerity and join the national movement against it; fighting for a fairer, more just and more economically literate approach to public finances. Large delegations of students marched through the city shouting, “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts,” holding banners with the slogans, “We want living grants for all, so that no student has to live in poverty,” and “We don’t just want lower tuition fees, we want the abolition of tuition fees altogether.”

The place for the demo is highly symbolic. Manchester was the first industrial metropolis and it was the centre of the cotton and textile trade during the 19th century. Those who worked in the cotton mills – mainly women and children –had no union protection against excessive work, hazardous conditions and low pay. It was in Manchester where the first trade union was created and the TUC was founded. Friedrich Engels wrote Conditions of the Working Classes in England, inspired by the situation of the industrial working class in Victorian England. Here, he compiled his own experiences and argued that the Industrial Revolution left workers worse off and reported that in large industrial cities, mortality from disease was four times that of the surrounding cities.

It was a huge demonstration. It was a strong message. Around 60,000 people walked thorough a city, encapsulating a proud working-class tradition.

Facebook Twitter Share


High-angle view of protests in France on January 31 against President Macron's pension reforms.

Historic Protests in France: Where to for the French Working Class?

After two of the largest days of protest in over a decade, with unprecedented union support and student turnout, the workers and youth of France must push unions to take up a militant strategy to defeat not only this latest pension reform but also Macron and his government.

Antoine Ramboz

February 6, 2023
Polish soldiers, a zoom-in on a Polish flag on their uniform.

Poland Plans to Become the Most Powerful Military Power in Europe

The war in Ukraine has become a powerful driver of the militarization and rearmament of NATO member countries. Poland now plans to double its military spending with the goal of building the largest land army in Europe.

Otto Fors

February 6, 2023

British ‘Mega Strike’: Half a Million Workers Bring UK to a Halt and Protest Government

Over half a million workers in the UK went on strike on February 1 to protest the Conservative government and demand higher wages.

Diego Sacchi

February 2, 2023
Protesters in Paris over proposed pension reforms.

‘Robin Hood’ Strikes in France: Workers Provide Free Energy for Hospitals, Schools, and Low-Income Homes

Last week, energy workers in France provided free energy for hospitals, schools, low-income households, and libraries. They show that the working class holds the keys to the economy, and can put these resources in the service of society.

Otto Fors

February 1, 2023


Protesters after the murder of Tyre Nichols.

‘We Shall Not be Moved’: Maintaining and Uplifting Black Struggle during Black History Month

This Black History Month, let's raise the banner of Black liberation and the need for a revolutionary socialist strategy that, among other things, shows the inextricable link between class exploitation and racial oppression.

Tristan Taylor

February 6, 2023
All That's Left, the podcast from Left Voice.

#AllThatsLeftPod: A History of the U.S. Revolutionary Left and Trotskyism

In this episode of the podcast, we're joined by historian Bryan Palmer to discuss the origins of the U.S. revolutionary left and Trotskyism, James P. Cannon, and socialists' role in class struggle in the 1920s and 30s.

Left Voice

February 6, 2023
A horizontal testing scantron with almost all of the bubbles filled in

The Changes to AP African American Studies Are “Absolutely Political”: A Former College Board Worker Speaks Out

A former College Board worker explains how the company's "apolitical" pedagogical approaches privilege right wing ideas, even as the right wing accuses them of spreading "wokeism."

Jess DuBois

February 4, 2023

The Strike Is Our Most Powerful Weapon, We Need to Use It against the Police!

Workers have the opportunity and ability to shut down the system. This is why Democrats, Republicans, and even the Squad broke the strike of the railroad workers. If we use our workplaces as organizing tools against racism and police murder, we can build the power to take control and shut them down! 

Julia Wallace

February 3, 2023