by Zane Carpenter
On Saturday, 10 April a Unison-sponsored march took place in Newcastle. The theme was ‘campaign for a living wage’ (which of course could mean anything to anybody) and it was cunningly timed to bring attention to the issue of low pay just after the new minimum wage legislation had come into being, which made the whole affair a little pointless, when Unison did so little before the legislation to challenge it – not to imply that this march was some kind of a challenge, oh no! According to the organisers, the march was to be ‘non-party political`. So, the ridiculously low and not very far-reaching minimum wage couldn’t be blamed on those champions of imperialism, the Labour Party, as this would be indulging in party politics, presumably.
In fact the organisers had decided that there would be no formal speeches, just to keep the whole thing nicely sanitised and unable to offend the delicate sensibilities of those mass murderers otherwise known as the Labour Party in government. The only point to the whole day seems to have been to ‘respond’ to Unison members’ demands to fight the low and much qualified minimum wage by doing as little as possible and hoping nobody turned up.
The SLP even received a letter from the organisers of the10 April march telling us that it was not a ‘party-political’ event, that we could not raise our banners, give out leaflets, etc., on their sanitised ‘stroll` through Newcastle. One has to wonder how many other parties and organisations received such a letter?
The SLP ignored the ‘pet’ organising committee, and groups of SLP members travelled from near and far not to pointlessly stroll through Newcastle and go home, but to raise their banners, sell their papers and do a saturation leafleting of the event advertising the Reclaim Our Rights march and rally in London on 1 May which
be party political, which
have a point, i.e., the winning back of stolen and treacherously given-away trade-union rights, which
help us to organise the fight to increase wages. It will
be a pointless stroll but a march and rally of protest, defiance and militancy against this bosses’ Labour Government.
Just as the Labour Party in government betrayed those of the working class who voted for them in the hope that Labour would support the working class, so Unison betrayed and mocked its own low-paid members with this charade that raised no concrete demands or goals, other than the meaningless slogan ‘campaign for a living wage’. The leadership of Unison stands as guilty of crimes against our class as the heroes of the Labour Party who can find untold millions to blow Yugoslav and Iraqi people into pieces but cannot raise a minimum wage above £3.50 – and that with so many opt-outs, qualifications and get-out clauses as to make it useless to all but a few.
However, if with our leaflets advertising 1 May we convinced more people that real demonstrations and protest are what is needed, if those Unison members who travelled miles to be disgusted by the cowardly nature of the sanitised stroll turn on their leadership, if some were – and they were – spurred into joining the SLP by our high-profile attendance, which included the General Secretary, Arthur Scargill, then 10 April was not the complete waste of time the spineless organising committee had hoped for.