“We are committed to fight for peace, equality, justice and socialism in Leicester. Join us”
Comrades from Leicester SWP clambered aboard a minibus heading for the Unite The Resistance conference at the Emmanuel Centre, London on 17 November.
When we arrived we found our selves in the company of 1,000 other comrades. The Conference was arranged into two parts with several workshops in between. The main questions were twofold – how to build and if necessary rebuild the momentum of the public sector mass strike on 30 November 2011 and how to turn the words of the TUC’s call to “look into the practicalities of a General Strike” into action.
The main focus of the conference in fact was how to build for a future strike. Again and again there was a call to trade union leaders to organise our workplaces and rebuild the unions. Gill George of Unite summed it up when she asked “Where’s my leader Len McCluskey, well he’s sitting on the fence. That`s the sort of leadership that feeds lack of confidence”.
Jane Aitchison of the PCS said. “Wasn’t it great when you woke up on Wednesday, to learn there was a general strike across Europe. But wasn’t it disappointing that we were not part of that strike. If our trade union leaders in Britain were half as determined as we are here today, then we would have been on strike with our comrades in Europe. We have not lost our confidence – it is our leaders who have lost their bottle”. The general consensus seemed to be that some right wing trade union leaders and the TUC were taking their accustomed role on the fence instead of offering the required leadership and courage.
Speakers Kevin Courtney (NUT), Matt Wrack (FBU), John McDonnell MP, gave well received speeches as did Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman. I must mention the fact that South African miner Tumi Moloi received a standing ovation from the whole conference.
I mentioned earlier that there were workshops between the two main sessions, they were: A Strategy to Defend our NHS, Defend the Right to Protest, Fighting for Equality,Our Vision in Education, Benefits, Scape-goating and Organising. I chose to go to Defend the Right to Protest.
The first speaker was Alfie Meadows, the victimised student activist, who was violently abused, hospitalised and arrested. He was followed by Dave Smith who made us aware of the blacklisting of union members and others in the construction industry.
We were then introduced to Carol Duggan, aunt of Mark Duggan, Mr Duggan’s young son was also present. Also there were mothers and sisters of other black men who had died in police custody. There were 5,998 deaths between 2000 and 2010. An average of 545 deaths per year. No police officer has ever been held to account. I am not even going to attempt to tell you what obscene problems these ladies have had to face in the attempt to get justice.
Mr Norman Strike who was a striking miner in the 1984/85 National Miners Strike told us of his part in the Battle of Orgreave. On a hot sunny day, the police led the miners to an open space. Where they, some on horseback, viciously attacked the miners. Several miners were hospitalised and over 90 were arrested. they were all eventually freed. This was all part of the attack on the strongest union in the country by Thatcher. Brian Richardson, campaigning lawyer, gave advice on protesting.
Also present was the girlfriend of Trenton Oldfield, who is now serving six months for swimming in the Thames during the Boat Race.
All in all a great day was had in the main hall and in the workshops.