Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA
Well, it was a bloody good turn-out (at least half a million) and proof that when the official trade union movement makes a real effort it can still put on a good show. Some comrades have complained that the mood was too “carnival-like” and not “angry” enough. I know what they mean, but I think we can build on that spirit of good-humoured optimism and turn it into the basis for a union-led coalition against the cuts, involving the voluntary sector, disability groups, women’s organisations and local Labour Parties.
I called the march “a good show,” and so it was. I don’t use that term in a disparaging sense: the numbers and the atmosphere were great. But it musn’t be just a one-off exercise in letting off steam before the TUC and the bureaucrats return to business as usual. We need to take the enthusiasm of the march, and the new forces it attracted, into local anti-cuts committees or where they don’t yet exist, use the momentum of the march to set them up. In particular, we need to send our people into the Labour Party to demand that the leadership opposes all cuts and that Labour councils refuse to implement cuts.
Calls for a general strike (SWP), even of the “one-day” variety (Socialist Party) are at present unhelpful. But we need to be looking for opportunities for action and encouraging the unions that will be affected by public sector pension cuts, and the TUC general council, to prepare for co-ordinated industrial action (which can be done legally over that issue).
26 March has not transformed the political landscape in Britain – it was never going to! But it has given our movement a shot in the arm and drawn thousands of new people into political activity. We must ensure that this opportunity isn’t squandered.