Fighting Manchester cuts - Communists rain on Labour’s parade

manchester QT

On 25 February Manchester RCG supporters organised to disrupt a ‘march against cuts’ led by pro-austerity Labour politicians. While Labour organisers expected 2,000 people (according to Showsec event workers), their ‘anti-cuts’ parade attracted barely 350, including sellout union leaders from Unison and the NUT who had failed to even mobilise their own members. Flanked by Greater Manchester Labour mayoral candidate Andy Burnham and MP Lucy Powell (who voted to bomb Syria) were councillors who have voted unanimously for cuts budgets every year since 2010. Cutbacks in the Manchester City Council area in that period amount to over £300 million, including youth centres in Longsight and Moss Side, library closures in Northenden and Hulme; council funding has been cut for women’s refuges, dementia support, mental health drop-ins, leisure centres, school crossings and much more. RCG protesters used megaphones to shout down the hollow speeches of Labour council leaders Richard Leese and Rosa Battle about ‘protecting the vulnerable.’ This year the councillors on the ‘march’ are pushing through another £30 million in cuts, hitting adult social care in particular.

The Manchester Evening News (MEN) headline ran: ‘Protesters brave miserable weather to demonstrate against government cuts with torch light march’. Northern weather may be one thing but none of the politicians present have been brave enough for real opposition to the Tory cuts that they claim to stand against. Labour council attack dog Pat Karney complained that ‘Manchester households will be hit with a Tory double whammy, a large increase in council tax while vital services for vulnerable people are being cut.’ At the onset of the cuts Karney and other councillors promised a freeze in council tax. For the coming budget they’ve decided that it will rise by 8%. There will be no significant rise in business taxes. Sir Richard Leese js a director of Peel Ports, part of the corporation making a killing from private property development in Manchester and Salford. At the rally Burnham had the cheek to claim that ‘the people huddled in the doorways of Manchester and all of the towns of Greater Manchester have suffered enough’; while it has protected its rich friends the Labour council has forcibly evicted homeless camps around the city centre, confiscated tents and sleeping bags and imposed a ban on protest camps. When Burnham makes his election promise to eradicate street homelessness, his party’s record locally is one of reactionary anti-working class violence.

Speakers said that this was a march of the ‘decent people of Manchester’ - in reality it was a parade of the labour aristocracy. What the MEN did not report was the opposition of RCG speakers using our sound system to condemn the hypocrisy of the politicians on the platforml. Throughout the speeches from MPs and councillors, we ran a constant mic intervention, asking why the councillors were voting for cuts and highlighting the facts of Labour’s cuts to social care. The response of Labour Party members was to try and get physical with one female comrade, pushing and shouting in her face; one man had to be led away by security for trying to set fire to the RCG banner. It read, ‘No to cuts, racism and war.’

Such a public display of crocodile tears by Manchester council leaders was however enough to win the allegiance of the SWP. At the rally local SWP leader Nahella Ashraf attempted to shout down RCG comrades as we led opposition to the councillors' hypocrisy. Later her comrade Mark Krantz complained that he had had to edit out the 'disruption' from his sycophantic online video posts of the speeches. The Socialist Worker leaflet said that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership means that ‘it makes no sense now for Labour Councils to continue to make cuts to council services’ - ignoring more than five years of cuts and the fact that the last Labour Party conference, with Corbyn as leader, banned councillors from voting against ‘illegal’ (i.e. no cuts) budgets. The SWP and their front organisations like Stand Up to Racism are the forces of the past. Meanwhile local Labour councillors are set to appoint a new chief executive on £230,000 a year and award committee members with £400,000 more in expenses.

No cuts, full stop!

FRFI Manchester

 labour councillor resist or resign


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