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Newcastle May Day march: Labour Party supporters challenged and respond with violence

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Newcastle May Day march: Labour Party supporters challenged and respond with violenceAt a May Day rally in Newcastle on 5 May FRFI supporters had to physically resist a number of Labour Party supporters who tried to physically silence their heckling of Labour MP Grahame Morris when he spoke on the platform. Despite being the most active force on the left in Newcastle, FRFI were denied speaking. Instead, the ‘May Day Committee’ who organised the rally gave a platform to a representative of the pro-war, pro-cuts, pro-City of London Labour Party. Not surprisingly, FRFI and others heckled this miserable ruling class representative. This so outraged Martin Levy, the May Day Committee chair, that he called on ‘trade unionists’ to ‘deal with the rabble’ and personally led the physical confrontation by pushing, grabbing and shoving activists who were voicing their contempt for the Labour Party.

May Day is supposed to be a day of international solidarity. Yet what has the Labour Party to do with international solidarity? Grahame Morris voted for the assault on Libya in March 2011. That alone would constitute grounds for heckling him. There is no record of him distancing himself from the war in Afghanistan, the threats against Iran, or from the Labour Party’s long support for Zionism. He has not opposed the Labour Party’s support for austerity. In short, he is completely opposed to the interests of the working class and oppressed.

The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) took the coward’s way out. Whilst they did not participate in the physical confrontation, they condemned and slandered those heckling Morris. This is not surprising given that the SWP regard the Labour Party as ‘someone we expect to be a friend’ (International Socialism March 2012) and have consistently called for a vote for Labour.

Unfortunately for Levy, many of those at the rally were joining with FRFI in heckling Morris: anarchists, Socialist Party members, anti-cuts activists as well as trade unionists, meaning that Levy’s intervention was swiftly defeated, and Morris continued to receive loud opposition throughout his speech. Levy is a typical privileged trade union bureaucrat, without a democratic bone in his body: President of the Newcastle and Tyne and Wear TUC, Chair of Northumbria University UCU and NEC member to boot. He is also on the executive committee of the Communist Party of Britain, enthusiastic supporters of the Labour Party. He has a history of sectarianism at May Day (http://bit.ly/MayDay2006): after FRFI supporters vociferously opposed the invitation of a Prison Officer Association representative to speak on the platform in 2008, he tried to have them banned from the 2009 march and rally (http://bit.ly/MayDay2008). He was unsuccessful. Levy and his opportunist Labour Party allies are facing an increasing challenge to their attempts to turn Newcastle May Day into a wretched farce, and this challenge looks set to grow.

On the march before the rally, FRFI supporters led internationalist chants and speeches in solidarity with working class struggles around the world, linking the British government’s austerity measures and attacks on living standards in this country with increased military intervention and aggression overseas in Libya, Syria, Somalia and Iran. As the march made its way up Northumberland street, Newcastle’s main shopping centre, activists took part in flash pickets of Greggs and McDonalds for their backing of the workfare programmes, then highlighted Marks and Spencer’s support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and denounced Vodaphone for supporting Egypt’s Mubarak whilst dodging £6bn worth of tax in 2011.

The true voice from the international anti-imperialist, working class struggle at the rally was Alvaro Sanchez, counsellor from the Venezuelan embassy. Alvaro called on our solidarity for the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and its struggle against the US and Europe backed opposition, referencing support from Socialist Cuba and ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Latin Americas as crucial. This is the example we should be following, not that set by the racist, imperialist Labour Party and its sycophants in the trade union movement.

Long live international workers’ day!

See this video for Newcastle members of the SWP defending their support for Labour: