Gushing royalist eulogies and fervent flag-waving. New revelations of abuse and sabotage by right-wingers. Fresh expulsions and suspensions of grassroots members and prominent left activists. And a leadership that refuses to back striking workers or commit to public ownership, amidst a rising tide of industrial action and a deepening energy crisis.
All of this – and more – explains why there is little enthusiasm amongst workers and youth for the events taking place in Liverpool this week, where delegates are meeting for the Labour Party’s latest annual conference.
Few on the left will be paying much attention to proceedings at Labour conference 2022. By contrast, recent weeks have seen an enormous energy, excitement, and optimism surrounding the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign, which has been touring the UK, with mass rallies in a number of cities.
Thousands have attended these events (see reports below), coming to hear leading left figures from the labour movement talk about the cost-of-living catastrophe, the militant struggles taking place, and the policies needed to address today’s injustices and crises.
Last night, for example, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch, left Labour MP Zarah Sultana, and CWU general secretary Dave Ward were amongst those speaking to a packed hall in Liverpool at the ‘Enough is Enough’ fringe meeting, with queues forming around the block to get in.
And similar scenes could be seen in Birmingham last Friday, where anger was palpably bubbling against the latest budget announcement by this government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.
The radical atmosphere at these rallies shows the real mood amongst workers and youth. And this will be further confirmed this Saturday, 1 October, with demonstrations planned in towns and cities across the country, organised by the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign.
These protests are both against the energy price cap increase, which is due to go up from the first of the month, and in support of the latest wave of strike action that is taking place this autumn.
Rail workers in the RMT, ASLEF, and TSSA will be coordinating action on this day. And they will be joined by CWU members at Royal Mail, as well as by dockers at Felixstowe and Liverpool. Meanwhile, the indefinite walkout by criminal barristers continues, in protest against cuts to the justice system.
Britain is therefore set for its very own ‘striketober’ next month – opening the floodgates for a winter of discontent. And union leaders have even raised the idea of a general strike, in response to Liz Truss’ anti-union threats.
As speakers at recent ‘Enough is Enough’ rallies have correctly stated: the Tories and bosses are waging a class war against workers and the poor.
And Starmer’s Labour has refused to take the side of the working class in this battle, leaving a political vacuum that this campaign is partially filling.
The coordinated protests and picket lines set for this weekend are an encouraging step forward, which can help to breathe further confidence into movement by showing the potential size, strength, and power of the working class, when mobilised and organised.
This should serve as a platform for a mass campaign of rolling action against the Tories and the bosses in the weeks and months ahead – escalating and uniting the strikes and struggles in order to deliver this degenerate Thatcherite government a deadly blow.
Above all, what is needed is a bold socialist programme to galvanise workers and youth. This means fighting not to patch-up capitalism, but to overthrow the whole rotten system.
A queue of up to 2,000 snaked around an Ingram Street car park, doubling back on itself several times as the breadth of Glasgow’s labour movement gathered for the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign launch on 7 September.
The enormous turnout reflected weeks of workers’ struggles across the country, and the growing mood of militancy and determination. Members of the RMT, CWU, GMB, and many other unions mixed with non-unionised workers, and strikers chatted with strikers-soon-to-be, as all waited in anticipation of the rally.
The wait to get into the Old Fruitmarket was long. And it was unclear whether the venue could hold us all. But as soon as you walked into the main hall, you could feel the atmosphere building. Union members and community campaigns clustered together among a packed crowd of young workers and veteran trade unionists alike.
Speaker after speaker drew applause for railing against the cost-of-living crisis, the energy price scandal, and the incoming government of Liz Truss.
Annie Craig, representing Living Rent (a tenants’ union and community organisation) and its Govan branch, spoke of how even the humblest of working-class people can turn the tables on the bosses and landlords if they get organised and fight.
Aamer Anwar – the high-profile human rights lawyer – also gave one of the best speeches of the night.
Anwar rounded on the entire establishment, condemning the toxic culture of sexism and racism within Police Scotland; the defilement of the rights of asylum seekers and refugees; and the shocking rise of poverty and deprivation. And he reminded the crowd of the Battle of Kenmure Street – when Glasgow’s working class sent the Home Office packing – and of the battles still to come.
The overall focus of the night was drawn together by the final speaker, the RMT’s Eddie Dempsey. The biggest cheers had been for those who spoke about class. And this was the topic that had brought thousands to ‘Enough Is Enough’ rallies prior to Glasgow.
It was almost 10pm by the time Dempsey walked on stage, but the energy of the crowd was still rising. He rejected the lies told to workers in this country: that wages have to be kept low to stop inflation; or that everyone is tightening their belts because of the Ukraine war.
The reality is that the rich have never had it so good, and that inflation threatens to destroy any semblance of financial security for working people.
After condemning the greed and inequality of capitalism, Dempsey spoke to those in the room who may feel they have heard all of this before, from union leaders or politicians. “This time it feels different,” he remarked.
That tempting thought is what had brought so many young workers there. Before and after the event, many had told us that they had come along because it feels to them like it is time to do something – and something is “finally” happening.
This new generation of activists are not looking for a new hero, however. Following the failure of reformist leaders like Jeremy Corbyn, and already seeing the limits to the trade union bureaucracy, young workers are absorbing their first lessons of the class struggle.
The period ahead will have much more to teach us. And it is vital that the working class draws the right conclusions: to trust in its own strength, and go on the offensive against capitalism.
The ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign held a rally in the Royal Armouries in Leeds on 20 September. There were over a thousand people in attendance, including a large number of young workers.
The audience was extremely receptive to bold socialist and revolutionary ideas, with attendees enthusiastically taking leaflets for the upcoming Revolution Festival.
The waiting crowd was entertained by a choir singing songs about worker’s struggles, and a variety of campaign groups were presenting, showing their support.
The introductory speaker began by speaking in bold class terms – a sentiment echoed by others from the platform, including RMT union members, Acorn activists, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon.
Speakers unanimously condemned the bosses’ efforts to inflate their profits, all while the working class has to face soaring energy prices.
The economic system was overtly blamed for this crisis, with speakers denouncing the exploitation of workers as a fundamental feature of capitalism, not simply a mistake made by the ruling class.
Richard Burgon spoke about the neoliberal market driving the crisis, all helped by the incoming prime minister and her government of the rich. He compared ‘Lizz from Leeds’ to Margaret Thatcher in her economic iconoclasm, and her desire to exploit every crisis to boost the profits of bosses.
The left Labour MP also encouraged workers not to simply wait for the next election, stating that ‘politics isn’t just for MPs’. The sharpening class conflict was expressed in Burgon’s militant language, including his description of the ongoing struggles as a “class war”.
Along with other speakers, Burgon called for the nationalisation of energy companies – to rapturous applause.
Huge @eiecampaign meeting in Leeds tonight.— Richard Burgon MP (@RichardBurgon) September 20, 2022
As I said at the rally, we're not going to accept people getting ever poorer just so that the rich can get ever richer. #EnoughIsEnough pic.twitter.com/9LI3q2VgtB
Laura Dickinson, an Acorn union member and Yorkshire regional coordinator for ‘Enough is Enough’, talked about the absence of any real pay rise for workers in living memory.
Dickinson’s speech highlighted that wages are not keeping up with inflation, and how even full-time workers can no longer afford basic living costs.
The Acorn activist also condemned the government for borrowing money to pay for their energy package, noting that this bill will be paid by workers through further austerity. And she concluded by saying that there was a notable lack of viable solutions from either the Tories or Starmer’s Labour.
RMT member Sarah Chapman spoke of her own experience organising in the union, including its defence of jobs throughout the pandemic, despite rail bosses aiming to cut them.
Another RMT speaker, meanwhile, talked about nationalising the rail industry, mirroring the campaign’s demands for public ownership of the energy industry.
Finally, a postal worker and CWU member spoke about how the struggle of workers against the bosses is universal.
The speaker talked about the ongoing Royal Mail dispute, which has seen a huge turnout from workers. As a result, the strike has remained firm, even in the face of the bosses’ attempts to break it by deploying scab labour.
On 6 September, ‘Enough is Enough’ came to Norwich, with long queues forming down the street to get into the campaign’s rally. Overall, around 850 people attended the event, with more unable to get in due to the venue’s capacity.
Speakers included the RMT’s Eddie Dempsey and Young Labour chair (and local Norwich Labour member) Jess Barnard – as well as a surprise appearance from Jeremy Corbyn, who entered the stage to a standing ovation and the classic chanting of the former Labour leader’s name.
The atmosphere in the meeting was positive and militant. This reflected both a renewed energy from local activists, after the lull and demoralisation under Starmer’s reign, as well as an influx of new faces, with a new wave of workers and youth being drawn into the movement by the accelerating cost-of-living crisis.
A prevailing theme of many of the speakers was that we – the workers – are the real power in society. This is undoubtedly true, and is refreshing to hear.
“Who is better organised, us or them? If it’s them, they’ll get higher profits and we’ll get lower wages. But if it’s us, we’ll get better wages, better housing and better services.”— Enough is Enough (@eiecampaign) September 6, 2022
- Eddie Dempsey of @RMTunion speaking to a huge crowd in Norwich tonight.#EnoughIsEnough pic.twitter.com/nT5HToAT74
The speakers’ conclusions, however, did not take this assertion to its logical conclusion: that workers must get organised to fight for power as a class. Instead, their demands were limited to calling for people to join trade unions or other community-based groups.
Notably, the biggest cheers came in response to calls from almost all speakers for bringing utilities back under public ownership. Unfortunately, however, this demand for nationalisation of rail, mail, energy, and water is lacking from the campaign’s official programme.
Once again, this shows how the appetite of the movement outstrips that of its leadership. Nevertheless, left leaders appear to recognise the real mood amongst activists, and therefore are pushed into putting forward these bolder, more radical demands.
A further ‘Enough is Enough’ demonstration has been called in Norwich to coincide with the day of coordinated strike action taking place on 1 October. Socialist Appeal supporters will be there in force!
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Socialist Appeal activists attended the ‘Enough is Enough’ rally in Bristol on 20 September.
Speaking on the platform were local trade unionists from the UCU, CWU, and FBU, reporting on their disputes, plus Acorn national organiser Nick Ballard.
Ballard pointed out how the renters’ union was taking on individual landlords. He stated that there was a “need to organise”, and that “we will organise and we will win”.
By far the stand-out speaker was Brendan Kelly, the elected regional officer for the RMT and Wales TUC President.
“Labour leaders and trade union leaders have got to get off the fence,” Kelly implored. “People are increasingly saying they want to be organised, to be able to fight. If that means action is general, then it should be a general strike called by the unions.”
This got a huge roar of approval from the audience.
Importantly, Kelly boldly linked all the struggles taking place to the wider fight for socialism. “We don’t just need to fight for these demands – we need to change society,” he announced.
This is 100% correct. The enthusiasm and energy is there. Workers and young people have shown they are willing and determined to fight.
What is needed is a militant leadership, armed with a clear socialist programme, that can show the way forward to victory, in this class war against the Tories and the bosses.