This May Day, Socialist Appeal activists mobilised for a series of ‘Kill the Bill’ protests held all over Britain.
In London, thousands of workers and youth flooded Trafalgar Square, mobilising to defend the democratic right to protest, and to fight against repressive policing laws.
The Socialist Appeal bloc was the biggest and most visible on the demonstration. Those we spoke to on the protest, some as young as 15, were wide open to the ideas of Marxism, indicating the revolutionary potential that exists due to the crisis of capitalism.
There were also blocs of activists from other important struggles, showing the clear links between the different battles taking place. For example, art workers from the Tate Britain strike last year were present, along with Black Lives Matter groups.
After setting off along the Mall and past Buckingham Palace, the demo marched to the Home Office, with protestors chanting ‘kill the bill’ and ‘Hey-hey, ho-ho! Racist cops have got to go!’
Memories of George Floyd and Sarah Everard were clearly still in people’s minds, as reflected in the chants and signs. For example, one placard read: ‘Safer as a statue’ – a reference to the fact that the new Tory bill could see a 10 year sentence imposed for damaging private property, versus as little as 5 years for crimes such as rape.
A wide range of issues were raised during speeches held in front of the heavily-policed Home Office. One speaker explained the systematic neglect of young people with learning difficulties in our education system. Others expressed anger and frustration towards the Tories’ total disregard for the needs of the working class over the course of the pandemic.
The determination and militancy amongst activists was evident on Saturday’s protest. But what was lacking was organisation and leadership to channel this energy.
Whilst some individual union branches and CLPs were present, the bulk of the labour movement was absent from this May Day demo.
The leaders of the labour movement should throw their weight behind the fight to end this abhorrent policing bill, and link this to a mass campaign of strikes and protests to kick out the Tories.
Model motion: For a mass campaign to defend the right to protest!— Socialist Appeal (@socialist_app) April 13, 2021
Recently, thousands have demonstrated against the Tories' new #PolicingBill, a draconian piece of legislation that would curtail the right to demonstrate and grant even more powers to the police. [A THREAD] pic.twitter.com/CjeVM8fuvH
This rotten government serves the interests of the bosses and the elites. That is why they are bringing in these new repressive laws.
We can only rely on ourselves to fight for the interests of workers and youth. There is no force on earth that can match the power of the working class, when we are organised, mobilised, and armed with a clear socialist vision.
Saturday’s May Day rally started early for comrades in Bristol, with Socialist Appeal the first to set up stall. After a quiet start, an unmistakable march-drummer beat a path across the car park, seemingly ushering in a stream of people.
The short march route wound through Broadmead shopping centre. Socialist Appeal supporters proudly fell in behind our new ‘Workers of the World Unite’ banner, which random passers-by snapped on their phones.
Brendan Kelly, a senior RMT officer, made an impassioned speech to the three hundred or so present. He clearly linked the significance of the proposed policing bill to the question of trade union rights.
Brendan emphasised how important it is for the trade unions to support the ongoing protests; and, in turn, for Kill the Bill protestors to show solidarity with striking workers. The loudest cheer was in response to his call for an end to capitalism.
In Bristol, as with other parts of the country, there is confusion over how to take this movement forward. Saturday saw two other marches and protests take place, separate from the Trades Council May Day march, with different groups vying for leadership.
The critical questions on everyone’s minds are: Where to begin? And what is to be done?
Socialist Appeal supporters in Bristol are open with our call for the trade unions to play a central role in the fight against this policing bill, and against the whole Tory government that stands behind it.
The protests to Kill the Bill should be seen as part of a wider struggle. As capitalism slides deeper into crisis, and the ruling class defends its system by ever-more repressive means, more street protests are inevitable.
What is required is fighting leadership at the head of the labour movement. And this means building the forces of Marxism: in Bristol, in Britain, and across the globe.
Socialist Appeal and the Cambridge & District Trades Union Council hosted a lively Kill the Bill protest this May Day, with over 200 people in attendance.
The demo saw activists from almost every organised political grouping on the left in Cambridge, as well as many other students and members of the public.
The large turnout and high energy on display – at demos like this one, and other recent protests across the country – is another reflection of the radicalisation in society. And this, in turn, is a symptom of the crisis of the capitalist system.
Gathering on Parkers Piece, just across the road from the city’s central police station, numbers picked up fast, with many protestors bringing placards and even setting up stalls.
An impressive number of different groups were united at the event: organised in opposition to the policing bill; focused around a clear class perspective; and emboldened by the experience of recent months and years.
Speeches from trade union representatives and Socialist Appeal supporters – which linked the issues surrounding the bill to the history of the labour movement and the significance of May Day – were received with great enthusiasm.
"It's not though backdoor dealing, it's not through 'forensic opposition' that workers have achieved anything at any point in their history. It's militant struggle: through the unions, through mass movements and through organisation." https://t.co/CSPlPNERXW— Cambridge Marxists (@camsocialist) May 1, 2021
Other speakers gave a range of valuable and moving contributions, with the issue of working class power being a consistent recurring theme.
This is a promising sign, showing the potential for linking the Kill the Bill protests to the broader labour movement.
It also highlights that workers and youth are looking for a clear perspective; for an understanding and explanation that makes sense of the current turbulent political situation.
This was also reflected in the significant interest shown towards the Socialist Appeal stall, including our newspaper and other material.
The appetite for fighting political opposition to the Tories is clearly strong, in Cambridge and elsewhere. Far from dying down in the face of state repression, the wider movement against injustice, exploitation, and oppression is only growing.
Strong organisation and militant action is crucial – not just against this bill, but against this rotten system as a whole. Mobilised on the streets, workers and youth can show the Tories that they are right to be scared!
On Saturday 1 May, Oxford Marxists activists joined roughly 80 others marching through the centre of Oxford as part of the latest #KillTheBill protest.
Though it was a smaller turnout than some of the previous protests, there was a trade union presence for the first time; and the mood remained militant, with chants of ‘no justice, no peace’ and ‘the workers united will never be defeated’.
At the rally afterwards, the speeches focused on how May Day is a time to be inspired by past struggles – and to be galvanised to defend the gains of these struggles.
Speakers highlighted how reforms are never handed from above without struggle from below. There is a long history of state violence being used to repress the working class, with examples like the Peterloo massacre. This shows the importance of uniting now against attacks like this latest Tory bill.
One speaker noted that defending our rights must only be the beginning, arguing the need for the transformation of society.
This is correct. But we must be clear: this transformation must be along socialist lines. Only then can we truly bring an end to the violence, oppression, and exploitation of the capitalist system.
On Saturday 1 May, the Manchester Marxists attended the Kill the Bill demonstration held in St Peter’s Square, organised by Sisters Uncut to coincide with May Day.
The demo – a stone’s throw from the site of the Peterloo massacre – was full of energy against the bill.
The rage against this Tory bill is a reflection of the wider discontent amongst workers and youth. The crisis of capitalism, hastened by COVID 19, has profoundly affected people's consciousness.
The problem, however, is that the Kill the Bill movement remains loosely organised and without clear leadership.
Striking Go North West bus drivers were going to join the demo. Instead, news was shared of their success – through militant class struggle – in defeating the bosses’ fire and rehire attempts.
The march continued round almost the entirety of the city centre. Some of our comrades had kept a sharp eye out and noticed some of the police vans, at a distance, mobilising around us. Later on, when we arrived back at St Peter's Square, a wave of police came marching into the square in army-like fashion to move the protestors.
To move forward and ‘kill the bill’, the energy and enthusiasm of these protests needs to be united with the organisation and weight of the workers’ movement, behind a clear political strategy.
Workers and youth need to unite and fight to defeat the Tories and the bosses. Only through class struggle can we pose a genuine threat to the capitalists and their system, defended by the police – the ‘special bodies of armed men’.