Last Friday evening saw 1,000 people pack in to the first Enough is Enough (EiE) rally in the West Midlands. Due to begin at 7pm, attendees were still queuing outside the venue long after the start time, which had to be delayed to get everyone in.
The latest in a series of launch rallies, the excitement, anger and enthusiasm for the campaign was palpable. Many of those in attendance remarked how it felt similar to the mass rallies in support of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. That is true, but in many ways this time there is far more potential given the anger at the way the cost of living crisis is impacting on all working class people, and the rising tide of industrial action.
And it was this action that formed the centre of many of the speeches from the platform. A speaker from the FBU explained the situation that their members are facing and how they have decided to ballot for strike action against a derisory pay offer. He told the rally they are ‘angry, united and ready to fight’ to enormous cheers from the crowd.
Support the picket lines on 1 October, coordinate the action
A rep from the RMT talked about the need to support picket lines taking place on 1 October, whilst the secretary of Birmingham TUC supported the call for coordinated strike action and to learn the lessons from previous movements. A representative from tenants’ union Acorn explained how they have fought back against evictions and bad housing conditions. Comedian Luisa Omielan received huge cheers when she lambasted the billionaires and called on people to fight back. Labour MP Zarah Sultana spoke of how the Tories operate in Parliament in the interests of their big business backers.
All speakers urged support for the 1 October national day of action and to build support for the five demands of the campaign to fight food poverty, taxing the rich, for a decent pay rise, housing for all and to slash energy bills. The rapturous cheers of the audience after nearly every sentence from the speakers showed the mood at the rally, which is also a reflection of how working class people feel more generally.
Workers have had enough of low pay and being attacked, whilst bosses prosper. This feeling has no doubt increased following the so called ‘mini budget’ from the Tory government which is a declaration of out and out class war on behalf of the employers.
The fact that 1,000 people came out on a Friday evening at a relatively short notice shows the enormous potential that exists for EiE. It is important now to develop the campaign around the five demands and to discuss how those demands can be achieved.
The immediate priority is EiE’s national day of action on 1 October and the need to support those workers coming out on strike. Well organised rallies and protests can provide much needed solidarity and galvanise other groups of workers to take action. But there also needs to be discussion and debate about how to win these demands. As we wrote in a recent article:
“EiE’s five demands are all necessary and popular. But really implementing them would require going further and implementing a socialist programme.“
“The super rich will mount ferocious resistance to any real attempt to make them pay for the economic crisis they have created, and to hold on to their economic and political power as the ruling force in capitalist society. Our movement must be prepared to fundamentally break their power by removing it at source – ending the private ownership and control of the key levers of the economy and placing key industries under public ownership and democratic control, in the service of an economic plan to protect people and the planet.“
“While EiE’s current demands include public ownership of the energy companies, this should be extended to transport and mail, as well as to the banks and the big monopolies which dominate our economy.“
Build on the potential
The Socialist Alternative leaflet distributed at the rally stated:
“It will be crucial that grassroots, democratic organisation forms the basis of this campaign. Local meetings should include discussion on ways to broaden out and build momentum behind workers taking action, and that meetings with strong platforms speakers are vital but they also need to be forums where attendees can participate and hammer out of the direction of the movement and develop a fighting programme“
Having a democratic form of organisation will be vital to ensure that supporters of the campaign can become fully involved, to become participants not just part of the audience, and to help build the strongest movement possible.
Who will implement the programme?
A further common theme through the Birmingham rally was the anger towards the leadership of the Labour Party. On numerous occasions shouts of “F**k Starmer” were heard from the crowd, unsurprisingly given the direction of the Labour Party. This has been further underlined by the singing of the national anthem at the Labour conference this week. The emergence of Enough is Enough, and its popularity further underlines the need working class political organisation. As we recently wrote:
“EiE’s programme also inevitably poses the question of who will implement it? A partial answer is: not Keir Starmer, that’s for sure. Starmer’s New Blairite ‘Labour’ leadership cannot even bring itself to support a single strike. Starmer has even sacked Labour MPs from his shadow cabinet for the crime of visiting picket lines. This is part of cementing his capitalist counter revolution in the party and crushing of the Left following the expulsion of Jeremy Corbyn.“
“Ultimately, workers need a political force that consistently fights for their interests as well as unions and campaign groups. The construction of a new mass working class party of the left, based on our movements and struggles, is an important strategic task for workers and youth today. Such a party would be far from a mere electoral machine, but rooted in struggle and under democratic control by a mass working-class membership. If EiE can develop to its full potential, it could become an important step towards this.“
Fight for a socialist alternative!
The Birmingham rally should now be used as a springboard to build EiE around the West Midlands. Socialist Alternative are actively taking part in the campaign, and want to help build EiE on the basis of mass democratic participation whilst also making the case for a full socialist programme to win the demands of the campaign and to fight back against the root cause of the problems facing working class people – the capitalist system. If we want to have control of the economy, we need to challenge the rule of the rich itself.
We have a system that is based on the exploitation and oppression of the working class and the planet. If we want to control the economy, we need to fight for the public ownership of the banks, financial institutions and corporations that dominate the economy. In short we need a socialist alternative to replace crisis ridden capitalism. Our Socialist Alternative leaflets and newspapers were eagerly snapped up at the Birmingham rally showing the openness to fight for socialist policies. If you agree, we urge you to join us.