On Sunday 4 December, Enough is Enough Leicester (in which Socialist Alternative members are taking part), led a march and rally in support of striking workers and the NHS. With estimates of 200-300 people attending and a high proportion of union members from unions entering or already in disputes, the mood was militant with a lively march chanting the five demands of Enough is Enough:
- “A real pay rise – Enough is enough!”
- “Slash energy bills – Enough is enough!”
- “End food poverty – Enough is enough!”
- “Decent homes for all – Enough is enough!”
- “Tax the rich – Enough is enough!”
The rally at the end of the march was compared by the president of the Trades Council, Chris Willars. Sofia Wiking, Socialist Alternative member and a co-organiser of Sunday’s event introduced the rally by saying:
“People are already suffering from a deepening cost of living crisis which is not going to go away: it is going to get worse, we know that. We are already in a recession, and it looks like it will be a deep one. We have a government that is weak and is divided, and it is running out of options, so it is trying to distract us with divide and rule tactics, keeping us blaming each other, blaming immigrants and so on, because they fear a united movement, they fear a united working class.”
“And at the same time, we have a political opposition that is not really providing anything much different from this and is just a faint echo of what the Tories are saying. Keir Starmer is refusing to support the strikes, and he has suggested that a future Labour government wouldn’t meet workers’ pay demands either. But we, the working class, have no choice to resist, and to fight back.”
“We have seen the Liverpool dockers win an important victory. These examples show what can be won, and what must be won! But for the best chance of winning, we will need a clear strategy. And initiatives for a clear strategy at this point will need to come from below as workers get organised and support each other, visit picket lines of other strikers and so on.
This can be conveyed to the union leaderships to demand organisation, coordination, and escalation of our actions, and I would urge all trade union members here to take this back to your reps, or for reps to take it back to your members and your union branches, to put forward demands for coordinated action. We are going to see many, many more workers out on strike in January, and there has been a suggestion for having a coordinated day on of strikes on 1 February.
Having a day where all the unions in dispute go out on strike together as a step towards building for a general strike because that is what we will need. A general strike is what we will need, and this movement has the greatest potential for a successful fightback that we have seen in decades.”
Local independent MP for Leicester East, Claudia Webbe, who was suspended from the Labour Party last year explained: “The wealth of billionaires has tripled in the decade that has just gone by. Workers are saying Enough is Enough and taking strike action. That’s why they have my support, my 100 per cent support.“
“The super-rich are getting rich off our backs and we can’t let that happen. What is the point of windfall taxes if all they do, these oil barons, is simply find a loophole to avoid paying such taxes. Imagine if the super-rich provided those billions to fund our nurses, our postal workers, our railway workers properly. They could do that. The wealth of UK billionaires has tripled in the last ten years. That is why our role is to stand united with workers. They have a vision for our country. Theirs is a vision of resilience, of organisation and being organised. There is an appetite for something different.”
Adam Taylor, the East Midlands regional secretary for Fire Brigades Union (FBU), addressed the rally noting that his union’s strike ballot was due to start on Monday. Adam opened his speech by saying:
“First of all, I bring a message of solidarity. A message of solidarity from firefighters with those taking strike action, with those winning strikes, with those workers not yet organised in workplaces, and those not in work or who can’t work. Because we are all part of the same class.”
The rally was also addressed by representatives from the National Education Union, the Indian Workers’ Association and local NHS worker Angelo Sanchez was the final speaker of the day.
“How is it possible that the government says there isn’t £10 billion to fund NHS workers pay but they are spending more than £200 billion to replace the Trident nuclear submarine? How is it possible that the £20 billion needed to properly fund the NHS cannot be found, while at the same time the capitalist class is hoarding billions and billions in wealth?
This is only possible because the working class do not control the state, the state is controlled by the capitalist class: they make the rules that allow them to become richer and richer by feeding on the labour of us, the workers. This is class war, the capitalist class is our enemy, we the workers must unite and fight together in solidarity. Striking workers say Enough is Enough.”
This event should now be used as a stepping stone for building bigger events in the future. Socialist Alternative members are now calling for doing another rally in late January or early February, around a potential day of coordinated action. We are also focusing on building for further strike action in the health sector.
Unfortunaely, neither RCN nor Unison reached their ballot threshold in Leicester. however in areas where this is the case there will still be important opportunities to campaign. A local nurse has recently worked alongside EIE and Socialist Alternative to help organise a vigil in solidarity with health workers. Events like this should be twinned with the maximum involvement of the entire workers movement, inviting delegations from other unions and holding speeches to make the most of them.
Enough is Enough should also serve as a space of open and democratic discussion about how we can campaign to reach anti-democratic strike thresholds in cases where hey are not passed, and the strategies needed to win these disputes!
EiE locally is also in the middle of a campaign fighting the council over proposed increases to the heating bills of 2,500 council tenants. While a small victory was scored last month, when our campaigning led to the postponing of the council vote, we know that this is a temporary victory, and are using the time we’ve won to build the campaign, organising stalls in the affected areas and contacting unions to pass motions of support.
On 28 January, we are also holding a public meeting around the EiE demand ‘slash energy bills’ with the aim of discussing how to go forward with the heating campaign, as well as how we can build from it to win bigger demands around nationalising the energy companies and the role that the unions can play in this struggle.