'For A Future That Works'
Report from 20th October
The replica Hammersmith Socialist League banner had another outing on the TUC march for ‘For A Future That Works’ in central London on 20 October. It’s a great slogan, positively FOR a better world rather than (just) against the current disastrous policies of austerity, destruction of the NHS and demolition of public services more broadly.
We were a smaller contingent than last time, and Rob Hunter nobly carried the banner (with its new pole and holster) the full distance from Embankment to Hyde Park. Numbers seemed a bit lower generally than in March 2011, but there were still crowds of people, pennants, banners, homemade placards, slogans. Banner art is undergoing a resurgence with the new age of protest. I love the creativity of this, and of the costumes and street theatre. I was especially taken with the bunch of criminals chained up behind Bankenstein and the ‘we won’t pay for their crisis’ banner; the giant puppets from Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign; the new young group of precarious workers, complaining about unpaid work and unpaid internships. There wer plenty of very contemporary references, including several to ‘plebs’ on the rise. Malala Yousufzai, the brave Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for campaigning for women’s education, has become a poster image for free education for all.
There was lots of music on the march as well. The Unite brass band was at the front. The CPSU (Commercial and Public Services Union, the civil service union) had a large drum group, including a good proportion of women, Drumming Up Support. Four musicians from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) ceilidh band were out ‘fiddling for social justice’ alongside a slogan ‘musicate, agitate, liberate’. At the entry into Hyde Park were the raised voices of socialist choirs from up and down the country, including Liverpool’s Socialist Choir, Red Leicester, and Bristol’s Red Notes. Hammersmith, of course, had a socialist choir in Morris’s day, conducted by May Morris from 1891, and later by Gustav Holst.
The press reporting was, as usual, terrible. Oddly, when anti-austerity protests in Greece and Spain are covered, we do get some analysis of the issues at stake. Here, we just get a clip of Ed Miliband addressing the closing rally and being booed by the crowd, ostensibly ‘balanced’ by a Tory saying Miliband and the demonstrators are ostriches about debt. Whatever political position you take, the parlous level of political debate in the face of such severe economic and ecological crises is truly terrifying.
I love big demonstrations. Some people think they achieve nothing, but what they certainly do is encourage people in the struggle by making them feel less isolated. I am quite sure Morris would have been there, with the original banner. Re-reading the Manifesto of the Socialist League, it is disturbing how relevant it remains, including the words: ‘everything points to the fact that the great commercial system is becoming unmanageable, and is slipping from the grasp of its present rulers’. There did seem to be a considerable police presence defending those rulers, though, especially as we came down Piccadilly, where they were lined up outside Fortnums, the Caviar House, and especially the Ritz.
And our banner is a great conversation piece. Lots of people come up to ask about it. Some do know about the Socialist League and Morris’s involvement with it, but many don’t, so we had several good discussions about Morris, his politics, its relation to his art, and its contemporary relevance. Before the next demo – for I’m sure we will be needing to take to the streets again - I’ll be producing a leaflet we can hand out to interested parties.
Read the Manifesto of the Socialist League, by Morris and Bax, at: Marxist.org
All photographs accompanying this article are © Ruth Levitas
TUC Demonstration 20 October: A Future that Works
On 26 March 2011, we took our replica Hammersmith Socialist League banner on the TUC March for the Alternative. We’re planning to do the same for the next TUC demonstration on Saturday 20 October against austerity economic and the cuts to ordinary people’s incomes and services. As before, the march will assemble along the Embankment from 11 a.m. and move off around noon, marching to a rally in Hyde Park.
Members wanting to join the TUC demonstration in London on 20th October and march with the replica of the Hammersmith Socialist League banner should meet from 11.00 on the South Bank of the Thames outside the Royal Festival Hall. We will be moving off about 11.45. If it is raining, we will shelter inside the RFH cafe, but will not be able to put the banner up there.
More details about the demonstration can be found at www.afuturethatworks.org. Last time, the William Morris Society contingent assembled with the banner on the South Bank outside the Royal Festival Hall at 11.00. We expect to do the same again, but check our website for confirmation, www.williammorrissociety.org.