Supporters of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition marched through Oxford on Saturday in celebration of International Workers Day.
Coalition members marched from Cowley Road to Bonn Square in a protest against austerity and inequality from 1pm, concluding with a 2pm rally at Bonn Square.
Rally speakers included Megan Dobney, Secretary for the South and East Region Trades Union Congress, Roger McKenzie, UNISON Assistant General Secretary and Liz Peretz, representative from the ‘Campaign to Close Campsfield’ movement.
In an interview with The Oxford Student, Ian McKendrick, the Communication Officer for the Oxfordshire Unison Health Trade Council affirmed that the march was against the coalition austerity cuts and the scapegoating of powerless and minority groups such as immigrants, as fuelled by parties like UKIP. His words were echoed by Bill MacKeith, the Assistant Secretary of the South East TUSC who stated that the aims of the march were varied including standing up against education cuts, unfair wages and privatisation of the NHS.
Around 100 people were involved, including children as young as eight years old, from Larkrise Primary School, who sang popular hits such as ‘We Will Rock You’ and beat drums throughout the progression. Banners and picket signs were paraded down the street, highlighting the ideology behind the march, with the slogans reading “no to racism no to bigotry no to UKIP” and “solidarity not racism”. Amongst the crowds, communist and trade union flags were also raised. The march featured a broad spectrum of individuals, from the National Union of Teachers, to health workers and parents as well as members of the Communist Corresponding Society.
James Morbin, the TUSC candidate for Oxford East, argued that the main political parties offered no representation for ordinary working class individuals and that the Tories in particular “had done a good job at representing their class” i.e. the affluent upper classes. According to Morbin, the current state of politics has been “cheapened” by the self interest of careerist politicians who ascend through the ranks of parliament with little regard for the masses. Morbin regards his experience at an earlier hustings event, in which he was the only candidate who was not clad in a suit, as evidence that his party will avoid the false showmanship and fancy dressage of traditional politics. He went onto to argue that the TUSC will reform the fragmented political structure to insure that “politics is about the people”.
Speaking to The Oxford Student at the march, Will Forrest, a political activist and Magdalen College PPE student, stated that the bureaucracy of modern politics has left party leaders such as Ed Miliband constrained by the “conflicting ideas within their parties”.
In light of the similar social demographics illustrated throughout all mainstream parties, Forrest argued that a “conscious change” needed to take place within mindset of the working class, to ensure that the career of an MP, is regarded as an accessible and realistic choice rather than an elitist field, exclusive to those from Oxbridge and private schools. Certainly, whilst the TUSC only received 15,573 votes in the General Election 2010, Forrest asserts that within the upcoming election, the influence of TUSC and other socialists will result in “the traditional political structure being obstructed”.
Although the TUSC alliance was only established in 2010, Bow Crow, the co-founder, argued that the movement has filled a void left by the mainstream parties.
Crow commented: “The Tories, Lib Dems and labour all support cuts, privatisation and the anti-union laws. They all want us to pay to a crisis we didn’t create. The bankers pay themselves millions in bonuses and big businesses avoids billions in taxes while our jobs and services are savaged. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) does what it says on the tin – without any of the baggage and big-businesses agenda of the main political parties.”
In its manifesto, the TUSC states that it is committed to creating “democratic public ownership” of banks, the NHS and public services, ending cuts and austerity, a reevaluation of council housing, abolition of student fees and fair pay notably the abolition of zero hour contracts and a £10 minimum wage.
Saturday’s march was part of a national Mayday Rally, in which trade unionists throughout the country campaign during the Bank holiday weekend, in favour of equality and social change.
Photo/The Socialist Party