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Is the TUC building the movement – or restricting it?

Industrial overiew from Jeremy Drinkall

All the signs are that the TUC demo on 26 March will be monster. Five hundred coaches have been booked and activists are reporting interest comparable to that in the lead-up to the antiwar march in 2003.

When Brendan Barber announced the demo back in September, I suspect he considered it a way of being seen to do something without committing to too much.
But then the student movement came along and things hotted up. Now the Town Hall occupations and scuffles with the cops have reignited the flame. If the pensions strikes take off, things could boil over.

However, I do still  wonder if the TUC is up to old tricks, trying to suppress dissenting views – like it did on the 1981 March for Jobs when unemployed workers were thrown off if they criticised officials.

This time, the TUC has hired private security to police the demo and recruited an army of “route stewards” to prevent breakaway groups from peeling off. It has allegedly set up a call centre with the police to report “disorder”.

Whatever the truth behind that one, the bureaucrats are making it difficult for people to join the demo, trying to ban feeder marches and parking the coaches way out in Wembley and Canning Town.

The officials are even trying to “discourage” placards – presumably so the only slogans on the telly and net are its own dull ones: “Say no to unfair and unnecessary spending cuts”… and “Yes” to other cuts?

But Barber will, I suspect, end up like King Canute trying to hold back the sea. It’s far too early to predict what might happen, but one idea that has taken hold is to occupy Hyde Park for a night. Inspired by the heroic scenes in Tahrir Square, it is a great idea.

Others feel Parliament should become a focus for anger and resistance. I’m open to suggestions, so long as we learn the lesson from 2003: it’s not enough to march – we need to follow it up with sustained and coordinated action, leading up to a general strike to bring down the government.

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