Reflections on May Day, London
May Day this year could have gone either way; on the one hand it was possible trade unionists up and and down the country got all their marching needs out the way on 26 March during the TUC march. Though on the other hand of course activists have mobilised somewhat in the last year, particularly in anticipation of the pinch at the hands of Tory-LibDem cuts.
A woman I was speaking to at Clerkenwell Green told me she had counted around 100 police officers on her way to the square, which made her concerned about the nature of today’s march. Recent events have made some rather nervous (that, or more determined to act). 15 activists in Bristol were arrested recently as protests ripped through the stokes croft area, an individual arrested during the royal wedding event had been singing “we all live in a fascist regime”, and the activist Chris Knight was pre-emptively arrested – taking police power into Minority Report territory.
The same women also opined that May Day be returned to its original roots – that of celebrating the labour force in a more relaxed showing of solidarity, as opposed to the exclusive, family un-friendly event it has possibly become.
As the march started, however, it was clear that nowhere near the same numbers had come out as previous years – trouble was reduced to zero, and there was no presence of blac bloc activists at all (at least not in Trafalgar Square). The police numbers seemed almost irrelevant.
May Day is an important show of worker strength – which is all the more important now David Cameron has threatened to remove it as a public holiday (just another stab in the back for the most vulnerable in society, and a signal of things to come). But today all the energy seemed to be sapped out. And the woman I spoke to appeared to be right; generally the message has been lost (one half of Trafalgar Square seemed almost exclusively filled with banners of Stalin).
Aside from campaigning for speeches without shouting, those who have high regard for May Day should see that it returns to its traditional message – labor day, not Stalinist Labour bashing!