Socialist Alternative

Greater Manchester Socialist Alternative members support bus drivers and Kill the Bill protests

Bus Drivers Strikes Intensifies

Manchester Trades Council organised a car cavalcade, rally and march in support of the striking GO NW bus drivers, drawing in over 250 supporters including 20 cars in a cavalcade from South Manchester. They have been on strike for 35 days, with the employer giving no signs that they want a negotiated settlement. They are out to smash the union and the ability of the drivers to organise, in preparation for getting them to pay for the financial losses incurred due to Covid.

There were Trades Councils represented from as far as Reading, local Unison branches and a number of local Labour Party representatives.

Their strategy of Fire & Rehire is being closely watched by other employers looking at ways to get workers to pay for the costs associated with the pandemic and the developing economic crisis.

At the rally, the Unite steward for the bus depot called for political representatives, union leaders and trade unionists to intensify their efforts to support the struggle and to draw in more resources to defeat the bosses, in what is developing into a war of attrition. Their morale remains high and their fighting spirit has been an inspiration for the local trade unionists and some political representatives.

The local MP, Graham Stringer, called for bus services to be renationalised, and returned to democratic control. He highlighted that privatisation has made millionaires and billionaires out of the owners, and left a service not fit for purpose, but one that charges exorbitant fares. 

With the Climate Crisis needing drastic action, taking all public transport into public ownership and under democratic workers control, is the only way to deal with this crisis in an effective way.

After the rally the crowd marched around the local Cheetham Hill district, garnishing support from the local community, which will be an important development going forward. The march was an impressive sight, with numerous Trades Council, Union Branch and Community group banners, led by the striking bus drivers to the sound of the PCS Samba band.

Our leaflet, the 3rd produced for the dispute, was well received, as was our paper, which we sold 15 copies, many to the drivers. With our solidarity, support and frequent visits to the picket lines, we are developing a significant presence in this struggle, and using our influence in local trade union branches to mobilise members to get involved in the struggle and raising significant funds for the strike fund. 

Our material has not only offered solidarity, but has clearly set out a political perspective on the struggle. We highlight the need for co-ordinated action by Trade Unions across the transport sector. All negotiations must be agreed democratically by the workers.

Manchester Kill the Bill protest

Protests against the Police and Crime Bill introduced at the end of last month aiming to clamp down on the right and the effectiveness of protests, are still ongoing and the movement against the bill shows no signs of slowing down. These protests are also linked to the need to fight gender-based violence following the case of Sarah Everard and numerous reports of gender-based violence and misconduct in the police as well as a need to stand up to racism. Though a recent report may state otherwise, we recognise the institutional racism rooted in the police and that the police are a general force of oppression and repression under capitalism.

April 3rd saw another day of protesting against the bill in St Peter’s Square, Manchester in which members of Socialist Alternative were also present. The protest was majorly youth-driven with a very clear anti-capitalist mood throughout. A number of speakers from different organisations were present but what was evident overall was the disillusionment with capitalism and bourgeois politics with the protest taking an anti-Tory stance along with a recognition that an opposition in our current politics is not enough but what we need is collective, direct action against the system.

Our leaflet about defending the right to protest was very well received as were revolutionary, anti-capitalist ideas as a whole, with the crowd responding well to ideas of getting organised and building mass struggles, with many pointing out the importance and history of protests and other direct action in winning concessions from the state under capitalism.

Our interventions make it clear that we are proactive in standing against the attacks by the state and capitalism and we stand in solidarity with all those protesting against the new bill, echoing the chants to “kill the bill”. We acknowledge and put forward a strategy to connect different struggles in a collective fight against capitalism and its manifestations in state violence, an idea that gives the internationalist, anti-capitalist, youth-powered movement a political position to ensure the momentum of these protests is not lost and to point a way forward.