UK. Johnson out, social comes back with a bang

Durham (United Kingdom), special envoy.

In the United Kingdom, with or without Boris Johnson overthrown on Thursday by his own desperate majority before the litany of his escapades and his lies, but not at all shocked by his politics, the red is gradually rising to the surface.

In Durham, in the northeast of England, this monochrome of anger and hope, solidarity and blood goes back to 1871 – the year of the Paris Commune, to say, in this city which constitutes one of the bricks of the « red wall », these working constituencies long the preserve of Labor but now eroded by the onslaught of the Conservatives against the background of Brexit, is held every year, except in times of war, strike or pandemic, a gala of minors.

Between brass bands playing tunes ranging from the International to Britney Spears, and the splendid banners of the trade union sections organized by villages, or even hamlets, around their wells, the event, half-party half-demonstration, is less a social dinner than a revolution, of course.

This Saturday, among the tens of thousands of participants – the organizers expected between 200,000 and 250,000 the day before the event – ​​a few tears cover the cheeks when the wind instruments finish Gresford, both an anthem for miners and a poignant tribute to those who died in the disaster of the same name in Wales. Even if Michael Gove, one of the very close to Boris Johnson, thought he could send the gala back to pure folklore, the day after the 2019 general elections in which the Conservatives won four out of five seats in County Durham, the comrades don’t stop at nostalgia. In reality, it is political values, symbols, thought and action that they unearth, reactivate and actively transmit during the gala. Young leader of the higher education union federation (UCU), Jo Grady recalls, for example, the major lesson instilled by her coal miner father: “Never, ever, do you kneel down in front of a curator! »

This austerity is the other name of the war waged against our class.Claire Williams, trade unionist union

In the crowd of Durham, there are countless T-shirts boldly claiming: “I still hate Thatcher. This goes for the Iron Lady, who broke the resistance of the miners in 1984-1985, but also shattered all confidence in her heirs up to Boris Johnson… « Frankly, knowing who tomorrow will be the next Conservative Prime Minister is really of no interest to us, warns Unison trade unionist Clare Williams. We already know that it will be exactly the same. These guys didn’t tax the super-rich, the profits; on the contrary, they puncture everyone by increasing contributions for social protection, they let prices slip and absolutely refuse to increase wages. Poverty for the majority is a choice made by the powerful. This austerity is the other name of the war waged against our class. »

The right to strike is particularly limited

Very upset by a Labor Party which abruptly closed the parenthesis opened with Jeremy Corbyn – himself present in Durham as a simple participant – the British trade unionists seem ready to take charge of the opposition to the Conservative government. « It’s time to drive out the tories, considers Stephen Guy, the president of the Durham Miners’ Association. They don’t respect us, they never have and they never will, but we are also addressing Labor and, more specifically, its leaders: if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem, and if you don’t hear this message, you’re finished. » It is urgent for the workers. For weeks, against the background of the purchasing power crisis, many have been promising a » summer of anger » United Kingdom. Postwoman in Sheffield, Rohan Kon rebels, after having walked out for the first time in her life last week. “The boss of British Mail tells us to all stand together in the face of the crisis, she explains.But I have nothing in common with a guy who earns a million pounds sterling (1.2 million euros) a year! Me, all I know, because I come from a city that owes a lot to the steel industry, is that when the workers unite, they are unbreakable, they are like hardened steel! »

Icon QuoteIt’s time to hunt the tories. They don’t respect us, they never have and they never will… Stephen Guy, President of the Miners Association of Durham

Welcomed almost like a rock star, Mick Lynch, the leader of the railway workers – who made an impression with a massive strike at the end of June – galvanized the crowd during the big meeting on the Durham racetrack. » We are back, he says to thunderous applause. The working class is back. We refuse to be gentle. We refuse to be humble. We don’t want to be poor any longer. » Despite the sticks slipped for decades by the Conservatives in the wheels of the unions – the right to strike, in particular, is particularly limited – many consultations with a view to notice are underway in the airline sector, call centers, health, education, private, etc. General Secretary of Unite, the most powerful British trade union federation with 1.5 million members, Sharon Graham, also present this weekend in Durham, strongly challenges: “No more waiting for changes to fall from the sky, without doing anything! We must act together and coordinate actions between all sectors, we do not need special legislation to do so. We will go to all the pickets, in all sectors. Unity cannot just be declarative, it must be effective. This is the condition to stop the cycle of defeats. We must rebuild everything, it won’t be easy, it may take a long time, but the time has come, trade unionism must be reborn. »

If, in London, after their spectacular putsch against Boris Johnson, the conservative suitors launched their ball in front of 10 Downing Street, the British trade unions, in Durham, in this deindustrialized north-east of England, may have also opened a new chapter. The future will tell… during« Summer of Wrath » or a burning autumn, who knows?


Back to top button