‘Protests do work, British Blairite Yvette Cooper’

This music video from London, England says about itself:

Jerry Dammers & Friends ‘Free Nelson Mandela

From the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday tribute concert 1988.

This was a big protest against apartheid in South Africa, and against the British Thatcher government’s complicity in it. The massive anti-apartheid movement, inside and outside South Africa, led to the freeing of Nelson Mandela and the collapse of the racist system.

By Solomon Hughes in Britain:

Cooper‘s wrong to dismiss protest power

Friday 14th August 2015

Solomon Hughes analyses Yvette’s attack on mass demonstrations

LABOUR leadership contender Yvette Cooper showed why Jeremy Corbyn is doing so well when she declared in a big interview in the Observer that “I remember I went on loads and loads of protest marches in the 1980s and it didn’t change anything.”

The Labour Party was founded by people who wanted to get beyond protest, people who felt that the labour movement needed to have representatives in government as well as on the streets. It is a policy that helped to bring about the welfare state and many other transformations to our society.

But it has always been based on the idea that protest is not enough, not that it is no good at all.

Cooper also told the Guardian that she could understand Corbyn’s support because “I grew up in the 1980s, so I understand. We went on a lot of marches, we had a lot of placards and a lot of drums and we did a lot of angry protesting … it is not enough to be angry at the world. If you are in the Labour Party, we have a responsibility to change the world.”

It seems as if Cooper lost her anger on December 31 1989 and stopped protesting once she turned 21, as she always talks about protest from that decade.

Those were difficult years, when Thatcher held power. She won many significant victories against her opponents like defeating the miners’ strike.

But it is certainly not the case that, even under Thatcher, protests never changed things. Labour nationally was not always much help. It ran for power under the “compromise” candidate Michael Foot. And he lost. Then Labour ran the next two elections under the “moderniser” Neil Kinnock. And he lost. So we had to do the best with protest. And sometimes it worked.

While Thatcher invited the leaders of South African apartheid to Britain, the Anti-Apartheid Movement kept up protests which encouraged and helped the South African people’s victory over the racist state.

We ran a huge, do-it-yourself protest against the poll tax in 1988-9. While Kinnock waffled, this protest movement both beat the tax and finished Thatcher.

This video about London, England says about itself:

London Poll Tax Riot Documentary 1990 – The Battle of Trafalgar FULL

This should be watched with consideration to all other media accounts of rioting:

‘The Battle of Trafalgar: An account of the anti-poll tax demonstration 31st March 1990, one that is radically different from that presented by TV news.

Eye witnesses tell their stories against a backdrop of footage showing the days events as they unfolded. Demonstrators’ testimonies raise some uncomfortable questions. Questions about public order policing, the independence and accountability of the media and the right to demonstrate.’

The Solomon Hughes article continues:

Labour’s national leaders did not support that successful campaign, but they did support others. In 1988 nurses began a grassroots campaign, striking and demonstrating over pay. Many supported their protests. A recent profile of Harriet Harman showed a picture of her standing by these demonstrating nurses.

Fighting the nurses at the same time as trying to increase NHS privatisation and implement health cuts became a political nightmare for the Tories. “Thatcher frightened of meeting nurses” ran one Times headline. After talking tough, Thatcher settled with the nurses and shelved many of the privatisation plans of her “golden boy,” health secretary John Moore.

In 1989 ambulance crews took the most extraordinary action over pay. First they struck, then they occupied their stations and ran the ambulance service themselves with cash raised by the same networks who supported the striking miners. The labour movement as a whole rallied behind the ambulance strike, including Kinnock and the Labour front bench, who helped with protests. Thatcher talked tough and sent in the army. Then she admitted defeat. The ambulance drivers won their pay and in the process kept up the pressure on saving the NHS.

So there was a time when supporting some protest was seen as a mainstream part of Labour — a recognition that people standing up for themselves can always bring some change. But for Cooper, only putting her in power can make any difference. Instead of a movement succeeding, it is all about a step in a career. She shows how much of Labour’s leadership want to transform Labour from part of a movement to an Establishment “team B.” They neither seem to know how to organise a mass meeting or want to. But Jeremy Corbyn still does, which leaves Cooper looking lonely while he goes round the country addressing thousands.

6 thoughts on “‘Protests do work, British Blairite Yvette Cooper’

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