[By Peter Knight, Brighton Thursday branch]
(From top to bottom - The 300-strong trade union-led demonstration, the Socialist Party's Shona McCulloch addresses the rally outside Brighton Town Hall, Labour leader Gill Mitchell condemns the city to cuts, and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition campaigners demonstrate in the town hall lobby after being denied access to the public gallery)
"In the early 1980s there were 20 Labour councils that started a battle against Thatcher's public spending cuts. Two stuck it out to the end - Lambeth and Liverpool. Now we can't even find 20 Labour *councillors* prepared to seriously fight the Tories. We need to step up the campaign over the next four weeks about standing anti-cuts candidates, socialists and trades unionists in the local council elections."
These are the words of Coventry Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist on the night Labour disgracefully backstabbed a red-ribboned Tory knife into the working class of Brighton and Hove, condemning the city to £26 million of unnecessary and unjustified cuts with hundreds of preventable job losses and unemployment misery.
Socialist Party members in the Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition inside Brighton Town Hall, those threatened by imminent redundancies and service cuts, witnessed a horrendous farce of a council budget meeting that agonisingly swung an axe down upon our jobs, communities and services - its handle covered in the bloodied fingerprints of all the bourgeois parties represented in the chamber.
At the last moment the 13 Labour councillors cowardly abstained from the final vote, allowing the 24 Tories to vote through its Labour and Green amended cuts budget. The 13 Greens all voted against thinking it could provide Labour an opportunity to join them in outvoting the Tories and stop the budget from being passed. But it was a sham to think that this Labour Party, now long time bedfellows with the Tories in loyalty to the commands of bankers and the city, would attempt to prevent its own "slightly less nasty" attack on our living conditions from taking place.
For our collective class memory is not that short. We have all just suffered 13 years of a Labour government seduced by the Thatcherite charms of unregulated finance capitalism, in return for smashing our rights, housing, education, health, pay, pensions and conditions in awe of the "post-boom-and-bust" free-market, enslaving the world in debt, war and gross inequalities in their wake. Labour leader Gill Mitchell even tried to deny its previous administration had attempted to flog off all of Brighton's council homes, in one desperately pathetic squalk - a magnificant 78 per cent vote of tenants defeated Labour's costly privatisation plans when it led the council, with many of those Defend Council Housing campaigners present in the public gallery as living witnesses to defeating unjust plans before.
The joint Labour and Green amendment to the Tory budget means a pitiful £2 million difference in cuts. It signals the Green's willingness to work with an untrustworthy Labour Party in a false unholy alliance as an attempt at a united opposition, but the collision of petty differences in the council chamber stank of betrayal and naivety.
One bourgeois capitalist councillor after another stalked, lied and jeered at the public and their colleagues for most of the meeting - Tory Councillor Linda Caulfield gestured inappropriately in smug joy at protestors who had just witnessed losing their jobs at the backstabbing vote. Police were earlier dragooned into clearing the public gallery at the Tory's behest when members of the public protested for an apology after being insulted by Caufield. A group of 20 campaigners refused to leave and sent out a call for others to join the continuing protest. Trade union reps were threatened with arrest for no reason and assembling members of the public were denied entry into the public gallery. In one moment of ludicrousness, Mears forced a security guard to remove a plackard from the public gallery she had deemed threatening, which simply stated the word "Hope."
And no wonder she and her Tory and Labour cronies are scared. Hope is exactly what the people of Egypt, Libya, Tunisa and right across north Africa and the Middle East are wielding. It is flowing thick and warm in the blood of trade unionists in Wisconsin and the United States defending their rights - raising unity of working class consciousness. And it was brought to the door of Brighton council chamber with a Unison, GMB and Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition-led march before the meeting through the city by hundreds of workers, campaigners and socialists to demand an end to being punished for a crisis caused by the rich, and for a real alternative that will make those responsible pay.
Just a day before stalwart of capitalism Bank of England chief Mervin King had expressed that the weight of the crisis is being unjustly laid upon the innocent while bankers still continue to plunder £billions through tax evasion, bonuses and profits, untouched by unwilling ConDem and Labour governments to rein in their class collaborators and masters.
Labour's abandonment of working people could not be made any clearer after callously wasting this no cuts vote opportunity to prevent these unjustified cuts. Affiliated trade union members must be demanding to ask and discuss what there is to gain by clinging onto the dinner jacket coat tails of capitalism's "second eleven," that ceaselessly attacks its members' jobs and hard won rights and conditions in exchange for their obedience and £millions of their members' money.
The words of Socialist Party member Shona McCulloch, who proclaimed to the crowds at the rally outside that "we must reiterate that blunting the edge of the harshest cuts this country has seen for 80 years is not good enough," rang through those Brighton Town Hall corridors and cabinet rooms six hours later after the budget vote, with protesters' chants of "shame on you" at those guilty Labour and Tory councillors scurrying home during the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition-led demonstration, that symbolically voted through its own no cuts budget in the lobby after the meeting.
The Tories will attempt to force the people of Brighton and Hove off Beachy Head with their insidious cuts agenda to make us pay for a crisis that is not our fault. Yet the Labour Party could not help itself by shoving us nearer to the edge. The amended cuts we will see threatened this year, that trade union members and stop the cuts coalition campaigners will need to prepare for to take action to defeat, were drafted with Green Party assistance hoping it was the best it could get - and only in defeat, betrayed by Labour as though witnessing a most awful Shakespeare tragedy, its vote against their own cuts budget melted into a mere gesture of opposition to these ruling class attacks.
Across the city Labour councillors have failed to defend working class people once again, claiming their hands are tied to ConDem laws and bailouts carried out by its own previous Blair-Brown government. Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition campaigners including Socialist Party members demand that they should step aside in shame, if they are not prepared to vote against cuts and lead a charge of protest and strikes against the government's unjust agenda.
Socialist Party members alongside other stop the cuts campaigners are preparing to stand under the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition banner in May's council elections to give working class communities the chance to defend themselves and build an alternative voice in the council chamber. It is calling for people to stand and sign up to its socialist no cuts platform to offer residents in every ward the opportunity to elect real working class representatives - councillors who will follow in the footsteps of the Liverpool fighters of the 1980s, councillors who will vote no to all cuts, and for a real socialist alternative that will make the rich pay.
Visit http://www.tusc.org.uk/ and brightontusc.blogspot.com and help to fight against the cuts at the ballot box.