Nottingham Mayday 2011Tagged as: anarchists cuts international_workers_day march mayday may_day unions work
Neighbourhoods: nottingham speakers_corner victoria_park
On Saturday April 30th, Nottingham celebrated International Worker's Day.
As last year, the march assembled at Victoria Park in Sneinton. While waiting for the march to get started, participants could peruse stalls run by various local campaigns: Anarchist Black Cross, SWP, Unite Against Fascism, Socialist Party, Save Hayward House Daycare, Anarchist Federation (who shared a stall with People's Histreh, the Sparrows' Nest and also ran a beer tent), Notts SOS, CND, Green Party, Revolutionary Praxis, Greenpeace, Nottinghamshire Pride (one of the few new faces), Friends of the Earth, Health in Your Environment and Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Despite the wide range of groups in attendance, the focus of the events, was inevitably the cuts and resistance to them. Before the march began, demonstrators were addressed by speakers including a representative from Notts SOS, the local anti-cuts coordinating campaign. After that and a brief session by the Clarion Choir, marchers made their way into town for a rally at Speaker's Corner (i.e. the Brian Clough statue).
At Speaker's Corner, a lorry served as a stage for various speeches including by the PCS and about the attempted sell-off of woodlands (this delivered by ex-MP and rambler Paddy Tipping) and the situation in Libya. Here there was a much greater number of "ordinary" people passing by than in Victoria Park. The march also found itself joined by a number of pro-AV campaigners, met by the indifference they have no doubt become so familiar with,
Once the speeches were over, the march made its way back to Victoria Park, through Hockley. This took us past the local Tory Party HQ, but without incident.
Once back at the park there were more speeches including a candidate in the upcoming local elections standing for the Trade Unions and Socialist Coalition, UK Uncut and Unite Against Fascism. There was also music from Ngomo, Wholesome Fish, another band whose name I forget and the annual speech from Pat at Veggies about the interconnections between different campaigns.
Later on, a number of people drifted off to visit a few local tax dodging corporations. I didn't join them, but heard afterwards that this all went very well and Vodafone was forced to close. Again.
All in all, it was a pleasant enough day. There were perhaps 3-400 people on the march itself. This isn't an entirely awful turnout, certainly by normal Nottingham standards, but is probably less than have been on Mayday events in recent years. It is particularly disappointing given everything that has happened over the last year with the wave of university occupations, March 26th, UK Uncut and everything else.
The turnout at Chesterfield Mayday, which I attended the following Monday (report to follow), was also disappointing and reports indicate that the same was true of the annual GLATUC-organised event in London. This is not necessarily a bad sign. Numbers are not everything. Perhaps it just means that those newly radicalised by the anti-cuts movement aren't interested in the rituals of the old left. Nevertheless, people will inevitably use numbers on demonstrations (inevitably filtered by bizarre arithmetics of either the police or the left) as a crude proxy for the health of our movement. It is likely that the two long weekends had an impact on turnout with many people taking the opportunity for an extended holiday, but whatever the reason, I think it is important that we take time to think seriously about the the implications.
It was particularly notable how thin on the ground the trade unions were. There were few union banners on the march and the NUT even had to make a request from the platform for somebody to help carry theirs as they were unable to find two people. A few trade unionists made speeches, but there were no trade unions stalls (although I understand that a number of unions had requested one and failed to turn up). This does not bode well for the trade union movement's ability to turn out its members (of whom there are millions), even with several of them preparing for large scale industrial action at the end of June in defence of pensions.
On a more positive note, it was striking that the largest contingent on the march was anarchists. This was helped in no small part by the fact that the Anarchist Federation had produced a range of placards offering an alternative to the usual. This is a change from past years where the anarchos, although present, have tended to fade into the background. Possibly this has been helped by sudden surge in interest in anarchism with the anti-cuts movement and royal wedding hysteria. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come locally.