I’ve given a couple of talks to student occupations recently and I’ve reused a line John McDonnell used at an NUJ meeting recently. The trade union movement has been on its knees, the students are showing us how to stand up. They are an inspiration.
Many trade unionists have said similar things – in official statements like the NUJ National Executive did – or in person at events or meetings. But what are we seeing on the ground?
There were some signs of real solidarity between the trade unions and the student movement – there were a handful of union banners amongst yesterday’s demonstrators and members of the UCU, RMT and other unions got kettled with the students.
But it needs to be a lot bigger. Imagine how different it would have been if, at some stage during the day, a phalanx of FBU firefighters had come down Whitehall, with hundreds of CWU posties coming over Westminster Bridge. Maybe even some of the toughest POA members descending from Victoria Embankment and many, many more RMT members than there were (and there were RMT flags in evidence in a couple of places both inside and outside the kettle).
Maybe much of the media would report the whole thing in a more balanced way if there was an NUJ bloc of well-known journalists who were there in solidarity; not just working like most of us were. And how much better would the demo have been if PCS members in Parliament had come out demonstrating behind the main police line?
The cops would find it far more difficult to recklessly block and beat protesters like they did yesterday if they were facing the assembled membership of the UK’s radical trade unions. Would they kettle firefighters and prison officers the same way they do students and school-kids?
Just expressing solidarity is not enough, comrades, next time we need to be there and make the product of my imagination a reality.
(Note: the above-mentioned unions and others are all members of the non-party affiliated Trade Union Co-Ordinating Group, other unions would also be welcomed!)