The Leeds Trade Council May Day march this year was much bigger and a lot livelier than it had been for many years. Young UK Uncut activists, and fresher trade unionists, outnumbered the ageing Stalinist stalwarts.
Glasgow also had an improved turnout. Even so, the numbers, 400 in Leeds and 3000 in Glasgow, were modest.
Generally, across the country, turnouts remained around the poor levels of recent years, showing that the revitalisation of Trades Councils necessary for vigorous rank-and-file-level coordination between different unions against the coalition government cuts has not yet got anywhere near the level it needs to reach.
London's turnout of maybe four thousand was dominated by Stalinist political-exile groups, as it has generally been in recent years. The Financial Times was able, without gross falsification, to "cover" the march by printing a picture of a large portrait of Stalin being carried by marchers.
One conclusion for the left in London: next year we should come with large, visible, and explicit anti-Stalinist banners.
Leeds TUC May Day march had about 400 people on it. This is actually was much bigger and a lot livelier then it has been for many years. The composition was also much better then recent years, young UK uncut activities and a younger generation of Trade Unionists outnumbered the ageing Stalinists.
The rally was followed by UK Uncut running through town, which gave us a good chance to talk to passers by and sell more papers. Mike W and myself gave out all our leaflets for our next public meeting and sold about 16 papers between us.
Manchester's was, if anything, smaller. About 200. Largely the usual suspects. Leaflet for Liverpool Egypt meeting quite well received.
Dundee (29 April)
About 250 on it, which is the usual size. Visible Socialist Party presence (they have been running some school-student campaigning in Dundee recently). Dundee Trades Council is liberal-Stalinist - politically they are still fairly Stalinist; but because Dundee is a pretty small place the left has to work with each other. So, even "Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism" had a speaker at the rally (about police harassment). Plus also a speaker calling for a boycott of Israel.
Motherwell (30 April)
Something under 200 on it. Normally a bit larger than that (as some people come out from Glasgow) but there was a late change in the starting time (because of a football game) and some people turned up early and went away. Mainly public sector trade unionists on the demonstration, and public sector speakers at the closing rally.
Glasgow (1 May)
Around 3,000 on it. Better than in previous years, probably due to: better organisation, better publicity, better speakers (Len McCluskey, and speaker from Defend Glasgow Services, plus UCS sit-in speaker (40th anniversary)), and better weather. Prize for worst speech jointly shared by: Joy Dunn (was STUC President last year, now political officer for PCS), who spoke of how great the May Day demonstrations in Cuba were this year, and how good it was to have May Day rallies lasting fourteen and a half hours; and Pauline McNeill MSP, who spoke of what a fine bunch of chaps the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are, and so too are Hamas, and we should all boycott, disinvest and sanction Israel.
The May Day march in London was small again this year - maybe four thousand, and dominated by Stalinist political-exile groups, as it has generally been for some years.
Non-Stalinist exile groups - a large contingent of Tamils, and groups like the Worker-communist Party of Iraq and the Worker-communist Party of Iran - were also there, but with fewer numbers and trappings than the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Turkey and similar groups, with their banners, sound systems, and so on.
The Financial Times was able, without gross falsification, to "cover" the march by printing a picture of a large portrait of Stalin being carried by marchers.
The British labour-movement presence was overwhelmingly one of members and sympathisers of left political groups, who had come with their political groups, rather than of trade-unionists organised by their unions or their Trades Councils, let alone any significant number of Labour Party members. A scheduled Labour Representation Committee contingent failed to show.
Some areas outside London showed the same weakness as London. Nottingham had about 100 on its march - although Notts Trades Council and the local anti-cuts campaign had organised a demonstration of one thousand in November. Merseyside had maybe 500.
The Chesterfield May Day event is a very long-held tradition (pretty much nothing has changed since about 1929, especially the politics of some marchers!)
The march was well attended - I'd say maximum 900 but I'm known for being bad at estimating numbers. Fair few union banners, Unison, PCS, UCATT, Chesterfield trades council, UCU among others. We also took along the Sheffield anti-cuts alliance banner and the Sheffield AWL one.
There are lots of stalls throughout the day, mainly held by Stalinists and a mixture of tombolas, sellers of miners' union history memorabilia and plants. Oh, and jam.
Very little mobilisation from the would-be Trotskyist left.
Good reception for the SACA stall, with a few people who hadn't yet heard of it signing up and a good opportunity to talk to other unions. Ok reception for AWL stall.
Speeches that I heard were pretty bland. The event has a family day out feel, with bands and dancing.