Tens of thousands demand action at Trades Union Congress rally on eve of UK rail strikes

An estimated 40-50,000 people demonstrated in London Saturday in the “We demand better” cost of living rally held by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

A section of the TUC rally in Parliament Square (WSWS Media)

The protest was called on the eve of next week’s national rail strikes by 50,000 rail workers to be held on June 21, 23 and 25, against wage, job and pension cuts.

Seeking to maintain control of an emerging strike wave, the union bureaucracy pulled out all the stops. Even so, while the demo was somewhat larger than the annual TUC protests in recent years, it was much smaller than that held in 2011 of around 200,000, called after the Conservative government came to power and first launched a savage austerity offensive.

Organized amid a powerful sentiment among workers for taking on the Johnson government and the employers, the turnout testifies to the decline in the authority of the trade unions after decades of betrayals—that a necessary turn to more militant rhetoric cannot conceal.

Many of those participating were of an older layer of trade union representatives, including local officials, shop stewards and union activists. But also present were thousands of workers and young people looking for a means to fight the devastating assault on living standards and the impact of inflation running at 11 percent. On the day of the rally, the TUC released research showing that the average worker lost out on nearly £20,000 in real earnings between 2008 and 2021.

The bankrupt politics of the TUC was confirmed at the event’s closing rally held in Parliament Square. An amnesty was provided for Johnson’s political partners, the Labor Party. Suspended former leader Jeremy Corbyn was excluded and left an isolated figure wandering around the demonstration, having handed the party back to the Blairite right without a fight.

New leader Sir Keir Starmer had no intention of appearing anywhere which might associate him in any way with strikes by the working class, but his deputy leader Angela Rayner and Tony Blair clone Wes Streeting were given opportunities for a photo op, including with TUC leader Frances O’Grady, while keeping their political distance by mutual agreement with the trade union bureaucracy.

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