Over 150,000 people marched on Saturday (20 October 2012) in London, Glasgow and Belfast for alternatives to the UK government's cuts agenda. Disabled people, unemployed workers, trade unionists, civil society organisations, faith groups and other members of the public came together under the title “A Future That Works”.
The marches were organised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) with the support of the Coalition of Resistance and other groups.
As opinion polls show increase opposition to government claims that austerity is necessary to reduce the deficit, many of the marchers sought to highlight concrete alternatives to cuts.
They included calls for a crackdown on corporate tax avoidance, cancellation of plans to renew the Trident nuclear weapons system, an end to subsidies for the arms industry and a cap on private sector rents to reduce the housing benefit bill without punishing the poorest.
Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, accused the government of making “economically illiterate cuts”.
She told fellow marchers, “We must invest in decent homes, renewable energy, public services, public transport and the infrastructure we need to bring manufacturing back to Britain. We must also restore food production systems within this country. All of these things are urgent, and need investment and planning to deliver.”
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband spoke at the rally at the end of the London march but declined to join the march itself. He was jeered by a large percentage of those present as he said that a Labour government would also make public service cuts. But he promised that he would not cut taxes for millionaires while raising them for everyone else.
The rally received messages of support and solidarity from people campaigning against austerity policies in Greece, Spain, France and elsewhere.
Several trade union leaders, including Bob Crow of the RMT and Mark Serwotka of the PCS, called for serious consideration to be given to a general strike in response to the cuts. Frances O'Grady, General Secretary designate of the TUC, promised to fight as hard for the mass of Britain's population as Tory ministers do for the richest.
But the TUC was criticised in some quarters for filling the stage with trade union leaders while largely excluding grassroots campaigning groups such as Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and UK Uncut.
Members of Christianity Uncut, a network of anti-capitalist Christians, were present on the marches in Belfast and Glasgow as well as London. They marched with the slogan “Don't punish the poor for the sins of the rich”. The group received messages from Christians who were unable to join the marches in person but offered their support and prayers.
Christianity Uncut pointed out that many churches are witnessing the effects of growing poverty, unemployment and homelessness in their own communities. They urged Christians to be at the forefront of campaigns for alternatives.
“As a Christian, as well as part of wider society, I believe I have a responsibility to campaign against the causes of poverty as well as working to minimise the effects,” explained Sally Rush, who travelled from Milton Keynes to join the protest in London.
She added, “For me regularly praying 'your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven' means I have to actively engage in seeking that kingdom. That's why I'm marching.”