Right to protest, right to strike

Submitted by AWL on 25 May, 2021 - 6:48 Author: Editorial
Woman with 'Right to Strike' placard

The campaign to stop the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is relaunching on 29 May with a fourth national Kill the Bill day of action: information here.

Labour movement activists should get out on the streets with trade union, Labour Party and campaign delegations and banners.

Socialists need to push harder in the labour movement, both trade unions and Labour Party, to mobilise it in support of the struggle against the Police Bill.

We need to widen discussion, in the labour movement and among Kill the Bill activists, about the right to protest.

If the Police Bill passes, it will severely limit the right to protest. But that right has already been restricted repeatedly, over decades. In particular, since the late 1980s, the right to strike has been more narrowly constrained than the Tories now want to make the right to demonstrate.

The right to strike is essential as a means for workers to defend and improve their conditions and as a potentially extremely powerful means of protest. But most forms of strikes and industrial action have now been illegal for over thirty years, and the rest are allowed only in tightly controlled circumstances.

These legal shackles on workers’ right to protest were maintained in full during the 13 years of the Blair and Brown Labour governments. Now, in addition to the specific threat the Police Bill poses to strikes and trade unions, the Tories plan to ban large-scale strikes on public transport.

The Free Our Unions campaign fights for the labour movement to defy the anti-union laws and clearly and militantly demand their repeal.

The right to demonstrate was curtailed by the 1986 Public Order Act (introduced after the defeat of the year-long national miners’ strike, the decisive turning point in the Tories repressing the workers’ movement), the 1994 Criminal Justice Act and the 2011 Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, among others.

As with some other defeats and regressions, these earlier restrictions on the right to protest have become implicitly accepted, not discussed or thought about.

To the immediate demand to Kill the Bill, we should add pro-active demands to remove the older restrictions on our rights — including, perhaps most importantly, on the right to strike.

Solidarity is promoting a model motion on the Police Bill, the right to protest and other demands on policing and criminal justice for labour movement and other groups.

And there’s another model motion for Labour Party conference motions (being debated between now and September) here.

• Newcastle activists are raising money for the legal costs of protesters arrested at their Kill the Bill protest on May Day: see here.

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