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October 28, 2012
October 28, 2012

Plebs in London

Author: Thodoris Rakopoulos Translator: Anna Papoutsi
Source: Epoxi  Category: Protest
This article is also available in: eles
Plebs in London

Andrew Mitchell was, until September the 4th, a member of the government, the most classist cabinet Britain has seen since the beginning of the 90s. The Minister for International Development passed by bike in front of the police guards of the Ministry, to whose polite request for an ID, he yelled amiss and multiple times the “f” word next to the adjective “plebs”.

The incident inflamed the anger of many, at the 20th of October demonstration in central London against the new austerity measures announced by George Osborne, the British Chancellor. Workers from around the country participated in the demonstration, while mobilisations took place also in Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland.

“We are in this together”

This massive demonstration was organised by TUC (Trade Unions Congress) that counts more than 6.5 million members. The rallying cry “we are the plebs” was yelled by many angry protestors. The slogan is one of the many semantically interesting expressions of protest originating from the workers’ common sense that many austerity policies resonate an organised defamation campaign against the working class attempted by the coalition government of Tories and LibDems. Another popular slogan sneers at the formal government rhetoric “We are in this together”, against the crisis. One of the perkiest blocks of the demonstration was composed by the PIIGS, an initiative of immigrants from Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain, who also mocked the racist rhetoric on the affected by the deep crisis peripheral Europe. Ahead of PIIGS’ drums marched the London branch of Syriza[1] and behind it, in exemplary sobriety but in full gear the black block (the coincidence made many Greeks sneered “where is Dendias[2]?”)

British unions, headed by the most populous Unison and Unite, led the rally. TUC has re-discovered, after the idle era of the Labour party –with whom they still have good relations– its past mobility and the all-age turnout to the rally indicates that the older generations do not forget the Poll Tax[3] clashes and the younger ones have fresh in their memory the student demonstrations of the 2010 winter. The shrinkage by half of TUC members within 20 years seems to be reversing due to the developments: the Union estimated that 150,000 responded to the calling for the demonstration (although 250,000 was the number of protestors during the March 2012 rally). TUC’s president, Frances O’Grady, refreshes with her presence the talks about the need of a constant struggle, so that the victories of past generations are not torn down by the aggressive neo-liberalism of the coalition government.

A priori disapproval for Ed Miliband

Police presence was discrete throughout the duration of the huge (2.5 klm) and long lasting demonstration that begun from Embankment and ended in Hyde Park, passing in front of the Parliament Building and Pall Mall Street. The rally lasted for hours and ended up in a packed Hyde Park, where dozens of guest speakers aligned with the workers’ demands for the protection of the NHS against privatisation and nurses lay-offs, for the rollback of the extremely flexible labour market, for the re-determination of public expenditure (antiwar slogans dominated the demonstration) and for the re-establishment of aspects of social welfare (benefits to mothers) that the current government is demolishing. Among the speakers was Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party. We shall see what and how much he means the things he said about the protection of the work force, if he ever becomes PM – but we doubt it a priori. Besides, when he announced, in the middle of his speech, that there will be cuts even under a Labour government, the crowds jeered massively.


[1] SYRIZA: left-wing party that, after the 2012 election, is the second largest political force in Greece

[2] Nikos Dendias is Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection. He is the political supervisor of a Police Force that openly beats and tortures, the inspirer of pogrom-like operations such as Zeus (against migrants) and Thetis (against drug addicts) and responsible for the eviction of the longest-standing squats of the city (which have been cultural centres and strongholds against the neo-nazi Golden Dawn)

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