On the weekend of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, and in the 150th year since the TUC was founded in Manchester, May Day took on an extra significance this afternoon, as around five hundred people took part in the traditional Salford parade.
Beginning in Bexley Square, the march was led by a samba band, behind which was a sea of union and campaign banners expressing everything from Save The NHS, to Global Justice, to Labour Party flags, to banners expressing disillusionment with both Labour and Tory parties.
The parade meandered through the Trinity estate and past the site of the demolished Three Crowns pub on King Street – now a grass verge – where, in October 1866, a meeting took place of the Manchester and Salford Trades Council which led ultimately to the formation of the TUC.
The march ended at the Sacred Trinity Church on Chapel Street, with an array of speakers from a wide cross-section of the community.
Kevin Lucas from UNISON hailed Salford's "proud radical heritage", making reference to the 1866 TUC birth meeting, the 1911 general strike and the 1931 Battle of Bexley Square... "I know from my work with Salford's trade union branches today that that revolutionary radical spirit lives on" he said, adding that, in Paul Dennett, Salford has one of the most "progressive leaders of local government..."
Annette Wright, from Manchester TUC, made also reference to the TUC's local origins and a subsequent meeting to improve working class people's representation in Parliament, founding the Labour Representation Committee which led to the formation of the Labour Party... "This is our labour and trade union movement" she said "And it all started here."
Salford UNISON's Steve North, speaking on behalf of the campaign to save five local authority nurseries, gave a bit of the recent history – the big public meeting opposing Salford Council's proposed closures, the U-turn by Salford Mayor Paul Dennett, the joint 'new territory' campaign with the Mayor to lobby the Government to change its funding formula, the march in Salford and the trip to Westminster to meet with MPs...
"We'll keep fighting to keep those nurseries open" he said "We've got a meeting with the Government on 16th May...they don't even need to spend any money, just change the rules that councils have to pass that money onto private providers. It's a privatisers' charter and we won't stand for it...
"While we're still facing the Tory Government and still faced with austerity...we need to find ways to work together to campaign against the cuts that are impacting on this city and other cities right now" he added "...We have one common enemy – the ruling class and the Tories that represent them in Westminster..."
Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long-Bailey emphasised that Salford and Manchester were "the birthplace of socialism, and we're proud of that but what's happened since we last met in Bexley Square a year ago has been horrific...
"We have seen our communities go through immeasurable pain; we've got real life Daniel Blake stories here in this city, people who have died after being assessed unfairly for their disability benefits and put through strain and stress" she explained.
"We've got people who don't have a home to call their own and people sleeping on the streets across this city and Greater Manchester because we've got a Government that's not interested in providing enough money for social housing" she added "And we've got more food banks opening across the city...even people working full time can't make ends meet."
Making reference to the McStrikers she noted that "people are being unfairly treated at work and subjected to the worst pay and conditions that we have seen in a generation".
To 'cheer' the crowd up, Long-Bailey talked about the General Election, saying that "despite the smears that Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party had to endure...we saw the biggest shift in the polls in British electoral history". And on the local elections, added that "we won seats that we've never won before..."
Concluding, she said that "change is coming and it's coming a lot sooner than we think...I still think that we'll end up having a General Election either this year or early next year...We will transform Britain and we will transform Salford..."
A speaker from the large Kurdish Labour Party contingent at the parade reminded the crowd of the revolutionary ethics of May Day and resistance movements across the world. He denounced the Turkish "fascist" Government which banned marches and stood with big companies that "suck our blood".
Closer to home, Ian Allinson, one of the Fujitsu strikers sacked for fighting job losses and victimisation of union reps, told how they had taken 59 days of strike action over the last year...
"It's got pretty vicious" he said. Of six who decided to fight and were sacked, two were union reps, the majority were black, the majority were disabled and one was a woman who complained about sex discrimination... "That's the kind of company we're talking about" he said "And if I tell you that that isn't the typical demographic of the company, I'm sure you're not too surprised.
"We've been fighting them hard...the campaign is going on" he explained "They're trying to get rid of anyone who speaks out or whose face doesn't fit, and we're determined to fight and make sure that's put a stop to because it's not just about the handful of us fighting for our jobs, it's about defending the union organisation that's been built there over a number of years.
"The reason why they attack union reps like myself is because they want to be able to get away with whatever they want to do with the workforce – to cut jobs, pay badly, to move work around the world wherever they can make the most profit, and they know that a strong union stands in the way of that" he insisted "We're keeping on fighting..."
Paul Kelly of Salford TUC, said that he'd heard some fine words spoken at the rally but "fine words need to be backed up by fine actions...to stop this carnage happening to our class."
The rally concluded with a call to action from Stand Up To Racism, to oppose the Football Lads Alliance which is intending to march on May 19th in Manchester near the anniversary of the Arena attack...
"For those who don't know, they have been organising on the terraces" she explained "They campaign against Muslims and they say it's all about extremism but the only extremists that we see are the Football Lads themselves...
"They are the extremists that want to come to Manchester and use the year anniversary of the attack to build racism and hatred and division in our communities" she said "Show them that they don't represent the people of Manchester. They and the Tories want us to believe that working class people are racist, that we don't care about each other but that's not true. Let's take to the streets on 19th May and show the racists that we are the majority and we'll no longer be the silent majority..."