'Stand up to Lambeth' march – Labour councillors: resist or resign!

On Saturday 8 October supporters of London RCG were among the 400 people who turned out in Brixton, southwest London, to support the first ‘Stand Up to Lambeth’ march. Despite attempts by some to deflect the blame from the local Labour council, the real anger against them for their attacks on public services and the social cleansing of working class people out of London’s most unequal borough could not be silenced. The council is demolishing housing estates and playgrounds, making people homeless, and destroying the lives of thousands across the borough. The march demanded the resignation of Lambeth Council leader Lib Peck and her cabinet colleagues, who were represented on the day by a four-headed effigy created by an RCG artist, which was ceremoniously covered with pink glitter outside the old Town Hall.

The march was supported by representatives from six housing estates facing 'regeneration' (demolition) across Lambeth, including Save Central Hill Community, Save Cressingham Gardens and West Bury, as well as the Defend the Ten campaign against library closures, and the Save Brixton Arches campaign against the closures and evictions of small independent businesses in the heart of Brixton. It also received the solidarity of many junior doctors who are struggling against the government’s attacks on their contracts. Many political parties such as the CPGB-ML, Green Party and Socialist Party were joined on the day by anti-racist groups such as Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts and UpRise, but also significantly by many unaffiliated south Londoners angry with the cuts and looking for new political solutions.

RCG comrades ran an open mic on the march with many people from Lambeth speaking out in public for the first time about their experiences of poverty, homelessness and racism in the borough and their desire to organise together to force the council to address these issues – to resist or resign. It was this uncompromising demand which sections of the left and the Labour movement scrambled to disown in the aftermath of the demonstration, proving once again that they will stand with the racist, imperialist Labour Party, against the local communities who are bearing the brunt of the cuts executed by the local Labour council.

Lambeth Momentum, the local section of a movement which seeks to support the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and push the Labour Party towards a left programme, supported the march, and attended with a stall and Momentum banners. Their stall at the beginning, plastered with Labour logos, ignored the key issues the march was campaigning on, and instead offered a petition against new grammar schools – a useful way of turning the focus away from the Labour council, where their Party could make a real difference, and onto the Conservative central government. Following the march, Labour figures began attacking Momentum on social media for supporting a march which was protesting against a Labour council. Ed Balls, the former Shadow Chancellor, tweeted a link to the march flyer adding: ‘This is truly shocking - what on earth do Lambeth Momentum and Unite think they're doing campaigning to oust a Labour council?’ Other Labour figures joined in in an outraged chorus, attempting to deepen already deep splits in the Labour Party between Corbyn’s supporters and the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party. 

Subsequently, both Lambeth Momentum and Unite claimed that they did not support the march, and that they had never agreed for their logos to be used on the publicity. Unite claimed that it was ‘angered’ that its logo had been used on a leaflet calling for the resignation of the local council cabinet, and Lambeth Momentum stated that they did not support a main demand of the march – the resignation of the council leaders. The demands of the march were agreed in weekly, public, democratic organising meetings at which Momentum representatives were present. Lambeth Momentum subsequently deleted past tweets in which they had offered their support for the march, and came out unequivocally on the side of the local council, stating in a tweet: ‘we want to fight with ‪@LambethLabour against Tory cuts’. 

This spineless sentiment would not have resonated with the community campaigns on the march, who recognised that the Labour council is the enemy they fight day to day. As the march approached the final destination of Clapham Common, a section sat down in the road, blocking traffic for more than 30 minutes to ensure that the anger of people in Lambeth against the council was clearly demonstrated. Momentum, and other social democratic sections of march were nowhere to be seen.  Momentum presents itself as a radical force, willing to fight for real change.  However, as this march made clear, when it comes down to it, they will retreat into the arms of even the most savage Labour councils. The march ended with a rally in Clapham Common, where marchers agreed that what was most important now was to continue to organise, to reach out into the sections of our communities being hit by the cuts and to bring people together to build an inclusive and effective movement against the cuts and racism. That this movement can only be built outside the Labour Party is becoming ever clearer to many people in Lambeth. 

We hope to see you at the next ‘Stand Up to Lambeth’ public organising meeting on Friday 14 October at 7pm in the Rotunda on Cressingham Gardens


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