In conversation with Daniel Blake at Glasgow May Day

imageFirst platform on which I speak as STUC VP, and I have things to say…

“My name is Daniel Blake”

Paul’s words and Ken’s images have re-ignited compassion, solidarity and determination for an alternative welfare.

For in this fiction – we see our truth, and that of our families, our loved ones, our neighbours and we demand change!

Across communities, through the Peoples Assembly Scotland we have shown some 50 plus free community screening of “I, Daniel Blake”. Hundreds of people cramming in to church halls and community centres each time.

“My name is Daniel Blake: I am not a shirker, a scrounger, a beggar, nor a thief”

“I don’t accept or seek charity. “

May Day is a celebration of International Workers Day. Our March is therefore not a demonstration, and our rally is not a protest. Today is our celebration of international solidarity with workers around the world.

ON May Day we unite in pride for all that we have achieved as a class, and in defiance of those who seek to deny, diminish or demean all that we have struggled for and gained over centuries.

May Day is about Workers Power and Workers Solidarity. We celebrate our hard-fought gains and affirm our resolve to rise for those which we still struggle and demand as workers.

  • Our fundamental right to work
  • Our right to decent working hours
  • Our rights at work
  • Our rights to holidays, weekends, break
  • Our rights to collective organisation through our unions
  • Our rights to combine the forces of our class as a movement
  • Our rights to show solidarity with other workers in struggle at home and abroad
  • Our human rights
  • Our rights to social security
  • Pour right to a living wage, fair pay
  • Our rights to peace and Asylum

“I, Daniel Blake, am a citizen, nothing more and nothing less.”

As whole workers we are powerful – when we combine our industrial rights to our citizens might.

“I, Daniel Blake don’t tug the forelock, but look my neighbour in the eye and help him if I can.”

As workers we are not voting fodder for someone else’s cause or claim. So when we challenge political power, our class is demonised by the establishment and the elites.

Either through:

  • the insult to our intelligence from the international capitalist elite and their advocates Trump, Farage and May
  • or the presumptuous arrogance of the liberal elite – who believe we should shut up and leave them to advocate on our behalf – Clintons, new Labour, Miliband and some mainstream SNP Politicians.

In the two elections coming up : Whether you wear Labour red, SNP yellow or a Green rosette, this movement challenges you, as our goal is to build workers power. Workers power is NOT the nuances over the protections of EU legislation or the single market. Workers power is neither the obsession over Brexit-lite v hard Brexit debate. Nor can Independence or Radical Federalism be a proxy for Workers Power. Workers power will not be fought and won in the corridors of power in Brussels. Westminster, Holyrood or Glasgow City Chambers.

Workers power will only be won in the workplace, on the streets and in our communities – as whole workers, in all the places that each of us as worker and citizens have power and influence. And only those politicians that support our demands and then act to make the change can be worthy of our support. Because Austerity is austerity whatever the flag over the building.

I call in Nicola Sturgeon to join Jeremy Corbyn in committing to break the 1% Tory pay cap for public sector workers.

“I, Daniel Blake, am not a client, a customer, nor a service user. “

When the Tories announced half of Glasgow’s jobcentres are to close, PCS campaigned with communities united to save the centres. This is not an industrial campaign about our members jobs. It is workers coming together for and with with people like Daniel Blake having access to local support, not having to pay £4.50 and take two buses to get a job centre. PCS presses for a welfare alternative across the UK. Now the Scottish Govt have a chance to to deliver the 11 benefits devolved to the new Scottish Social Security agency with dignity, respect and decency.  PCS will work with them if they do, and hold them to account if they don’t.

“My name is Daniel Blake. I paid my dues, never a penny short, and proud to do so. “

When the Tories announced that 19 tax offices are to close around Scotland, we fought back. The PCS campaign is not just about jobs, or saving offices. It’s  about tax justice.

Remove at your peril the skills and knowledge in tax collection, inspection and compliance. 30,000 tax jobs were cut across the Uk as billions are stolen from our public services by global enterprises and the super rich. It’s our money, we who paid our dues, and we demand it back.

“My name is Daniel Blake. I’m not a National Insurance Number or blip on a screen. “

Let me Pay credit to workers currently in struggle in this city: Glasgow jannies – an inspiring struggle against an intransigent Labour council leadership over 1 jannie, 1 school; FE Lecturers demanding SNP govt honour the deal met 13 months ago; My own members EHRC escalated strike action next week to reinstate the EHRC 8 – trade unionists, BME, part time and disabled staff sacked by the Tory govt; and local govt workers balloting for Fair Pay.

We are all Daniel Blake, and I am also Lynn Henderson

I have Pride in this city, my adopted home, and the prominence and history of the women and men of our movement within it. Glasgow May Day and our movement is the story of my life…

  • I was here at student rallies in this bandstand and witnessed Strathclyde police horses galloping down St Vincent street on to our sit downs.
  • I was here when our movement brought Nelson Mandela to George Square and when Daniel Ortega, then revolutionary śandinista leader addressed May Day on Glasgow Green.
  • I was here when we marched in support of the miners, the ambulance workers, the firefighters, the teachers and when the Caterpillar workers placed the Pink Panther tractor in George Square.
  • I was here when we held a die-in George Square against nuclear weapons.
  • I was here when we committed to pay no poll tax.
  • I was here when we filled George Square as Scotland United when no Tories were returned to Scotland to demand a Scottish Parliament, when we won that referendum and in the Indy ref of 2014.
  • I was here when we rallied against section 28 and marched in Pride.
  • I was here when 80,000 of us marched on Tony Blair at the SECC “Don’t attack Iraq” and when we gather at 6pm at Buchanan steps against bombings and atrocities.
  • I was here when we co-ordinated public sector strikes against pensions attack.
  • I was here when we brought Tony Benn to Kelvingrove Park in the pouring rain in our march against austerity.
  • I was here when donated food and money to the Occupy movement in George Square then the Kelvingrove putting green.
  • I was here when we all brought a bag of messages to the Ma Day rally in solidarity with those dependent on foodbanks and I was here when the May Day March was led by the Recovery movement.
  • I was here when we marched through the snow for the St Andrews Day March against racism and fascism.
  • I have also been here, comrades when people were shouted down from this platform, when counter rallies and side megaphone gigs were held to undermine the unity of our movement.

No one on this platform should ever be shouted down. On May Day we speak with one voice – that of our class. Our class is diverse and so is our movement. We embrace into our folds the spirit of the Glasgow girls defiance against dawn raids on asylum seekers, Better than Zero, Women5050, Disabled People Against the cuts, LGBT + campaigners – all asserting their rightful place in our movement.

As a working class woman who left school at 15, who spent years unemployed, underemployed, in precarious work, I am incredibly honoured to be a national officer of my union. It is to all our shame that I am One of the very few women in our movement to hold such senior office in Scotland.

When I became a full time officer, my late great mentor comrade Bill Speirs said to me: “there will never be a day you will wake up and not feel the honour and privilege to serve for your class” and that responsibility to our class drives me onwards.

I have no doubt about my own abilities, confidence, yet I know… I speak from this platform today because brothers who came before me chose to have faith in a wee lassie from Leith … and because sisters stood by my side when things got tough.

Now, elected to STUC VP, let me be clear. My Role in the STUC and the wider movement is not as a rep or delegate of my union, or a full timer, but as a representative of our class.

More than anything, I ache with pride that at last, in Satnam Ner we have a black leader of the STUC. Satnam is a committed trade unionist and activist, and is a role model and an inspiration to many others for whom he has opened the door. I wish him a very successful year.

My name is Daniel Blake. I am a man, not a dog. “As such, I demand you treat me with respect”.

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