Greater Manchester Association of Trades Union Councils

Outline Proposals for a multi-legged “Peterloo 1819-2019  March for Democracy”

To conclude with a commemorative ceremony for those who died and were injured on 16thAugust 1819+ follow on ‘Rally for Democracy’+ ‘People’s Festival + Picnic’. All the latter to take place in city centre Manchester (as close as possible to the site of the 1819 meeting) on Sunday 18thAugust 2019 – which is the nearest Sunday to the 16th. The precise venue(s) yet to be finalised.

“….the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, is to win the battle of democracy.”K. Marx, F. Engels The Communist Manifesto

“Arise like lions from your slumber, in unvanquishable a number; shake the chains to earth like dew, which in sleep have fallen on you; Ye are many, they are few” P. Shelley The Masque of Anarchy

The Peterloo Massacre has been called one of the defining moments of its age.

It should of course, be remembered for the brutal attack it was on a peaceful crowd of around 80,000 working class people, many dressed in their ‘Sunday Best’, who had come from all over Lancashire and Cheshire as well as from present day Greater Manchester, to consider just one thing “…the propriety of adopting the most LEGAL and EFFECTUAL means of obtaining a reform of the Common House of Parliament”, the meeting to be addressed by the famous radical democratic orator Henry Hunt.




 

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Greater Manchester Association of Trades Union Councils

Outline Proposals for a multi-legged "Peterloo 1819-2019  March for Democracy"

To conclude with a commemorative ceremony for those who died and were injured on 16thAugust 1819+ follow on 'Rally for Democracy'+ 'People's Festival + Picnic'. All the latter to take place in city centre Manchester (as close as possible to the site of the 1819 meeting) on Sunday 18thAugust 2019 - which is the nearest Sunday to the 16th. The precise venue(s) yet to be finalised.

"….the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, is to win the battle of democracy."K. Marx, F. Engels The Communist Manifesto

"Arise like lions from your slumber, in unvanquishable a number; shake the chains to earth like dew, which in sleep have fallen on you; Ye are many, they are few" P. Shelley The Masque of Anarchy

The Peterloo Massacre has been called one of the defining moments of its age.

It should of course, be remembered for the brutal attack it was on a peaceful crowd of around 80,000 working class people, many dressed in their 'Sunday Best', who had come from all over Lancashire and Cheshire as well as from present day Greater Manchester, to consider just one thing "…the propriety of adopting the most LEGAL and EFFECTUAL means of obtaining a reform of the Common House of Parliament", the meeting to be addressed by the famous radical democratic orator Henry Hunt.

Little were those who took part to know that their huge number alone, which Joyce Marlow described as "The most numerous meeting that ever took place in Great Britain" and equated "…with six per cent of the population of Lancashire, or half the population of the immediate area around Manchester at the time", combined with a paranoia on the part of local Magistrates that the crowd's intent was the exact opposite of the meeting's stated purpose (i.e. was actually a planned insurrection) and/or was an unwelcome 'development' on any account in terms of the maintaining the political power and social position of the wealthy land owners and mill owners around at the time, would lead to the 16 brutal deaths and 500-800 injuries it did, at the hands of the local Yeoman Cavalry, and army troops.

Peterloo, however, in spite of the terrible events of 16thAugust 1819, and subsequent legal clampdown on the right to assemble and freedom of the press that followed it, should also be remembered and commemorated and might be considered a 'defining moment' for being the first time the working class in the world's first industrial nation had organised and mobilised in such unprecedented numbers (which would seem almost impossible 200 years on) in support of political demands for electoral reform and working class political representation in Parliament. It marked the bloody beginnings of what has now become a two century long political struggle by working people in this country for a more democratic political system and more democratic form of Government combined with greater democratic and civil rights at work and in society as a whole. It is struggle which has helped to shape our political history and political evolution to this day, and which is far from having been concluded.


The main slogans on the crowd's banners at Peterloo for example, in addition to support for universal suffrage for all 21 year old men (there were also calls for votes for women), annual parliaments, votes by (secret) ballot, equal representation (in relation to Parliamentary seats - many MPs at the time being elected by so-called 'Rotten Boroughs" consisting of only a few voters whereas Manchester and other large North West towns for example had no MPs at all) i.e. some of the basic principles of democracy we might recognise today, and demands which were taken up once again by the Henry Hunt as MP for Preston, the Chartists, and Women's Suffragists everywhere following the 1832 Reform Act which did little to extend the franchise, or democratise the election of members to the House of Commons.

The Peterloo marchers' slogans also included the call for an end to the Corn Laws, which had caused high bread prices in a period of increasing unemployment and recesssion, and which was one of the key economic factors driving the mood for change on the part of the working class at the time; many believing universal suffrage and equal representation would allow them to achieve that, and see the end of other unjust laws. Also allow them to begin to shape society in their own interests, rather than those of the land and factory owners, etc.

The main aims of the People March for Democracy we are proposing are to:

* raise not only public awareness of the events which took place 200 years ago in Manchester, and to encourage people to get involved in commemorating the massacre, but to also to celebrate working class's political struggle and achievements since then in the form of universal education, the unions, the NHS, universal suffrage for 18s and over, etc.

* to encourage as widespread as possible national, regional and local discussions and debate on the type of proposals/demands the Peterloo marchers were they alive today, as well as ordinary working class people in the here and now, might raise to enable the working class to win the continuing 'battle of democracy' within our lifetimes.

* to help organise and mobilise working class communities via the their existing organisations and/or other bodies (tenants' associations, community organisations, people's assemblies, unite community branches, union branches, trades councils, even peterloo march committees,etc) in order to help raise working class political consciousness and organisation in pursuance of the above. In connection with this to help educate the public in general concerning who is and who isn't objectively working class and middle class (and why some working class people think they're middle class and are supportive of the existing state of affairs), the reality of the dominance of the working class numerically over other classes, and the requirement on their part of only effective organisation and united action to see almost anything achieved politically including at elections. (We want to produce "working class and proud" badges and t-shirts, etc to help promote this).
(We also want to produce ones encouraging people to get involved in political action in order to change the way things currently are e.g. "People Make History" and other one's saying 'We're equal but different!")

* promote the idea of a national people's assembly for democracy/constitutional convention to be organised in the latter half of 2020 which should seek to elaborate a series of agreed proposals to 'democratise' the country, and enable ordinary working class people to take democratic control of society at all levels. Also, a proposed bill of citizen's rights and responsibilities.

Some of the issues the discussion/debate might take a look at on the March, at the Festival and at a subsequent proposed Convention/People's Assembly.

(These are just some ideas and not in any particular order. They are also not definitive - but we may just want to focus on a few). The idea is not to immediately seek to engage the public or whoever with a preconcieved set of proposals or demands but to coax out via wider discussion and debate what the majority of ordinary working people think constitutes 'more democratic' and also worth campaigning for to become law.

* Are annual parliaments called for by Henry Hunt, some of the Peterloo marchers, and the Chartists later, something we should be calling for in the 2020s?

* Do national referenda have a role to play in the 21stcentury. If so, how should they be called and organised?

* What role might new technology have in the conduct of future elections/referenda/other ballots?

* If a 52% to 48% vote is a democratic mandate to leave the EEU, why do we accept the election of a Government for up to five years elected on 40% or less of the vote, and most people voting against the Government? How can this be said to be genuinely democratic? What can be done to change the present system if that's what the majority of people want?

* Should parliament be truly representative of the people and elected by an agreeable system of proportional representation? If so, how can the link with local constituencies be maintained if people want that too.

* Should voting be compulsory in all elections?

* Should re-open nominations or "None of the above" be included on ballot papers?

* Should 16 year olds be given the vote?

* Do we need a second parliamentary chamber? If so, is the House of Lords a good example of one, and of a modern day democracy? What's wrong with enlarged select committees incorporating experts and members of the public to scrutinise and make recommendations on all proposed legislation for example, as an alternative to a second chamber?

* The NHS is supposed to belong to us all but few of us have any say in the provision of local services or in proposals such as those currently being discussed by Wigan, Wrightington & Leigh NHS Trust, who want to privatise all their non-medical staff. How can this be remedied, and control of the NHS made more democratic and accountable to the public it serves?

* Most people support devolution of power downwards to the regions of England, and more locally as well, but the people have never been consulted either on their own views, or on the present state of affairs, nor have they ever been asked whether they are agreeable to it. How do people think devolution should work, what power and financial resources should be devolved and to whom? Do people believe some form of local taxation system should be allowed as part of any 'devolution' of power? How should any devolved powers be democratically controlled and made accountable to the public?

* Lancashire County Council planners refused Cuadrilla's application to start work on a proposed fracking site on the Fylde, a decision supported widely by locals; but the Government overturned the decision in the alleged 'national interest'. What do people think about this example and the principle of the idea that something might be in the national interest and therefore more important then any local decision or opposition?

There are enough examples above already to give everyone an idea of the type of things we might ask as part of the People's March for Democracy we are proposing. It does not preclude or rule out during the course of the debate, everyone expressing their own views on each of these and other issues (including ourselves), and in anyone organising support for those ideas.

What we want to do is promote the fullest debate and agreement, not to try and impose our own views on all those wanting to get involved, butto politically win them.

PRACTICALITIES OF THE MARCH

In 1993 as part of the fight to save Lancashire's last remaining deep coal mine at Parkside, Newton-le-Willows members of the NW Miners' Support Group network, Lancs Women Against Pit Closures and activists from several NW trades councils, organised with much less notice a succesful 'four legged' "People's March Against Unemployment & Pit Closures" which culiminated in a final rally at the Pit involing around 3,000 people. The marches where supported by the Lancs NUM, the NW TUC (who bankrolled a great deal of the cost) several Euro MPs and quite a few NW Labour MPs, local Labour Councils, Labour Mayors & Council leaders, in addition to most NW trades councils. We are looking to organise and mobilise considerably more people in 2019. The basic idea of that march in 1993 however, differs little from the format of what we are proposing in terms of a multi-legged march to Peterloo next year.

In 1993 we had four legs, each with its own 'leg committee, representatives of which attended the central organising committee which included members of the NWTUC, NUM and Lancs WAPC and which took charge of organising the final rally.

One of the legs started up on the Wirral, linking up en route with workers in struggle at Arrow Park Hospital, then moving on to Liverpool were as on other legs they were joined by the local TUC members and other trades unionists and given a civic reception by the Mayor with supporting councillors in attendance. An opportunity was provided at each 'stop off' to explain what the march was about and answer questions/give interviews to the media.. A big social was held in the evening of the first day in Liverpool. The following day the march proceeded to Prescot & then to St. Helens were a civic reception was again held, and prior to which the marchers occupied the local job centre and chained themselves in the building. In the evening they travelled to Earlestown for another march social on the eve of the final rally. They marched from there in the morning to join up with the other legs at the agreed meet up point in Newton-le-Willows.

The East Lancs leg in 1993 started with a civic send off in Burnley, saw 80 marchers walk the entire route via Rawtenstall & Bury (everyone stayed in a local church overnight) then move on to Bolton for a reception at the Socialist Club the following lunchtime, and a rally in Bolton Town centre afterwards. From there the marchers travelled to Atherton (linking up with the CWU's fight against the closure of post offices and privatisation of post office counters) on to Leigh for a stop over, where they watched a Satirical Comedy show put on by three symapthetic actors and a civic reception attended by the Labour leader of Wigan Council.

The other legs followed a roughly similar pattern (as much prior publicity as possible including public meetings along the route beforehand wherever possible) and it terms of the recruitment of marchers and sourcing of support vehicles and fundraising both beforehand and during the the march, including from Labour controlled Councils and individual councillors, etc. Civic receptions/send offs at all stop off points where possible. The march linking up with local campaigners/trades councils/support groups affected by (in 2019's case) the existing political set up (and austerity) and who want to change it, including those opposed to the anti-union laws, cuts in local Government and other public sector funding, NHS privatisation and accountability, decisions on fracking and climate change, legal aid cuts, in support of electoral reform, etc.

Those who can't take part in any of the legs of the march (even for example through their own town or city on route to Manchester) but who are supportive, might be encouraged to attend the final day of events in central Manchester (including via the organisation of free/heavily subsidised transport from London and other big cities) and special buses in Greater Manchester from outlying areas. Also, to help promote the march on convential and new social media as a Peterloo Armchair Activist.

The 1993 North & Central Lancs Leg - Started in Lancaster passed through Garstang and stopped in Preston for a civic reception and evening meeting and social on day 1. On day 2 travelling through Chorley (lunchtime public meeting) to Wigan in the evening. The following morning on to Earlestown and Newton-Le-Willows. In 2019 we would propose this leg join marchers in Wigan and then proceed through Hindley to Atherton (possibly joining with Westhoughton marchers in Atherton) and stopping there overnight, then onto Tyldesley, Walkden, Swinton, Salford and Manchester in the morning.

The 1993 Stockport & Manchester leg (surprisingly the least well organised) - started in Stockport linking up with the local Trades council, NHS campaigners in South Manchester and local Euro MP, then on to Manchester for a Trades Council reception (Day 1) Day two proceeding to Trafford and then later Salford fo another civic reception. From there it proceeded to Newton-le-Willows on the final day.

The 1993 march was covered widely on the NW media including Granada Reports news bulletins, BBC North West Tonight, and by local newspapers and radio, and as we would intend our proposed march next year will be so too, plus by the national media as well.

Next year we would wish to encourage a leg from Blackpool to join up with Lancaster Marchers at Preston for a big rally in the town in the evening and which would ideally link up with anti-fracking campaigners at PNR (if that is still a live issue) en route.

Our plan would also be to have the leg starting on The Wirral to Liverpool and then Prescot and St Helens both joining up with another new leg of marchers in Warrington starting from Crewe and or somewhere further south if we can drum up the support. They would then march to Eccles and Salford via Irlam.

The response of the officers of LATUC and CATUC about the idea in broad outline (though not about any of the precise route proposals) have been met favourably so far, also by Sheffield TUC who say they are supportive of the idea and could organise a leg of the March from Sheffield via major towns in between.

Route of Marchers in 1819

In Greater Manchester the march routes have been more or less worked out for us, as can be seen above from the map of the routes chosen in 1819. Several organisations including Bolton Socialist Club, and others from Rochdale and Oldham Boroughs already organise walks from their own towns to commemorate the Peterloo Massacre each year. We would obviously be wanting to work with them in addition to the Peterloo Memorial Campaign and anyone else who is sympathetic, and help to build on their previous efforts via public meetings along each route beforehand, the setting up of march committees in each town, and raising the debate in schools, local societies, community, union and political organisations concerning not only what happened to the Peterloo marchers of 1819, but what they might call for if they were alive today, (as suggested earlier), along with ourselves?

We believe GMATUC's affiltated trades councils in Manchester, Bolton, Wigan, Stockport, Rochdale, Tameside, Trafford and Stockport working alongside the People's Assembly Against Austerity are ideally placed to initiate and/or facilitate the various meetings we are suggesting (rather than directly run them or take charge of them) and to encourage the widest possible participation by working people in their own local authority area, supported by all ten Labour controlled councils and the vast number of individual Labour and other party local councillors, MPs, CLPs, Ward Parties and individual party members.

Manchester Histories Group, The People's History Museum & Working Class Movement Library are all planning events in the run to the Peterloo massacre's bicentenary. We regard them as a boon to our efforts and would wish to work with them all in promoting all the events that are to take place around the bi-centenary commemoration.

The Peterloo film directed by Mike Leigh is to come out in November this year and should also help with our efforts. Public showings of the film in all areas should be explored as starting point for a discussion on what the Peterloo marchers sought to achieve, why the response of the Manchester Magistrates and political establishment was to cut down and violently disperse those assembled, and what the Peterloo marchers of 1819 might call for today if they were alive in terms of securing a genuinely democratic political system in which the majority rule over the few at every level, rather than vice versa, etc, etc,

We would like to add additional legs from other large town and cities including London which could link up with marchers from elsewhere further North to join those of us from the North West at one of the starting points in Greater Manchester. As a march from London would take the longest, London would de facto be the first starting point for the march (possibly on the weekend two weeks prior to the commemoration in Manchester) and it is with regards to the latter in particular we are seeking the support of the People's Assembly Against Austerity nationally, the TUCJCC, national trades unions and the TUC General Council, to ensure a march takes place, is fully resourced and supported throughout, and has appropriate 'stop offs' (proper receptions, public meetings, and socials/fundraising gigs) in all major towns en route to Manchester.

We want to promote working class organisation at the 'lowest' level in each locality, promote self-activity and ownership of each leg and stage of the march by those involved, and to maximise media and wider public interest and participation throughout. We also want make film of the march with footage from each leg, which addresses many of the issues so far raised.

Nothing as yet is set in stone, but merely the outline of a plan which we are happy to receive comments on and answer questions. We think local groups will best adapt any questions, discussion and debate to their own circumstances and local political issues. We also think they will be key to the mobilisation of the large numbers of people we would ideally like to see in Manchester on the 18thAugust 2019, and on each leg route there.

GMATUC Executive Committee will be discussing this draft at its meeting on Saturday and will be circulating affiliated trades councils, and NW CATUCs and trades councils to ask for their views on it before our next full meeting on 21stJuly.

If the PAAA and TUCJCC are supportive as we would imagine trades councils in the NW will be, possibly subject to a few amendments, then we would propose a meeting of representatives of all three to discuss more of the details/any further proposals and to plan a joint press launch prior to this year's 199thannual commemoration in Manchester; jointly badging the whole thing (and which by that time might ideally be also supported by the TUC nationally as well as the NW TUC, a few national unions and other organisations) outlining what the march is about and inviting donations towards the costs of promoting, organising and staging the whole thing. Additionally, how that might best work.

We presently have quite a few celebs who are a prepared to assist our efforts, we think the PAAA's contacts in this field would also be extremely helpful.

GMATUCs are currently working on a lot of the costings, and the likely overall cost of making the whole thing happen. We are also in contact with Manchester City Council about the final venue(s) in the city centre and 'People's Festival' site.

Please direct any comments, questions or suggestions in the first instance to stephen.hall2008@googlemail.com(Tel: 07724 139278/01942 886645)

and to stefan.cholewka@btinternet.com

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