Reportage

The People’s March…In 1983

The People’s March for Jobs in 1983…

Today’s anti-Brexit march in London reminded me of an interesting mug I bought at a flea market a couple of years ago. I have no particular political leaning but this mug brought back memories of leaving school and trying to get a job as well as being a cool piece of memorabilia! So with the attention very much on the fight to stay in or leave the EU I am escaping to 1983.

The march was the second of its kind, the first, in 1981 began in Liverpool when five hundred unemployed men and women walked two hundred and eighty miles to the capital armed with a petition of 250,000 signatures. Sponsored by the trade unions it was also backed by leading church organisations as well as, naturally, the Labour Party. Two years later, on April 23rd, a second march began in Glasgow with an estimated 15 to 20,000 people attending the closing rally in Hyde Park on June 1st.

Backed heavily by all of the unions it is interesting to note that Michael Foot, the then Labour leader was more cautious in his approach believing the march would divert the attention of labour activists needed to fight a potential forthcoming general election. The media was typically split between the tabloids and broadsheets with the Morning Star doing their best to garner support and make the best of what would prove a less successful second outing whilst the centre-right gave it lip service at best.

Unfortunately for the organisers the march did not grasp the sympathetic attention of the public in the way that it had hoped. The turn out of well wishers was lacklustre and the closing rally was far short of the figure predicted by the unions. But whatever the side of the political debate it should be remembered that this wasn’t a Trotskyist day out, there were people who genuinely feared for their future during a very uncertain time and unemployment brings with it many unpalatable consequences. This mug is a reminder to me at least, that there were people willing to leave the comfort of their armchair to protest against what they felt was a rapidly changing social environment and of a time before politicians scrambled for the centre ground leaving their past beliefs and loyalties trailing in the wind. Most rallies do little to alter political decisions but they do act as a reminder of the democratic process and more importantly, the bravery of those held in countries where democracy was and is a pipe dream.

The mug lists the counties through which the march was set to take place along with the following:

People’s March For Jobs-’83. 

To London 

April-June 1983

Women and men are marching the length of the country in the depths of an unprecedented depression, to protest at the waste of resources created by mass unemployment, and we demand a future for themselves and their children.

We Want Jobs! We demand a future!

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