On a hot day and despite the usual cold British weather in London, 4,000 delegates, among them works councils, trade union leaders, community representatives, spokespersons of social movements and leftist politicians like Tony Benn gathered on Saturday, 22 June in the time-honoured Central Hall in Westminster to the hitherto largest conference against austerity policy that has ever taken place in the UK.
It called to join the action day on 5 July to defend the National Health Service (NHS) as well as the day of civil disobedience on 5 November. Yet, the declared goal of many of the speakers goes beyond that, namely to create a platform for a mass strike to overthrow austerity policy and the Tory government. In this context it is remarkable, that the assembly/conference was headed by Frances O Grady, the Secretary General of the TUC. Len Mc Lusky, the Secretary General of UNITE, the largest British single union, directed an explicit call to the trade unions to prepare the strike. In the conference, the Coordinating Committee of the AlterSummit was represented by the Belgian Christian unionist Felipe Van Keirsbilck, Hugo Braun from ATTAC Germany and Walter Baier (transform! europe).
In a separate “European Assembly against Austerity” on Sunday a vote on strategies on a European level will be discussed. Despite the existing unanimity regarding the fight against austerity policy, a strategic question still remains unresolved and the answer controversial: While one part of the participating union left favours critical support of the Labour Party under the banner of “Reclaim Labour” in the forthcoming elections, Ken Loach strongly demanded a break with social democracy and in return calling for the creation of a new left party.