(en) Reflections on the European march against unemployment

Platform (platform@geocities.com)
Tue, 24 Jun 1997 14:12:09 +0000

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European March against unemployment (some reflections of an Irish marcher)

Firstly many of us on the Irish march had misgivings about the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed which were soon justified. The INOU is more of a creation of the poverty industry in Ireland then an organisation of the unemployed. Most of it's executive are full time co-ordinators of trade union advice centres or full time officials paid by the INOU itself. It was originally set up to represent the interests of these advice centres NOT the unemployed. Most of it's funding comes through the EU, FAS (the state employment agency ), the churches, charities like combat poverty. It has individual membership but certainly does not seek to recruit unemployed workers on mass.

So the problems we experienced (bus overcrowded and eventually breaking down, insufficient emergency money etc.) were predictable. It was only when we were in real trouble and writing petitions attacking them that the INOU dug into THEIR OWN funds up until then the march was supposed to pay for itself (through sponsorship) or maybe even make a profit for them! Their attitude is best summed up by this quote from their E-mail of 11/06/97:

"The march to Amsterdam inevitably involved hardship for the marchers. It was not a holiday. A sleeping berth was booked for the driver and for two others. Others were expected to use their sleeping bags"

Anyway this is just a foot note to the main event I want now to mention a few features of the march itself.

1. March Organisation: I felt that all things considered this went extremely well. Where the Irish marchers were concerned after our break down we were stuck in Lamballe France for 3 days. Despite the fact that we were not meant to be there the mayor and deputy mayor and the local AC put us up and fed us for which we were EXTREMELY grateful.

At the Dutch end our leg of the march (about 300 people) was accommodated in sports halls and squats and fed and moved for 4 days in Holland - a major logistical feat. I think the organisers should be complemented as should the autonomists and squatters in Rotterdam and Leiden (Eurodisnie in Leiden was squatted especially for us)

2. Occupying trains. This tactic of revendiction is common and successful in France and Belgium as part of a campaign for free transport for the unemployed. It proved a little tricky in Holland. In Rotterdam we simply camped at the station and a train was negotiated from the mayor. In the Hague we voted to occupy. This was not a success. It was badly organised. There were only a 150 marchers and we weren't even sure which train to take. When we picked one everyone tried to swarm into one carriage instead of taking them all. The police were ready and a few people were hurt. As an anarchist I am very much in favour of direct action but it must be thought out. There has to be planning, there have to be sufficient numbers and organisation. What happened in the Hague though it exposed the cops as being bastards was overall demoralising for the marchers.

3. June 14th I felt the march was excellent with large overall numbers about 60,000 I would say (police estimate was 50,000) It reflected a huge spectrum of opinion social democrat to green to Leninist to anarchist. There were between 3 and 4000 anarchists (I'm hopeless at numbers) including large contingents from the CGT and CNT- ait (Spain), SAC (Sweden) CNT-F and Alternative Libretere (France), USI (Italy after they were let out of the train station) class war and the ACF from England and many Dutch autonomists. The march was more or less peaceful. The police isolated the anarchists between lines of vans. There were a few stand offs and some fire crackers thrown. Some of the Eurotop flags were ripped down and floated downstream to much applause.

4. The Italians: There were rumours but it was only after we had come back into Dam Sq., that it was confirmed that thousands of Italians had been trapped by the police in the station. Most of the marchers stayed put but a few anarchists and autonomists did go down. We basically found our selves looking on helplessly. The station was ringed with riot cops who occasionally launched short charges to push us back. About 200 Italians were arrested and led out one by one (they were accused of thrashing the train). The march organisers in the square held people back claiming that negotiations were taking place with the mayor. Most of the Italians (about 3000 I would say) were let out to join the remains of the rally.

5. The media: Coverage in the Dutch press the next day seemed non existent. The Dutch papers carried a photograph of a punk being arrested or one showing thousands of people at a free out door opera concert the same afternoon. In general besides the autonomists and a few others I got the impression that there was little support or interest in the march within Holland itself (I would very much like to be corrected on this if any one has evidence to the contrary).

6. The alternative Europe conference: some of the delegates went on the march some marchers stayed for the conference. To me the agenda seemed very reformist more about changing the structures in the EU then building an alternative.

7. The future: I did hear talk that the CGT are thinking of holding a conference to build an alternative to the fairly reformist European Network of the Unemployed. Any information???

Conor Mc Loughlin (sauvage@Hotmail.com) Scheme Worker's Alliance, WSM, ATGWU.


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