1st October 1931: the date when 10 000 unemployed in Salford stood up for their rights, and were battered by police for having the temerity to do so.
At the time working class areas of Britain were in revolt against the cuts being made by the National Government of Ramsay McDonald. A fortnight earlier the Atlantic fleet had mutinied at Invergordon, and huge working class demonstrations were taking place in Glasgow, London, Manchester and smaller towns in the run-up to the vote in Parliament.
Organised by the local branch National Unemployed Workers Movement the march left Liverpool Street with the intention of demonstrating outside the Salford City Council meeting in the Town Hall in Bexley Square, where a deputation would meet the mayor to put the demands of the movement. Instead, they were ambushed by police on foot and on horseback swinging batons; twelve arrests were made and five NUWM leaders received prison sentences.
Eighty years on the parallels with 1931 are striking: then as now, the capitalists were trying to offload the cost of a crisis which was not of their making onto working people; the government cut the salaries of teachers and civil servants, the very groups whose pensions are under attack today; and it was all done in the name of a National – or Coalition – government, just to show how ‘we are all in the same boat’. This should not surprise us – until we rid ourselves of their rule, the capitalists will resort time and again to these attacks.
We remember and salute the sacrifices of a previous generation. Our May Day protest this year took place in the Square, and our feeder march on 2nd October paused to commemorate the Battle, eighty years and one day after it happened. Pressure from SAC has ensured that a plaque will soon adorn the Town Hall to mark the day 10 000 marched in Salford.
If you want to know more, read Edmund and Ruth Frow’s account ‘The Battle of Bexley Square’, available from the Working Class Movement Library, price £2. This is the definitive account by a participant. Also available is the Salford Socialist Party’s pamphlet ‘The Battle of Bexley Square – fighting cuts and unemployment in the 1930s’, which attempts to relate those events to the present day struggle against the cuts. Priced at £2 or £3 solidarity price it is available from Paul Gerrard at firstname.lastname@example.org