Monday, 30 April 2012

Protest in Brighton - a long tradition we should treasure

An atmosphere close to hysteria has developed around the issue of protest marches in Brighton.  According to the Argus and the local establishment, protest is a bad thing to be discouraged.  They claim that protest is somehow unique to Brighton and happens nowhere else, except perhaps in London.  This is patent nonsense.  Protests against cuts, in support of industrial disputes and a host of issues are taking place all the time all over the country.

Things reached a new low this week with a Green Party Councillor being pilloried for daring to argue for support for a demonstration against the EDO arms factory, as his democratic right (last time I checked).  That some of the pillorying is being done by local New Labour only indicates how far they have fallen over the years.

Another myth being propagated is that this is a recent phenomenon.  So, on the eve of May Day, it is perhaps worth reflecting on the tradition of protest, demonstration and dissent in Brighton.

In 1926 for example we had the Battle of Lewes Road, during the General Strike, which according to reports, was a far more brutal event than anything recent.  We have had regular anti-fascist demonstrations dating back to the 1940's (against Mosley's BUF), in the 70's and 80's against the National Front, and most recently against the EDL and their fellow travellers.

Immediately after WWII we saw the movement led by Harry Cowley, (below) which took over houses for working class people, long before the squatters' movement of the 1970's.

We have had anti-war demonstrations and marches by the trade union movement in support of their campaigns, most notably last November during the mass strike against attacks on pensions.

Vested interests in this city would rather that people did not know about this history.  The idea that rights for working people have been won by this tradition of protest is a lesson they don't want you to learn.

It is a tradition we should treasure and build upon at every opportunity.

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