My day began with a visit to the teacher's picket line at my daughter's school. The NUT / ATL had sent out a letter to parents asking for their support and it seemed only right to respond. The 'picket line' was very good-natured with only a few managers and support staff going in - the latter rather embarrassedly because of their own union's - UNISON - cravenness in not joining the strike. They atoned with sympathy, donations to the strike fund, and tea and biscuits. I've never seen or been on a teacher's picket line before - and I was struck by how genteel this was in comparison to any others I've seen. I was also struck at how young they all seemed - maybe I'm just getting old - and how politically raw they were. Many were joking that they'd never been on a demonstration before let alone been on strike.
After a local rally at the FE College I headed into town for the main demo at Lincoln's Inn Fields. The same atmosphere prevailed - but most of all this was very much more than just the usual suspects. It certainly wasn't the Greek-style insurrection that some have been talking about - nor was it really even a one-day general strike. But - and this isn't based on the usual rhetoric of the leaderships because I never actually got into the hall to hear it - there was a genuine sense that it was the start of something new.
On the negative side I have to say that the private/public sector divide and rule game has had an effect. My colleagues - who have never known anything other than private pension schemes - simply can’t understand why I was supporting the strike. I fear that they are representative of many in industries who have been squeezed repeatedly since the Thatcher years - and it will take a lot of explaining to counter the politics of envy arising from the race to the bottom. But this explaining has to be done: We can huff and puff about general strikes as much as we like, but at the end of the day capitalism is a cold-hearted beast that rates profit over public opinion: Schools, colleges and job centres shutting might piss the system off - but walk-outs at commercial businesses hit it where it actually hurts.