Red Flag over Torbay – When the Dust Settles


‘If we have chosen the position in life in which we can most of all work for mankind, no burdens can bow us down, because they are sacrifices for the benefit of all; then we shall experience no petty, limited, selfish joy, but our happiness will belong to millions, our deeds will live on quietly but perpetually at work, and over our ashes will be shed the hot tears of noble people.’

Karl Marx: Letter to His Father (1837)

This article is dedicated to the good people of Torbay who planned, organised, and made possible the Anti-Austerity March that happened on Saturday the 18th of July, 2015. It has been estimated that around 200 – 300 took part in the march, but at times the numbers seemed larger than this. The march began at 11am in Brixham harbour and when my family arrived at around 10:15am – there was only two other people. We waited unsure about what was going to happen, but slowly the numbers began to build. Around 95 set off on the 6 mile hike to Preston Green (in Paignton) along suburban and country roads shouting anti-austerity slogans, beating drums, blowing whistles and waving flags. Locals stood in quiet amazement wondering what was going on – as cars went by often tooting their horns in support. Considering the weight of rightwing oppression that hangs over the area, the abuse was minimal and usually limited to obscenities shouted through open car windows, and occasionally negative comments from pedestrians. It seemed odd that the local Devon and Cornwall police – although sanctioning the march – did not see fit to provide officers to escort the group, close roads, and direct traffic. The presence of police, if nothing else, generally deters hostile reactions from locals who might otherwise take exception to protests that question their cherished rightwing attitudes and opinions. A fellow marcher stated to me that this situation might have been due to the latest rounds of cut-backs applied to the police by the government. In other words, the local police simply lacked the resources.

The weather was hot and humid – around 25 degrees and hotter at times (although not long after the march had ended, Torquay experienced a down-pour) – but every man, woman, child and accompanying dog managed to traverse the long and winding roads, pathways, meadows and steep inclines, etc. It was amazing to see all these different and dedicated people carrying this feet of endurance, motivated as they were by the compassion they felt for the plight of their fellow human beings. One often chanted slogan was ‘Austerity Kills!’ and it certainly does. Since 2010 and the LibDem – Tory Coalition (and the subsequent re-election of the Tories this year), through the sudden and dramatic abolishing of benefits, social services, and the National Health Service (NHS), it is estimated that round 10,000 people with disabilities have died, and many, many more vulnerable people in other categories such as the elderly, the young, the ill, and the injured, etc. The final death-toll for this far-rightwing ideological insanity could be well in the 100,000’s! While hundreds of thousands have marched through the major city centres of the UK, in the notoriously conservative shire things are very different. In these rightwing enclaves, a minority of conservatives hold the majority of the wealth and local commercial and political power, whilst the majority of the people area (i.e. the workers), have to exist on meagre State benefits, remain in low-paid work, be subjected to undiagnosed or untreated illnesses, have their children taken into care by corrupt social workers, and have little or no formal education. All whilst being confronted by an aggressive and uncaring Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), which has a tried and tested policy of demeaning people to control them. Of course, this is nothing new and Torbay is not unique – but it is a far-cry from the more progressive centres of human interaction in the UK. The minority of middle and upper class in the UK controls the majority that comprise the working class. The working class make everything, develop everything, enable everything, and produce everything – and yet they own nothing but their labour which they must sell to the lowest bidder. Workers are nothing but paid slaves that produce the luxuries that the middle class (and their allies) demand for little or no reward.

The masses of people who live on housing estates of Torbay are hidden away from the view of the tourists on the seafront, and live in abject poverty. As they have no voice – they appear not to exist. This non-existence is designed to keep a stock of potential workers handy should the need arise – whilst simultaneously preventing them from gaining an education and accessing adequate employment and political power. Although there are obviously more workers in Torbay than the bourgeoisie (i.e. middle class), they appear not to exist because they lack any means to access the bourgeois system. Protests such as marches, are designed to make what was previously invisible and out of sight, become visible and in plain view. The dialectical forces of history create new opportunities for change – but generally speaking – change is prevented by an oppressive system which uses law and law enforcement to prevent any challenges to its hegemony. Historical materialism – as formulated Marx – states that everything that exists in the present is the product of causes and effects from the past, and that as such, existential events can be analysed and understood in their historical origin, and guided by current thoughts and trends of action. A revolution is the turning of oppressive conditions into mutually beneficial circumstances despite the oppressive presence of the State and all its apparent power. Political hegemony always projects absolute power even when a regime (or class) is morally bankrupt. Sometimes at the right point in history, entire monoliths of oppression can fall. What has fallen in Torbay (through the Anti-Austerity march) is the decades old assumption by the authorities, that the local people they think they control will remain ‘quiet’ whilst being systemically abused by an uncaring system.

After arriving in Preston Green, there were a number of speeches given by the various organisers and charities backing the protest, the piper that had accompanied the marchers into Paignton, led them back onto the road leading into Torquay proper (a route just over two miles). The piper turned-back at the Paignton-Torquay demarcation sign. When the marchers where tired as they entered Paignton – this lone piper lifted their spirits with ‘Scotland the Brave’, and when they left, he gave them strength to finish the 8.29 mile route! The march ended at Speakers’ Corner – where many people spoke about why they thought they were marching, explained the bad experiences they are experiencing under austerity, and to thank everyone involved in the planning and execution of the event. Torquay may be the only rightwing borough in the UK (that has a Tory MP), that has dared to stand-up to Tory austerity. However, the eventual end of austerity will not mark the end of capitalism, class oppression, racism, discrimination, injustice, or inequality. Austerity is merely a symptom of class oppression and sustained class privilege – it does not come out of thin air and has a definite and discernible root in traceable historical events. Simply fighting austerity because it is ‘nasty’ is not enough. Defeating austerity now – but not uprooting the capitalism that has created it – simply condemns future generations to suffer under its dubious auspices. It is a bourgeois-left error that turns austerity into a ‘single issue’ divorced from the capitalist system that creates it, and the injustices that sustain it As fascism is simply enhanced (and unbridled) capitalism – fascism has no answer to austerity. Indeed, fascists use the fact that there is little apparent resources to attack those competing to receive them. This is after the fascists have deliberately withheld money, food, work, and medical supplies from the masses – actions that create the artificial conditions for austerity in the first place. Capitalism is the real cause of austerity and the creator of all social injustice – and fascism is nothing but its lapdog. The Torbay March was only really about the bourgeois concern that perhaps ‘austerity’ has gone too far – and not about the working class concern that capitalism is fundamentally unjust. Of course, although this maybe the over-arching justification for the March by its middle class organisers – many of the ordinary individuals who marched, did so with their own agendas and political motives in mind. We carried the Red Flag of International Working Class (and Communist Movement), whilst the Green Party carried their banners, as did the Unions and numerous individuals – each making important statements about the sufferings of others. The local TV cut-out all images of our Red Flag – but ironically the BBC did focus on my partner (Gee) as she crossed the road pushing our daughter – there was an anti-cuts placard on the pushchair. The racist Herald Express (a local newspaper owned by the Daily Mail) did a ‘hate piece’ on the Red Flag and encouraged all the local racists and UKIP supporters to post obscene and generally unsavoury comments about our presence. This is to be expected as one way the bourgeois authorities control Torbay (and elsewhere), is through the encouragement of the principle of divide and conquer. If we are all busy fighting one another about the colour of the outer layer of our body, then they think we will never pause for thought and perceive that it is in fact the classes above us that are causing all our suffering and grief! This is all aided and abetted by the local church which, incidentally, did not support or take part in the protest. We flew the Red Flag over Torbay and gave the workers hope – this was our achievement as a family on the day.

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