UK Newswire Archive
Listen to words from people organising in a variety of groups fighting the cuts: the Fire Brigade Union, Right to Work, Disabled People Against Cuts, UCL student organising and more, along with some completely unqualified and personal observations, as well as suggestions for meetings and other protest action to get involved in or keep an eye on in the lead-up to the big march in March...[read more]
"We [the students] believe that it's an ideological attack on the very nature of public goods, of public services and education as a public good as well as an ideological attack on the working class of this country and how we structure our country...it just seems as if the deficient is being used as an excuse...and the people that caused this crisis, basically the elite class of people that run this country, are not only not being effected by the crisis, they're actually profiting from the crisis. The profits of banks...are not going to be going down over the next few years. They're basically privatising our higher education system. They're withdrawing state-funding almost completely." (from interview with former UCL occupier and student)
Why are we paying for their crisis? (Has anyone explained this yet?)
It may seem a bit dualistic and simplistic to make arguments like us (the disempowered) versus them (the rich elites), but it's an undeniable fact that the UK government cuts are going to have extremely detrimental effects on us, especially the marginalised us.
Sometimes these cuts are creating life threatening situations - as Linda, from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), states in her interview. Thirty percent of disabled people are live below the poverty line in the UK while over three-quarters of all disabled people live in poverty . Linda urges that winning the fight against the cuts is desperately urgent - and discussed the call for people to protest and take direct action, and in particular highlighting the role of Atos Origin, a company running controversial computer databases and systems rating people on a points-basis to determine their eligibility for incapacity benefit. Atos has already received millions of pounds in contracts from the Con-Dem government. [Guardian: 1, 2] DPAC and supporters protested virtually and took to the streets on Monday, 24 January 2011 [1, 2].
It's no news that public spending is being slashed - but people involved in the decentralised, UK-wide direct action group, UKuncut, are keen to put tax-dodging firmly on the agenda, with clever, playful actions [1, 2, 3 ...] pointing out the hypocrisy of democratically-elected officials pushing through undemocratic decisions whilst maintaining the corporate-welfare-state. Will UKuncut have new targets in 2011? Have a listen to the interview or watch the actions unfold, happening in a town near you! Check out what's being planned all over the country - with the next UKuncut action in London on Sunday, 30 January 2011.
I suppose the answer to the question above (why are we paying for their crisis?) is answered in part by the UKUncut actions. We are paying to maintain the status quo in an unjust society - one that keeps them in power and allowed to by-pass the rules they impose on us. Though it's easy to wonder just what exactly is the UKuncut message implying? For the government to tax the tax-evaders? Close the tax loop-holes? End tax-havens? Why are people protesting against the government by stating that they want to concentrate and expand the power of a specific governmental institution - i.e. the tax collectors? I guess I'm giving UKUncut the benefit of the doubt when I take them on their word: that they are an awareness-raising group, pointing out the hypocrisy of public spending cuts.
I'm getting off-topic though - it seems to be pretty normal when thinking about this stuff. The de-railing of messages happens all the time. The climate chaos argument has long been hijacked - and Ewa from the London Climate Camp stresses that social justice and climate justice are one and the same, where green capitalism has not place in providing a solution to the problem. In an event on Sunday 23 January called Cuts! Climate! Action!, the London Climate Camp co-ordinated a day of talks and discussions relating 'the cuts' and 'climate change'. Ewa tells us that many of the activists that have come out of the Climate Camp network are organising themselves in the anti-cuts movement in a variety of ways, keen to unite and contribute such as by providing practical, street-level support through the newly created Green & Black Cross.
But wait. I digress...again...back to the cuts...
What are we fighting for?
The crisis is being used as an excuse to cull public spending, to transform schools, hospitals, fire-stations, libraries, post offices, transportation systems (the list goes on) from public services into profit-driven private companies. Companies with a bottom-line and share-holders in mind.
This isn't only unjust. It doesn't make sense. At least when you think about the reason for the existence of public services. "This is an ideological attack," says Ben Sprung, a London firefighter and regional organiser for the Fire Brigade Union, who goes on to state in the interview the glaringly obvious points being ignored by government: that profit shouldn't have anything to do with public services. Public services can't be measured in monetary terms, and so-called "market solutions" should therefore not be applied, because they do not apply! We've even seen government schemes to privatise public services costing the tax-payer more money in the end.
Indeed, the struggle fought by the London FBU can be seen as a frontrunner in the many fights, ongoing and upcoming, against privatisation schemes and cuts being rolled out. Perhaps it is heartening to read that the FBU's recent strike action resulted in a resolution reached in the dispute over working hours and shift patterns. Ben insists that the battle is far from over, with the private sector ever encroaching to profit on the UK-wide fire brigade infrastructure and jobs. The FBU is aiming to put 1,000 firefighters on the streets of London for the TUC march on March 26, 2011.
Some coalitions seem to want to exploit the current distrust of the Con-Dem's as an opportunity to put Labour back in power. Others, like Paul from the Right to Work campaign, are imagining something very different:
"We need to continue to march and rally and demonstrate for the purpose of unity, but we also must have a powerful unity of purpose - and that means strikes, direct action, occupations - and we all need to come together in all the different campaigns, put any differences we may have aside and work towards a common aim of bringing down this government but not replacing it with something that is going to cut in a slightly nicer way, or slower pace, but something that fundamentally challenges the current political establishment and system...it's time to bring together a new social movement for this country and further afield." (Paul, Right to Work)
Unity, greater numbers, coalitions and solidarity can only strengthen the movement to stop the cuts. It's difficult to argue otherwise. But it always seems pretty easy to fight against something. What are we fighting for? I mean practically speaking...
Creating a collective vision of a different future is something very different from organising/attending/supporting rallies, strikes and protests against austerity measures. But the desire for unity is there, stated strongly by Paul and echoed more or less by almost every person I talked to for this article.
Stu, a regional co-ordinator for the Wobblies, spoke about the need for alliances between and support for unions, encouraging people who have the option to join a union if they hadn't already, or to start one up if there wasn't one to join. The options for involvement in the anti-cuts struggle seem endless, and seeing what's at stake, I'd argue that some level of involvement hardly seems optional for the average concerned person living in the UK.
To witness the coalesing of different parts of the anti-cuts movement is to witness the process of a movement that may actually go beyond the current anti-cuts struggle - to link up the atomised groups of people and single-issue campaigns all linked by a common desire to change this present reality into something different, something better: a future in which people take care of other people, where profit is not the be-all, end-all of life.
We've already seen the students go through a crash-course in street-level protest, refusing to march from A to B, occupying their universities... We're seeing a shift in public opinion - with people continually taking action [recent articles: 1, 2, 3...]
2011 is shaping up to be a pretty fierce year and the run-up to the big TUC demo on 26 March will be interesting. I guess I don't have a conclusion, this very much an unfinished story. Instead, I'll end this dribble with some words from Paul that spoke to me, and may be his words speak to you too:
"There are differences in the movement...I don't foresee one big movement coming together under one banner necessarily, but what I hope will be the guiding light for both this country and further afield is that we can find ways of cooperating and working together and in practice, a way forward would be to join together on particular initiatives on particular days and force that common ground because otherwise there is a real danger that we may just end up fighting amongst ourselves...rather than actually getting on with tackling a system and a group of individuals that seem hell bent on protecting a ruling elite, banking and business, rather than serving people and providing a decent planet." (Paul, Right to Work)
Many thanks to everyone who got in touch to give their time and words for this piece.
See you on the streets,
Some things to keep an eye on...
If you're a student, or concerned about cuts to EMA and education funding:
Check out the London Student assembly - takes place every Sunday at 3pm, University of London Union (ULU). "An opportunity for anyone who is concerned about what is happening to education to get together to plan actions..." (former UCL occupier)
If you're a worker without a union and want help in starting one or joining one:
Contact out the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World).
Dates for your diary:
29 January 2011: National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts - National Demonstration (imc event page)
29 Janaury 2011: NUS, TUC, UCU March - Future that Works
30 January 2011: UKUncut - deadline for Corporate Tax Dodgers
12 February 2011: Right to Work - A people's convention
26 March 2011: TUC - March for the alternative
Three people were killed and dozens more injured in clashes between police and protesters at an anti-government rally in the Albanian capital of Tirana on Friday, January 21. It was reported by Agence France-Presse .
26-01-2011 16:20Some reflections on the Network X Gathering from some of the organisers
Demonstrations are anounced for tomorow ...
the 25th jan uprising face book link >> http://www.facebook.com/25Egypt?v=wall
(U may use google to translate..)
26-01-2011 15:16Recent article highlights clause in international Double Tax Avoidance Agreement for exchange of details between govs.
26-01-2011 13:51Police Commander Bob Broadhurst apologised today for misleading MPs about the use over undercover officers at the G20 protests.
Wednesday, January 26th, 2011. Athens, Greece
This morning in Athens, an American anarchist has pressed attempted murder charges against Delta and Dias motorcycle police, as well as the relevant commanding officers, for a beating she suffered at the intersection of Patision and Stounari streets while demonstrating against the IMF on November 15th, 2010. Meanwhile, over 170 members of the American and European scholarly community, including Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, and Immanuel Wallerstein, have denounced the behavior of the Delta police towards demonstrations and specifically the beating of the American demonstrator, calling the attack on her "nearly fatal".
26-01-2011 13:26Jerome White-Bey is the founder and president of the Missouri Prisoner Labor Union, an organization of Missouri prisoners and their outside supporters who are organizing around labor and other prison conditions. Since the founding of the MPLU, Jerome has been subject to administrative harassment and retaliation. He was in the "hole" (administrative segregation) for two years following the formation of the MPLU and has constantly been moved in and out of segregation since.
26-01-2011 12:14Check the website for all the info fgrom the gathering and links to great groups and actions around the country
3pm - 6pm 26 South Street, London W1K 1DW
Solidarity with the protest movement
26-01-2011 11:35Seeking solidarity for brothers and sisters in Egypt
Claimants and supporters turned up at A4e Newcastle on Monday 24th January. We had two aims:
- to protest against benefit cuts, workfare, and the companies (such as A4e) that profit from our poverty.
- to leaflet, chat to and share solidarity and a picnic with the New Deal detainees forced to attend A4e.
26-01-2011 11:22Join the Playfair 2012 Campaign, People & Planet and War on Want for a Workers' Rights Activism Day to find out more, share, learn, discuss, and discover. Whether you are a student, member of university staff, trade unionist or sabbatical officer, come along and find out how you can bring about change.
Free workshops, panels, and interactive sessions, to help you share and learn about the rights of workers in sweatshops all around the world.
This is your chance to join the movement to end human rights abuses and stand in solidarity with factory workers worldwide.
The Playfair 2012 campaign wants the organisers of the London Olympics and companies to aim for gold and ensure that workers producing sportswear and goods with the Olympic logo have their rights respected.
Millions of people are employed in the global supply chains that produce kits for Olympic teams, and the sportswear and Olympic souvenirs available on our high streets. These mainly women workers, not just the athletes, help to make the Olympics possible.
But, evidence shows that the sportswear industry and Olympic movement have a poor track record on workers’ rights. Playfair 2008 research found workers employed by Adidas suppliers in China earning £20 per month for glueing sports shoes that sell for £50 plus, and others working 80 hours a week stitching footballs. Adidas is one of London 2012’s main sponsors and licensees. In another factory producing stationery, children as young as 12 years old were being forced to work 15 hours a day.
Together we can demand an ethical Olympics providing Decent Work. London can learn from the successes and failures of previous Games. This means taking a firm approach with companies and sponsors supplying the 2012 Games, and being transparent about the supply chains that produce sportswear and Olympic goods. The Games organisers have engaged with Playfair 2012 and committed to taking some steps, but we need them to go much further.