Lately we’ve witnessed some crass but unsurprising opportunism from the Labour Party. Recent student and trade union demonstrations in Liverpool and elsewhere have been addressed by Labour politicians and officials cynically attempting to convert widespread public anger and uncertainty into Labour votes.
A report back from a student workshop co-ordinated by North London Solidarity Federation, held on 25/01/11 at Queen Mary University in Tower Hamlets.
NLSF co-ordinated a highly practical workshop for students (and anybody else) going on the many demonstrations against the rise in tuition fees and cuts in education spending. First up were the Legal Defence Monitoring Group who laid out the basics of the law that is used against protesters on demonstrations and how to get around it. This was followed up by Fitwatch, the activist group dedicated to combating the oppressive surviellance of the Forward Intelligence Teams that plague demonstrations. The main tips here were to mask up, wear plain clothing, and, when in sizeable groups, prevent the FIT cameras from filming you by blocking their line of sight with placards and banners.
Way back in the midst of time (or the mid 19th century to be precise) was an organisation called the first International Working Mens Association - or First International for short, which declared that "the emancipation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves". We would do well to remember those words as we struggle against austerity, as there's no shortage of would-be vanguards vying to substitute themselves for mass collective action.
On Thursday 20th January members of Northampton Solfed attended a local meeting "Northampton Alliance to Defend Services" at the Guildhall. The meeting was well attended, the hall was packed with between 200 and 300 people. (Which meant we hadn't taken quite enough Catalysts with us!)
The first speaker, Tracey Morel, represented a local charity "Autism Concern" and spoke about the imapct on people with autism, but touched on those needing various types of care. In particular she discussed the implications of changes to disability allowance and the massive problems it will cause to individuals and families.
The second, Mick Kavanagh, represented the CWU and talked mostly about the impact of privitisation of the Post Office, including the implicated attack on the pensions fund.
Neoliberal ideology is a crock of shit and everyone left of Labour knows it. Critics have pointed out its flawed assumptions regarding perfect competition, consumer access to information, human nature and a host of other factors that nowhere apply in the real world. They’ve also pointed out that where neoliberal policies have been applied, the results have often been disastrous and rarely matched the promised outcomes of prosperity for the rich and trickle down for the poor. One famous example was the so-called J-curve model for transitioning the former USSR to Western-style capitalism. The ‘J’, a small downswing in transition followed by a long upswing when neoliberal policies worked their magic, turned into something more resembling an ‘L’, plunging millions into worse poverty than before.
And then there’s the cuts.
On Saturday 15th January around 50 people, including members of the fledgling Thames Valley local, marched across Reading from the Royal Berkshire Hospital to the Civic Centre to register their opposition to the government’s cuts in public services.
Leafleting the public along the way the turnout was double the number that attended the previous protest and culminated in a series of speeches outside the civic centre. Spokespeople from the Reading Save Our Services group, Unison, the Reading Trades Council, a Labour Party councillor and a councillor for the Green Party all took part. All made clear how the proposed cuts, both locally and nationally, would impact hardest on the poorest and most vulnerable members of the community, from cuts in services for children to the loss of up to 600 jobs at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.