Political Promise

March 26th: What’s Next?

In John Clough on March 28, 2011 at 7:56 am

Saturday’s TUC demonstration was not only one of the greatest and largest protests in British history, but also a defining moment – a turning point for the better – in the battle against the cuts. But what does it mean for British politics asks John Clough.

Reading a bit of the right-wing Sunday press triggered two reactions in me. On the one hand, it made me feel sick how these ‘professional’ journalists could be so negatively naive towards the nature of protest to the point where they write entire articles devoted to the militant minority: It would be a statistic improbability to have no violent individuals in a gathering as large as it was, but to ignore the peaceful part of the protest is abusively and recklessly deceptive to all the viewers. I was in London helping out on the demonstration from 9am, and I stayed until fairly late, and I didn’t see a single incidence of violence, and I hardly even saw any police presence. Now, that’s not to say there wasn’t any: There was, but it was a marginalised minority, separate from the main protest, and it’s wrong that a few people’s idiocy detracted from the message of the protest just like it did for the student protests last year.

My other reaction was that the capitalist conservatives and liberals who make up the right wing end of politics are scared. Scared of what this protest represents: For the first time on such a scale, the trade unions have come together to fight a common enemy; the lie that unions are a thing of the past has been completely blown out of the water, and there is real potential for a much larger movement to be built. My evidence for this fear: The papers such as the Mail and the Sun focused almost exclusively on the violence of the 200 arrested ‘anarchists’, all the while only really alluding to the peaceful nature of the other 500 000 protestors. I see this fear as a good thing: When the right are scared, the left should be excited.

But what will it actually lead to? At this point it is impossible to say, but one thing is for certain: It’s going to lead to something. After events such as the Egyptian revolution, there is now no legitimate argument to say that protest does nothing. From a unionist perspective, the aim now is for a general strike, but the chances of this happening any time soon are marginal. Although a number of the union leaders are in favour of strike action, the umbrella organisation TUC (who organised the protest) are somewhat reluctant and will be a huge stumbling block in the way of industrial action on a national scale, as opposed to being instrumental in its organisation as they should be.

What is far more likely to happen is movements are going to be built on a local level, with localised strikes or other protest action such as sit ins and occupations. It is at this point, when support for the cause is built and people start to realise that the cuts are wrong and unnecessary, that national organisations such as Coalition of Resistance come into play, bringing together movements all over the country and coordinating massive national action where the unions will fail.

Is there likely to be a revolutionary movement on a par with the likes of Tunisia or Egypt like some people are suggesting? Certainly not any time soon and its unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future: the circumstances are just so far different and the movement in this country is just so much smaller: People still don’t see the alternative. What is the alternative, then? One idea is a Robin Hood tax which – if it reached its full potential – would single-handedly pay off the deficit, by raising around £120billion a year.  Additionally, a real crack down on tax avoidance would raise £20billion a year. Things such as this are worth fighting for, and they don’t need a revolution, though a revolution would be nice

Further Reading:

Coalition of Resistance website: http://www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk/

The Daily Mirror’s article on the protest, which was the only one from the mainstream press which didn’t focus on the violence: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2011/03/27/the-big-society-bites-back-as-400-000-marchers-protest-the-cuts-115875-23018703/


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