In the lead-up to the latest national strike day on 28 March, Sheila Cohen asks whether the anti-cuts campaigns are working
I have been asked to write an article about anti-cuts campaigns, and said I don’t know much about them. I don’t know much about them because I don’t think they work. I don’t think they work because the government and ruling-class generally are rabid hyenas without an iota of inclination to give a flying **** about the needs and wishes of so-called “ordinary people” – if they did give such a thing they wouldn’t be, well, ruling. But I was asked to write nonetheless.
As a dutiful writer, I began preparing for this piece by doing (admittedly, a very small modicum of) research. One dedicated anti-cuts organisation I turned up which shall be nameless, but describes itself on its website as “a diverse collation of…groups and individuals that have come together to challenge social exclusion and promote social justice” includes as part of its many activities a project to unite unemployed workers, a “celebration” of its locality with a “one day community event” and, of course, intransigent opposition to racism – and quite right too. The community event was warmly received, with one participant commenting that it had, indeed, given “a real sense of community”. So what’s not to like? Continue reading “time to cut the anti-cuts campaigns?”→
If this year’s strikes are to have power, we must take our lead from the electricians, bypassing union attempts at defusion by offering each other solidarity in new ways and across artificial divides, writes Deb Harris.
Solidarity is illegal. Thatcher said so. She only permits us to strike if we have a specific and identifiable common complaint – we are not allowed to strike together in recognition of the general horror. In 2011, submissive as ever, the unions found the only thing that the public sector can legally unite around – pensions – and conveniently forgot that everyone is angry about a lot more than that. Their speeches, placards and leaflets were all about pensions. As if we had given up on anything but retirement. Continue reading “strikes and solidarity”→
Steve Ryan, a PCS activist in Wrexham, looks at the aftermath of the November 30th pensions strike and the opportunities for class struggle in the year ahead.
November 30th. I was dropped off by the picket lines outside a large government building in Cardiff. The line was well attended, the PCS yellow jackets bright in the dawn light, The wood was already blazing in the brazier, The mood was upbeat and determined.
As the dawn broke a rainbow appeared over the building: that’s where our pensions are, someone quipped. Pictures were taken, reports sent in.
From the lines we travelled into Cardiff to join the march. 5,000 people, some say, certainly it was big, biggest for years, The march was noisy, with music and chants, Crowds thronged the pavements clapping and cheering, We debated when we could last remember this happening. The march needed with the usual speeches from union bosses and sympathetic politicos, By about 3pm we were done and drifting home, or to cafes and pubs. It had been a momentous day , reports had been received from comrades all over the UK with similar stories, biggest ever march, solid picket lines, huge support from the public. Continue reading “the n30 strike day and a 2012 of struggle”→
Barry Biddulph found the Sheffield anti-cuts alliance heavier on top-table speakers than real politics or organisation
The second public meeting of the campaign against the cuts in Sheffield was was far smaller and less representative than the first founding meeting last year, despite the recent demos and strike votes. Less than one hundred people sat in a University lecture room with seats for five hundred, to listen to seven speakers. It was a trade union rally, not a meeting for activists to discuss the socialist alternative to the crisis of capitalism and how to organise to make the transition to a real movement.
The character of the speeches was very defensive. It was all about keeping what we had. Defending our welfare state against the Nasty Tories as if the Labour Party was not making cuts in Manchester and elsewhere. There was no criticism of the Labour Party or those union leaders reluctant to fight the cuts. The political implication of the speeches was the Labour Party could somehow represent the fight back or to register that there was a trade union fightback. There was no analysis of the economic crisis and no speaker including a Permanent Revolution supporter, mentioned the S word. John McDonnell MP came closest with his call for a new society. Continue reading “sheffield anti-cuts: a fairer capitalism?”→
Oleg Resin asks if we can do more than make defensive arguments against the cuts
One afternoon towards the end of February, a bizarre scene unfolded in Bristol City Council’s main meeting room. While the local councillors were discussing the vote on the cuts of some £20 million, a small group of protesters was shouting at them from the public corner.
The ‘funny’ thing about this was that while dozens of thousands people work in the public services in Bristol, the only people who in an organised way actually stuck their heads out, and were therefore dragged out by the police, were pro-anarchist Industrial Workers of the World and a few ‘non-aligned’ radicals. Anti-state activists beaten up as a ‘vanguard’ of a pro-welfare state protest! (without a mass following)… If curious, this scene nevertheless captures something crucial to our condition in Bristol. Continue reading “bristol anti-cuts: in and for the state?”→
Steve Ryan reflects on the progress of the anti-cuts campaigns
As we move towards spring and towards what is being billed as the biggest demo for years on 26th March, now is perhaps a good to time to reflect on the anti cuts “movement “ and where it is going.
So far it has looked very good. Hundreds of cities and towns now have anti cuts groups. There have been a series of demonstrations, events, public meetings stunts etc. Anyone who uses social networking sites will not have failed to be aware of this. It looks rich and diverse.
Before Christmas the student protests galvanised the movement with a series of imaginative demonstrations and occupations. There have been strikes, for example, the London Underground and Department for Work and Pensions, and currently the UCU lecturers’ union is balloting over pay. Couldn’t be better. Could it?
A number of local anti-cuts campaigns in London have produced local bulletins – reproduced here for reference and to encourage debate and the sharing of information amongst anti-cuts activists. See below for PDF files and a few comments. Let us know if there are examples from other areas which we can also upload.
Gregor Gall, professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Hertfordshire, explores the difficulties of forming alliances and coalitions to fight the cuts.
In previous articles for The Commune, I laid out the arguments for, and problems and challenges contained therein, in constructing civil alliances between the providers (via unions) and users of the services in order to oppose cuts in and privatisation of public services. Continue reading “a coalition of cuts, a coalition of resistance”→
The following text is just an invitation to begin collectively exploring the character of the credit-crunched state in 2010. To think that now, with cuts falling everywhere, there is no time for general discussions or to develop theory, is to artificially separate theory from action.
This is an illusory idea, for each action involves theory. To rush to the streets with STOP THE CUTS banners is hardly avoiding having a theory, it is just avoiding awareness of the theoretical assumptions behind any campaign action.
There is a simple question that needs to be addressed in regard to the Save Middlesex Philosophy campaign: How was it that a campaign that had such momentum, energy and colossal international support collapsed so rapidly and in such acrimony?
Only in May the Trent Park mansion house that housed the department was under occupation, a ‘transversal space’ had been established, and every day newspaper reports and new letters of support were arriving. Like many others, I was disappointed to see the occupation come to a premature end. But it seemed with the rally at Hendon and camp site erected on the grass outside that the campaign was not going away. One academic had already withdrawn their visiting lectureship, and the University and College Union (UCU) had finally agreed to come on side and take action at the start of the new academic year. If ever there was a chance to win this was it.
So what happened? On the 8th of June the campaign website announced a significant ‘victory’ that the philosophy department’s research centre would be moving to Kingston university. Already this sounds a little odd since the campaign was from the start concerned with saving Middlesex Philosophy. However, things get worse on close inspection. Only four of the senior academics—Peter Hallward, Eric Alliez, Stella Sandford and Peter Osborne—would receive jobs at Kingston, whilst two of the more junior members—Christian Kerslake and Mark Kelly—would not.
The comments thread in reaction to the announcement revealed that Kerslake and Kelly had not even been consulted regarding the deal cut with Kingston. Possibly worse, Kingston university would only absorb the PhD candidates and Masters students, not the undergraduate body. It would be galling under any circumstances for an undergraduate cohort to be abandoned by all their senior academics; the fact that the undergraduates took a key role in establishing, maintaining and fighting the campaign (thus, at least to some extent enabling the Kingston deal) makes their desertion appear all the more outrageous.
Perhaps the most disturbing possibility is that students were being egged on to take borderline criminal actions at the same time as some academics were cutting backroom deals on jobs. The letter drafted by the senior academics to explain their choice—and it was their choice, since no one, not even their fellow academics were consulted—declares that they decided to opt for Kingston’s offer when they realised the campaign was unwinnable: defeatism coinciding conveniently with self interest. At what point was it unwinnable? What is winnable before contracts were signed and unwinnable afterwards? All in all, a perfect example it seems of hierarchical power relations overriding democratic decision making.
The biggest blow this turn of events delivers may be to wider morale in the anti-cuts movement in education. By decamping to Kingston the campaign’s supporters are meant to be reassured that philosophy has been saved. Quite frankly, if this is what radical philosophy looks like in action, some will wonder whether it is worth saving in the first place.