Petition reaches 45,000 for strike action amongst Junior Doctors.
“..Andrew Collier, co-chair of the UK Junior Doctors Committee, said. ‘We will resist a contract that is bad for patients, bad for junior doctors and bad for the NHS.’..”
Department of Health contract means doctors could work in excess of 13 hour days, more weekends and nights, the contract will also mean a junior doctor would only be entitled to a 20 minute break every six hours AND all for 30-40% pay cut.
Would you accept those conditions?
The government is targeting everyone to work longer for less in relation to work and to pension age, targeting the poor to pay for the rich and all the whilst failing to reduce the deficit and failing on the housing crisis.
Rough sleeping is a problem. For everyone. A problem for the people themselves, a problem for the people who have to put up with drug and alcohol induced issues, a problem for the government. However whilst the problems may be many the solutions are really quite simple. It’s just a matter of what’s a priority for the government. The issue of homelessness can be stopped pretty much overnight (although you will always get a handful who do at least on the surface appear to prefer the street life. But there is also a reason for that)
For me there should be no other more basic worthy cause than providing two things for the people, no matter what country. A permanent roof over your head and enough food to live a healthy existence. Anything else is secondary. If the government is not providing those two basic things then there is something wrong with the system. How can it be viewed any other way.
People will argue that they either don’t deserve it because of their drink or drug habits or that they cause anti social behaviour when they are given a place.
It’s important to address both of those unique issues. Many people who become homeless are like you and I, maybe they once had a place of their own and held down a job. In my old line of work I spoke to one homeless person who had both of these things and had only been homeless for a short while in comparison to others, but it all started when he lost his job and couldn’t afford the rent after his partner left. He couldn’t get given a place for the fact he hadn’t been homeless for long enough.
A lot of substance abuse starts after people become homeless. Imagine yourself in similar circumstances and that hope that you will be given a leg up by the system soon enough only for those hopes to be dashed again and again. The psychological impact will be great and often what follows is the lack of what otherwise would be reasonable thought processes. Substance abuse is something that can happen to anyone given the right cocktail of circumstances much the same can be said for homelessness itself. The old saying goes that we are all just one wrong step away from that same position ourselves. Once you are in that self destructive process you may find they eventually offer you a place, usually in a hostel of some kind and here is where things can be just as bad as living on the street if not worse.
Can you imagine what a hostel would look like if it is full of people that have been on the street for too long? The people who have already succumbed to those substance traps? Some of the most vulnerable in our society reside in these places, and you, now being finally offered a place to stay have to now share at close quarters corridors and ‘living rooms’ and kitchens with some of the most world weary people in our society. This is why many people end up back on the streets. Couple that with the ‘rules’ of the accommodation in question. Maybe they have curfews or they demand that the staff control your finances for you, only allowing you certain funds per day or per week. Maybe alcohol is banned from the premises and whilst a few of these rules may be in the best interests of the residents, it’s another limitation of your life, and you are addicted. Through little fault of your own circumstances, you are now an addict living with people you may consider in a far worse state than you and you have come from the relative freedom of the street to a rule ridden hell hole. Deal with that? Could you? You may be lucky enough not to have been trapped in the addiction cycle or touched a drop of drink which would make that scenario even worse. Scary perhaps. What cost to leave and go back on the street?
Could you even blame the residents in the Hostels? After all, the system likely waited too long to help and they became lost to it the day they first took their poison of choice. Now, living in a hostel, with limited freedoms, no job prospects and no money or life to call their own and an inability to harbour any ‘aspirations’ as the Tory (and Labour for that matter) party like to use the term to ensure that you know exactly the difference between the people they like and the people they dislike. If you haven’t got aspirations, you’re useless. We’re not talking any old life aspirations here, we’re talking aspirations to work and pay taxes. God forbid you don’t want to have any part in a capitalist system, you are as good as dead to the government and if you’re either a street person or someone left to rot in a hostel, you really are as good as dead because you have zero potential.
In some ways there is little hope for the people already lost to the system, all we can do is perhaps take pity and support them where we can but what of the next generation of homeless soles? Is it inevitable that they too will sink into the abyss that is the dark streets of our cities? Probably. Unless a government decides to invest. Unless a government decides that under its watch, no citizen will go needlessly homeless nor hungry.
Of course though that costs money. It really doesn’t have to, but then we wouldn’t be living in a capitalist society. We do, for now, and that means the government has to stump up the money. Where would it come from though? I suggest the same place that the estimated £40 Billion for HS2 comes from or the earmarked £20 Billion for Trident or the recent £20 Billion on Cross Rail 2 or perhaps the £15 Billion upcoming road improvements but you see, these improvements means more ‘wealth creation’ for the government. Defeating hunger and homelessness produces small reward. Sure, more people would work and bring in taxes but that would be small fry compared to the ‘wealth creation’ that infrastructure improvements bring. So sod them. If people become homeless it’s just a thorn in the side for the government. An irritant at best and they can always ‘clean up the mess’ later.
There is a new system in place in many councils now where if a homeless person is deemed at serious risk of mental health issues then their housing needs will be met as a priority over someone who is about to be made homeless. So for example if you are about to be kicked out of your home and are expecting to be rehoused, don’t. Because if a homeless person has a mental health issue then chances are you will be left to go homeless and using this system, you don’t get rehoused again as a priority unless you are at risk of a mental breakdown and there may well be a long queue of people in front of you. So whilst this system is meant to help get people into housing that need it most it serves to only create a new line of homeless people, a line of homeless people that never needed to be there in the first place. You can find the information for this via this news article.
Giving everyone a roof over their head would give people aspiration in life and in work, going people a roof over their heads is viable. It doesn’t even have to be a regular house in a regular street. There are many projects appearing where pop up houses can be installed that have enough space to live in, all the basic mod cons at a fraction of the cost of building a house. They don’t even have to be placed in far away places, out of sigh from the rest of society. They can be aesthetically changed if needs be and done in a way that doesn’t create poverty ghettos like council housing has often done in the past. Which in turn has given residents of council estates a bad reputation for similar reasons that homeless people have a bad reputation.
No one denies that homelessness brings with it problems, societal problems as well as financial and life problems for all those involved, but the point is it need not be that way. If the government acted to address this it would not take a leap of faith to realise that so many issues surrounding homelessness could be solved overnight if only we lived a more people focused existence.
It all boils down to one thing at the moment. Cost and jobs and the balance of doing something or not doing something about it. The government chooses to do nothing because it doesn’t recognise humanity as a primary issue. Money and capitalism comes first. It has to. Capitalism exists for the purpose of making profit. If profit stops then the system collapses as has often been seen during eras of boom and bust. (Remember when Labour said Boom and bust was over? What do you think the 2008 financial crisis was?), and due to the ability of governments to print money on a whim in the name of quantitive easing, those book and bust periods never quite manifest into a full scale collapse so we will always see book and bust and this financial crisis won’t be the last.
If we lived a socialist lifestyle.. Well. That’s another blog post but in short. There would be no such thing as homelessness.
The British public may soon start blaming immigrants for everything from the failing NHS to the weather. Well, many already blame the failing NHS on immigrants so maybe it won’t be long before they start blaming them for the weather.
“Coming over here, stealing our sunshine and sending it back home to their families”
How very dare they!
Let’s not concern ourselves with the fact that immigrants officially contribute as much if not more to the economy than they take out of it. Let’s not concern ourselves with the fact that immigrants make up much of the NHS workforce. No. Let’s instead focus on why the immigrant ‘problem’ is not a problem, because the state of our finances and the state of things like the NHS has one route cause at its heart. Government. And It has nothing to do with government policy on immigration.
Here we explain why you UKIP’ers, with your love for this nation have got your pants on back-to-front and why you floating voters who backed the Tories in May have been led up the garden path.
Cross Rail 2 running North to South across London is already in the works although it is estimated that it will not be completed until 2030 at the earliest. This project is costing an estimated £20 Billion of which the treasury is prepared to meet half the cost. Here is what Boris Johnson said about where some of that money will come from via the Guardian Article;
‘Johnson suggested funds could be found by “smashing open the jam jars” of public sector pension funds.’
That’s just Crossrail. What about HS?
High Speed Rail (HS) first started with the building of the Channel Tunnel rail link (CTRL) in 2003 and was renamed ‘High Speed 1’ in 2006. It opened at the end of 2007 and cost £5.8 Billion.
HS2 is more well known and is currently in the works. It will connect London and Birmingham initially before continuing north to Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester. The cost is anyone’s guess. According to the link above the initial section between London and Birmingham will cost up to £17.4 Billion with the entire project estimated to cost £30 Billion.
However in June 2013 that estimate rose to £42.6 Billion and according to Wikipedia; ‘it was revealed that the DfT (Department for Transport) had been using an outdated model to estimate the productivity increases associated with the railway, which meant the project’s economic benefits were overstated’.
Boris Johnson has warned that the cost could reach £70 Billion and the Institute of Economic Affairs have said they estimate the final cost to be £80 Billion.
Building won’t begin until 2018 and is not expected to be open to the public before 2025. The government are also planning to link HS2 to both HS1 and Cross Rail at a potential minimum cost of just under £1 Billion.
Finally.. At least when it comes to HS there is HS3. A proposed route connecting Liverpool to Hull via Manchester and Leeds. This is still very much in the planning stages and there are no firm details including wether to use existing lines and if there is any need for the speeds to technically be High Speed at all. There are no official Costings either however proposed improvements for Northern city links go as high as £6 Billion.
That’s the rail system out of the way, what about the roads? Well the government approved road improvement schemes across England at the end of 2014 to the tune of £15 Billion.
Finally just to really put the icing on the cake, the Replacement of the Trident Submarines. The costs vary but you can start at £23 Billion just to procure the replacement system. There has already been work done on successor submarines and that already runs into a few Billion including £1.2 Billion spent just last year. That though doesn’t take into the estimated cost of running the programme over a 40 year life span which would top the bill at around £100 Billion.
Why is all of this important to know? The cost to save the NHS?
£8 Billion. Or at least so say the politicians
Look at the money above that is being spent or has been spent on infrastructure compared to how much we need to save the NHS. Most of the infrastructure money will have been spent around or during the years of the financial crisis.
The main rail links will serve London primarily and as such only a section of the country will benefit. HS2 whilst will be helpful to some people it has already been suggested that the projects benefits have been wildly over estimated including by politicians and the Northern City rail improvements may not even be high speed after all.
We continue yet again to rely on the expansion of our Road systems to fix the same old problems of increased car usage.
So, when you’re sitting there concerned that the failing NHS is caused by health tourists or immigrants flooding the country, it’s important to remember what the issue at hand is. It’s not that the immigrants are preventing the NHS from being fit for purpose. It’s that government is choosing not to fund it.
The NHS is expensive, yet a State funded health system is of no benefit to politicians when they can afford the best private health care. The tories are making every attempt to privatise the NHS by the back door, they have talked of bringing in charges to see your GP and their claim of recruiting 5,000+ GP’s has been proven false by Owen Jones who stated on BBC Question Time that it takes 7 years to train to be a GP. Longer than the Conservatives have been in power. So you can thank Labour for those extra GP’s.
Also consider that the Corporations still continue to get away with paying minimal tax into the UK economy but the Tories won’t address this ongoing problem. Billions of pounds could easily be recovered but just like blaming immigrants for the NHS crisis is silly, the government will focus on the poor when concerned with unpaid taxes. They will blame those ‘on benefits’. Yet it’s neither the immigrants nor those in receipt of benefits that are the problem, it is our own government. Your government.
There is no need for austerity nor poverty. It’s all a lie.
Oh and Immigrants are not to blame for the weather either.
Hot on the heels of ‘The Protest Players – Part 1‘ comes the second instalment of this mini series looking at ‘who is who?’ of the organisers of the recent batch of anti austerity protests.
This time we focus on UK Uncut who arranged the protest in the image below for Saturday 30th May 2015
and we also look at the organisers of the second protest of the day as shown in the image below…
The Organisers of ‘The Great British Right off’ (we’re not sure if that’s a grammatical error or if its meant to be a play on words) were three individuals. Jon Warner, Kelly Fitz and Kyle Williamson. We will talk a little about them later in the blog.
I must stress at this point that we support protests and are not here to belittle any organisation. I know exactly how hard it is to get support for a protest and how much effort it can take to generate interest. The point of this mini series is to question if the tactics we conduct are working, asking if we know exactly who we are protesting on behalf of and with whom and if we can learn anything of note. I personally have what some may say are controversial opinions on certain groups and tactics but it is opinion with the best of intentions.
So, UK Uncut had called for more protests just a few days after the previous (semi) high profile protest event on the day of the State Opening of Parliament, and it seems UK Uncut had better success at attracting the numbers. Being a Saturday and just after lunchtime it was hardly a surprise.
The UK Uncut website says of itself;
“UK Uncut is a grassroots movement taking action to highlight alternatives to austerity. We use acts ofcreative civil disobedience to show our opposition to the Government’s cuts to our public services”
They go on to say;
“Austerity-economics is the policy of the powerful. It cannot be stopped by asking nicely. If we want to win the fight against these cuts (and we can win) then we must make it impossible to ignore our argumentsand impossible to resist our demands. This means building a powerful grassroots mass movement, able to resist the Government cuts at every turn”
“Since 2010 there have been over 800 UK Uncut actions all over the country”
(The bold type will be relevant later)
The UK Uncut website doesn’t go into who runs it or how it really formed, just that it started from a group of people starting off with a hashtag and the idea growing from there.
I am more than a little curious, I would love to ask them how they built it up so much since 2010. After all, a good idea needs more than just a hashtag. Trust me.
Even with The People’s Assembly that we covered in Part 1 of this mini series at least they went into how it was formed and who they got the backing of in the first instance. You get an idea of where there roots are. (Generally Labour MP’s looking for a leftist platform for the party if you were wondering). With UK Uncut, you just don’t know.
UK Uncut claim to be neither left nor right leaning but offer alternative solutions to austerity. On their Wikipedia entry it states that the group was initially formed by 10 people in 2010 in a pub and yet in 2011 just one year after their formation, the following is said to have happened;
“In November 2011, the legal arm of UK Uncut took HM Revenue & Customs to court. HMRC had been accused of failing to provide substantial reasons for not collecting billions of pounds in tax revenue”
What group of people in a pub in the space of a year gets their own ‘legal arm’? The article doesn’t elaborate but we are taking it at face value. We think there is a question to answer there but we will leave it to you to decide what that question should be.
Before we move on to the organisers of the second Protest of the day we must pose just a couple more questions about the UK Uncut demo.
How did the protest go? And what of the bold text above that we haven’t touched upon yet?
Both questions can be answered as one. The protest happened. It happened and a fair number of people attended, a few thousand maybe.
What creative act of civil disobedience occurred to make it impossible for the government to ignore?
As far as we can reasonably be expected to know, a great big banner was unfurled over Westminster Bridge. Huzzah!
The event description contained the following passage;
The banner was indeed bold, exciting? Not so much. Creative? Far from it. Secret location? So secret I don’t think anyone knows what happened.. Was Westminster Bridge the secret location? Who knows.
The Green Party can give us an even better future than the SNP so I assume that UK Uncut are backing the Greens?
(Shameful Plug alert: Search #IAM99G on Facebook search or on Twitter… For a Green 2020)
So what have we learnt from today’s protest and the 800 other UK Uncut actions since 2010? Not a lot, other than government haven’t been moved by any of the 800+ actions.
So what of the second protest of the day?
Same day, same time, different location different cause, although once again we say if the protesters had teamed up maybe things could have been a lot different. So often we hear groups like the People’s Assembly and UK Uncut talk of unity and organising, yet they can’t seem to Organise with each other.
This cause though was for the threat to the Human Rights Act. (We think the word ‘Rights’ is how the spelling for the event was realised, ‘Great British Right off’). A noble cause and one which many activists online are talking about.
4,700 had said they would attend the UK Uncut demo. 6,200 had said the would attend the ‘Right off’ demo.
We estimated earlier that around 3,000 turned up for UK Uncut, so it wasn’t shabby at all. For the ‘Right off’ though we estimate about 100 turned up. How did we come to that conclusion? We have little idea ourselves. Actually it was allegedly 500 according to one update we read.
Meet the organisers of the ‘Right off’.
First up is Kyle Williamson, his profile gives nothing away other than one post which is anti-tory so that’s a good start although he couldn’t attend because of illness. Then we have Kelly Fitz… I think.. Well… It might… Then we move on to Jon Warner, poor old Jon. Jon seems to be the main organiser here and he was none too pleased at the turnout. I feel for him because I arranged a protest back on 2nd May and if it hadn’t been for Occupy and ‘Feed the Birds’ doing their own thing on the day the official attendence for my protest would have stood at a grand total of around 14. Maybe one or two more at a push. I really do feel for him.
One thing that stands out from Jon’s profile is that he is almost certainly a Labour supporter. He likes the Liberal Democrats but not that much.
Here are a couple of excerpts from his public status update after the protest;
So what we have had today, much like we mentioned in Part 1 of this mini series is two different yet similar groups organising two different events on the same day, again, with one turning out well but having little impact on anything whilst another realises that as individuals we get the short end of the stick, we don’t have a name behind us, like ‘UK Uncut’ or ‘The People’s Assembly’. Maybe they should get a name. ‘Write off the Right off’ perhaps? No? I tried.
It just leaves me to point out one last thing. People’s Assembly, largely a platform for Labour MP’s as we pointed out in Part 1, the GB ‘right off’ most certainly Labour orientated (plus the Lib Dem 100). So when you support these events just remember you may be giving a voice or support, in an indirect way at least, to the Labour Party.
We need to do away with the Old political guard. Especially now Labour are moving to the right. It’s odd that Jon hasn’t noticed that yet. Jon! Get back over here… Go Green instead.
The next in the series will be sometime after the 20th June when we take another but much more brief look at The People’s Assembly again as well as the 10 million Bloc’s taking part. There is a bloc for everything these days. Part 4 will look at a National Strike on 29th June but we are not even sure the Unions either a) know it’s happening or b) would even turn up to their own protest if there was a national strike… Toothless. I may stop at Part 4. We will have to see how much comedy material I have left.
This mini series of Blog Posts, all entitled ‘The Protest Players’ will look at recent protests, who organised them, who backs them and also poses questions around their methods and tactics.
Do you know who you are backing? Are they the right way forward? How much power do they have? How do they operate? Are their tactics working?
In part 1 of this mini series we look at the recent protests at the State opening of Parliament on 27th May 2015. Who was behind the protests? What happened on the day? What can we learn?
On 27th May 2015 at around 11.30am the Queen gave her speech at the State opening of Parliament at the Houses of Parliament in London. Earmarked for that day were two main protests, largely against austerity and cuts under a Conservative government.
On social media you could find several videos depicting the days protests including;
One thing is clear from these videos. Not one of these videos shows any form of protest or disruption of the State opening of Parliament, the very thing the protests were meant to target. Perhaps the protesters couldn’t get near to the event?
This next video would suggest otherwise. In it, two men are arrested to prevent a breach of the peace for seemingly just having anti austerity placards on their person. They were situated at Parliament Square itself right at the time of the State Opening.
Why were these the only two lone soles to protest at Parliament Square at the time of the State Opening? Where was everyone else and who were the people behind organising the days protests?
The People’s Assembly against austerity had arranged for a protest on the day, to convene on Downing Street at 17.30. Hours after the State Opening had occurred.
The second protest of the day was organised by a few groups, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), NUS london and The Brick Lane debates. This time it was arranged for Trafalgar Sqaure at 17.00. We will look at the main group that arranged this, NCAFC, later in the blog.
‘The People’s Assembly Against Austerity was launched with a letter to the Guardian by the initial signatories below’
Tony Benn President, Coalition of Resistance
Len McCluskey General secretary, Unite the Union
Mark Serwotka General secretary, PCS
Christine Blower General secretary, NUT
Michelle Stanistreet General secretary, NUJ
Manuel Cortez General secretary, TSSA
Dave Prentis General secretary, Unison
Billy Hayes General secretary, CWU
Bob Crow General secretary, RMT
Mick Whelan General secretary, Aslef
Kevin Courtney Deputy general secretary, NUT
Paul Mackney Former general secretary Natfhe (now UCU)
Vicky Baars NUS union development
Kevin Donnelly Trade Union Council JCC
Caroline Lucas MP
Katy Clark MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
John McDonnell MP
Murad Qureshi London assembly member
Dawn Butler Former Labour minister for young citizens and youth engagement
Tariq Ali Author
John Pilger Journalist
Ken Loach Filmmaker
Owen Jones Writer
James Meadway Senior economist, New Economics Foundation
Wendy Savage & John Lipetz Keep our NHS Public
Merry Cross Disabled People Against the Cuts
John Hendy QC Co-chair, People’s Charter
John Hilary Director, War on Want
Sam Fairbairn National secretary, Coalition of Resistance
Imran Khan Solicitor, co-chair, People’s Charter
Rachael Newton People’s Charter
Romayne Phoenix Chair, Coalition of Resistance
Zita Holbourne Co-chair, Black activists rising against the cuts
Clare Solomon Vice-chair, Coalition of Resistance
Andrew Burgin Vice-chair, Coalition of Resistance
Colin Hampton Co-ordinator, National Unemployed Workers Centres Combine
Anita Wright Secretary, National Association of Women
Joginder Bains Association of Indian Women
Shang Gahonia Indian Workers Association
Carolyn Jones Director, Institute of Employment Rights
Lindsey German Convenor, Stop the War Coalition
Kate Hudson General secretary, CND
Bruce Kent Peace campaigner
Lee Hall Playwright
Roger Lloyd Pack Actor
Josie Long Comedian
Iain Banks Author
Arthur Smith Comedian
Roy Bailey Folk singer
Francesca Martinez Comedian
John Rees Counterfire editorial board
Natalie Bennett Leader of the Green Party England and Wales
Fred Leplat Socialist Resistance
Robert Griffiths General secretary, Communist Party of Britain
Bill Greenshields Chair, Communist Party of Britain
Richard Bagley Editor, Morning Star
It goes on to say that the Assembly ‘Is a broad united national campaign against austerity’
and ‘is linked to no political party’
It ‘Is based on affiliation by individual supporters, unions nationally and locally, anti-cuts campaigns, and other student, pensioner, unemployed, disabled people’s, women’s, Black people’s, youth and LGBT campaigning organisations’
and ‘Aspires to support, encourage, coordinate joint action, and facilitate a transfer of experience rather than to command’.
On their website a rookie member of The People’s Assembly completed a report on the days event. Read the full article at the link.
Here though we wanted to focus on the two following paragraphs from that article.
“….Jeremy Corbyn, (Labour) MP for Islington North voiced perhaps the defining words of the assembly: “Keep the spirit of that world you want to live in – not the nasty divided one we’re in,” he told the crowd..”
“…As Richard Burgon, Labour MP for East Leeds candidly called to the crowd. ‘Don’t wait for politics to fix it. Politics is broken…”
We notice a common theme amongst the supporters and signatories that despite the Assembly insisting they do not support a political party it’s hard, almost impossible to imagine there is no Labour Party agenda or at least Labour will be using the Assembly as a platform for their Party message.
National Campaign against fees and cuts is a movement of students against tuition fees, education cuts and wider public service cuts and has been operating since 2010. It has the support of the NUS.
I think this is fairly straightforward with only two questions to ponder.
Why are the the NCAFAC not affiliates to the People’s Assembly when Vicky Baara of NUS development is? Why did they also arrange their protest away from Parliament Square?
Now we have had a look at the groups involved let’s focus on the questions;
Why did both groups arrange their protests at 5pm or 5.30pm? The State opening of parliament occurred late morning into the early afternoon. What better way to make your point than to protest live on TV.
Everyone has been talking about ‘fighting back’ and not giving the government any rest and protesting at every opportunity. As long as, it seems, we don’t upset too many. people.
To keep the backing of the MP’s does the People’s Assembly have to conform? After all, the MP’s, even if every party is represented except a Tory one, can’t be seen to be condoning disruptive behaviour. It raises the question doesn’t it? A movement for the people, so long as the MPs don’t get shown up. Is this why the protest was arranged later in the day? Is this why the two protesters in Parliament square who were arrested were the only ones there at all during the State Opening. Are these the only two activists who can think for themselves?
What about the NCAFAC? What was there excuse? Could it be that to be ‘official’ they have to get the backing of the NUS? Would the NUS allow their students and membership to be seen to be disruptive at the State Opening? After all, the bite of the Unions seem to be weaker and weaker with every passing year.
The likelihood is, and we haven’t verified this, that both groups had notified the police in advance of the protests which meant they were limited in their approach.
Oddly enough with the People’s Assembly being as big as it is its a wonder why they had less supporters representing the PA than NCAFAC did. Even if they did eventually combine to march another long trek around half of London, leading nowhere but eventually back to Trafalgar Sqaure.
Why does everything end up back at Trafalgar Square? Why do we march aimlessly around London for a couple of hours. Footage from the protest shows at one point everyone keeping to the pavement. Poor innocent pedestrians, must have taken ages to walk through that throng of people. Still, at least it meant the cars could move freely from A to B.
We witness one video of a member of Anonymous facing off against police all on his own, despite being surrounded by dozens if not hundreds of fellow protesters. Walking into and backing into the police line won’t get you very far, and it didn’t. Despite his best efforts, the crowd couldn’t be convinced to commit any sort of civil disobedience.
The purpose here is not to lambaste the people taking part, after all, they are making an effort and doing more than most. No, the idea is to ask the questions. To make us question, what are we doing here? Who are we backing? Is this making the right impact.
People will say my comments are divisive, I would say that two separate groups arranging two separate protests at two separate times of day both of which were totally irrelevant times, is the more divisive action.
2015 looks set to see some big demonstrations, not least the End Austerity demo on 20th June in London and the November 5th Anonymous protest.
Everyone is talking of uniting and organising from groups such as The People’s Assembly to Anonymous from advocates such as Owen Jones to hardened Occupy protesters and from every day activists across the country to every Facebook group with social change as their message.
Also though consider this. Come the 2020 general election we are likely to still see Labour or the Conservatives win yet another election and this merry-go-round of corruption will continue. Unless we can indeed unite.
If you want something different in 2020 then the fightback starts now, Consider joining the 99G social media and street event campaign, the slogan of which is ‘doing for the greens what the 45/YES campaign did for the SNP.
Let’s get the elite out, and if we can’t do that then let’s at least get a well represented voice for the left, the 99%, into parliament in significant numbers.
To join the 99G Campaign visit the campaign event page then share and invite everyone at 99G Event
The question of peaceful protest or violent protest often crops up on our facebook group and there is never an easy answer it seems. There is always argument for and argument against violent protest.
People will often say that peaceful protest is the only way. To force change is undemocratic and is effectively forcing your opinions on the rest of the nation. That violence is met with ever increasing oppression by the state. They have the guns and batons, they have the armour and importantly they have the strategy that often only comes from the set up or large organisations such as the Police.
“Sir, the peasants are revolting”
– Count De Monet
On the other hand there are the advocates of violent protest. They say that no peaceful protest ever changed anything. That “If voting ever changed anything they would make it illegal”. They say that most people are asleep and they don’t see the corruption and the wage slavery that they unwittingly endure and that the ones that do see it need to rise up and save the others who remain asleep.
“If voting ever changed anything, they would make it illegal”
– Emma Goldman
So what of protest? Where has it got us? Where has it got other nations and to what degree do the people have to be subgegated before they ride up against the establishment? Is there any point protesting unless it’s to oversee a government take-over?
“No real social change has ever been brought about without a revolution”
– Emma Goldman
As the last Iraq war took place a few years ago, one million people marched in 2003 against the war and the involvement of the UK(1). The government didn’t listen and we went to war anyway. As it turned out we had gone to war on a pack of lies by then Prime Minister Tony Blair, despite this knowledge, they still took us to war regardless.
In 2014 the TUC march in London gained around 500,000 protesters from various groups(2), movements and unions. They marched against austerity and cuts to services as well as low wages. Since then austerity continued and looks to be continuing for another 5 years at the time of writing. Wages are still effectively frozen and cuts to services will continue and have been continuing. The government have not listened.
Then there are the myriad of other usually much smaller protests such as Bedroom Tax protests(3), ATOS protests(4), Anti-Badger Cull protests(5), the list is endless so I won’t bore you with said endless list.
These minor protests have a limited success it seems. The badger cull has continued, the Bedroom Tax remains but other parties have vowed to end it and ATOS have relinquished their government contract due to public pressure. However they are due to be replaced by ‘Maximus’. A lesser evil or greater evil? Time will tell.
Why though is the Bedroom tax potentially going to be scrapped by other parties despite only a small number ever attending the protests and why don’t the government listen to the larger protests where tens of thousands and more turn out?
The truth is that issues like the Bedroom Tax are small fry. They tend to only affect a small number of people and the policies surrounding the legislation don’t impact greatly on government income to any great degree. This begs the question why parties bring in changes like these in the first place. Votes. Some policies depending on which side of the political spectrum you fall on will be vote winners or at worst have no effect whatsoever but may bring in some minor benefits to the economy. In other words there is little risk.
When it comes to major issues or things that will have a huge impact on the economy or even societal attitudes especially policy that could see potential votes for that party dissipate then the government is much less likely to listen to the electorate. Issues such as Austerity and wage increases could have a huge effect on government budgets and as such no party will risk failure in developing radical policy that may see their core voter base turn against them.
Even a look back to the 80’s, the era of the Poll Tax riots(6) will tell you something. The government did scrap the poll tax but instead eventually introduced the council tax(7). More popular perhaps and therefore a victory of sorts.
Of all these examples though, which has been the most successful in terms of change? You could rightly argue that the poll tax riots brought about the biggest change of them all, and there we saw a significant shift in what the government were doing, if not all together doing away with any kind of ‘tax’.
So what would it take for there to be a societal revolution? One where the stakes concerning the economy and the status quo of not just the way we live but the entire political structure was at stake. What would need to happen to bring about that change?
The government wouldn’t give it up without a fight. Capitalism has been around so long and is so engrained in our lives that to consider an alternative is just far too alien to the political establishment. Also the system is indeed rigged. We have the House of Lords in the UK and one of their remits is to be a secondary barrier to passing new legislation. Even if a far left of fringe left political party did somehow make it into power and attempt to change from Capitalism to say Communism or any other idea of a left wing government they would have to pass many changes by law and that would mean going through the House of Lords at some stage, and history dictates and will evidence that they are unlikely to pass any bill that does away with Capitalism. The likely only way to make the changes that we must see is to do away with the House of Lords or overrule them on policy. Wouldn’t that go against the grain of what the left stands for? Wouldn’t that become a form of dictatorship? A disregard for the rule of the land? Would the capitalists of this country see us as revolutionaries or traitors?
What of foreign revolutions? Recently we have seen several revolutions including the high profile uprisings in Egypt and Ukraine. In Egypt it almost resulted in civil war. Certainly the pro government factions were fighting amongst anti government factions for a while before the military stepped in and in any case the anti government protesters soon we’ll outnumbered the pro-government protesters. It resulted in the people ousting the prime minister. They were helped though by the military eventually turning a blind eye to the protests. The overthrow of government stopped just short of a military coup although the military did temporarily take control of power.
In Ukraine it was a similar story although of course the Recolution has been marred by stories of the far right being involved and in both the case of Egypt and Ukraine rumour abounds about western interventions and influence.
What is interesting though is that neither Revolution has resulted in anything much better than what came before, but it seems to have succeeded non the less in quelling further unrest and uprising.
Greece has not seen a revolution but there has been huge civil unrest due to austerity measures where unemployment has sat at around 40%. That unrest did bring about change. The far left party Syriza came into power after elections were held. They came to power on a promise to reverse austerity and broker their own terms on the repayments of austerity bail outs from Europe. It is still not clear yet on wether they will keep their promise, but it’s a start.
How do we begin to analyse what works and what doesn’t work in regards to protest? In terms of real significant change it is clear from all these examples that peaceful protest achieves very little, in any nation. Violent protest it seems can bring about the changes that are desired but what comes after the violent protest or revolution is questionable. Why does it have an impact in some places yet others see no real change from what came before?
It appears that there needs to be a clear message, a clear goal, a plan and unity above all. In Egypt there was no after thought. Who would take over? Did everyone agree? The fact that no one really knew, meant that what did eventually arrive was better than before but didn’t really shake the foundations. In Ukraine there were so many self interested factions that when the revolution came, some sides were fighting each other and what came into power afterwards was in many people’s eyes chaos in government and no real direction or stability. This has now plunged Ukraine into a war, of sorts, with Russia over The Crimea.
In Greece the majority of people are united in regards to the effect of austerity on their nation, the police can not freely use deadly force like police in places like Egypt and the Military have not got involved unlike both Egypt and Ukraine. They also had a direction, a goal, they knew what they wanted and United they have achieved what they set out to achieve with no compromises.
Back in the UK though there is no such uprising. Truth of the matter is that the UK has had it relatively good. We are still a comparatively rich nation to other parts of Europe and indeed the world and our civil rights is actually pretty good and everyone knows it. So what’s the problem?
It has been this way in the UK for some time and as a result no one wants to upset the balance, but the problem is, is that it is all it is. A balance. No real improvements, no real changes in decades. People are growing restless for change and improvement and with so many more pressing matters abroad how can we bring ourselves to rise up and risk arrest, societal rejection and the loss of a stable job? So we wait. Wait for the moment that really brings it all crashing down. Waiting for that excuse to rise up.
So for now it seems all we can do is beg and scrap for the small changes and forget about the rest because it seems we are just not United enough yet in a stagnant country that seems to be going nowhere fast.
>>> This blog post is observational and is not intended to be taken as the authors personal opinion on how things should be <<<