After the recent student rebellion against the ConDem attacks on education, the anti-cuts movement is now recognised as a force to be reckoned with. This site has led the way in reports and analysis of this new movement, which I consider to be as significant as 2003′s opposition to the invasion of Iraq. As recently argued by Aidan Kerr, we must generalise the struggle, opposing all cuts and establishing solidarity networks between all sections of the working class.
The Scottish student movement can be proud of its contribution to opposing Westminster’s reactionary ‘reforms’, with peaceful sit-ins at the universities of St Andrews, Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Glasgow. This will worry the high-heid-yins of the SNP and Scottish Labour, who will be imposing an austerity program in this country, starting with the forthcoming March Scottish Budget. Our recent mobilisations are an indicator that fierce resistance will meet any party attempting to undermine the principle of free education for all.
A key difference between this struggle and the anti-war movement of 2003, is that there is unlikely to be any moment where people think “this is happening now and we can’t stop it”. After troops had been mobilised and entered Iraqi territory, it became difficult to sustain the same momentum on the peace marches – many thought there was nothing they could do and numbers slowly dwindled. However, despite the Lib Dem leadership’s belief that this moment of public displeasure will pass, we are actually just at the beginning of what will be a massive and enduring fight. It feels like it has really started now, and it will end with the toppling of this Government.
HANDS UP IF UR A BAM
Remember back in May, when Clegg and Cameron’s new partnership was formally announced, all the talk was “Can the Coalition last the full 5-year term?” At the time, what everyone meant was “Can the Tories and Liberals get along with each other?” There may be rumblings within the Lib Dems, but their leader’s plans have them tied into blocking an early election and denying voters a say until May 2015. It would seem that party is unprincipled enough to drink the neoliberal cup down to its dregs.
But the Government’s ability to stay in power will be challenged. Again, we ask ”Can the Coalition last the full 5-year term?” not as a result of a potential tiff between Nick n’ Dave, but because there is a prospect that the country could become ungovernable for them. I’m not daft enough to say there is an inevitable impending revolution at this moment. But no-one saw the student rebellion coming. It shows that a new generation has entered the fray, with few illusions in mainstream parties or the parliamentary system. Volatile times are ahead and we must be ambitious.
A key skill we will have to learn is multi-tasking. I am part of the camp that says free education can still be won, despite last week’s vote in the Commons. We must of course continue this campaign. But we must also be alert to the bullshit policies being prepared for other aspects of our lives. Everyone can now see through the media’s discourse about lazy students and diddy degrees, but the Press has reserved even more venom for another embattled section of our class – people on state benefit payments. Similar to their colleagues in Ireland, our pro-capitalist regime has plans afoot to slash the welfare bill, which will cause a spike in ill healh, homelessness and child poverty.
Right-wing politicians like to talk tough on ‘benefit fraud’, but they are clearly making scapegoats of millions of people, mainly relatively poor, doing nothing more than claiming what they’re entitled to. The rich want to dismantle every aspect of the Welfare State, which was won by the workers movement through mass campaigns in the first half of the 20th Century, which the ruling class capitulated to as they feared the prospect of Revolution. The ‘progressive’ Coalition is trying to return us to the Victorian era, with the “undeserving poor” effectively forced into slave labour through modern Workfare.
For several years now, right-wing papers such as the Daily Mail have been whipping up a climate of hysteria around the issue of disability benefits. To read that paper’s glorious pages, you’d think that half the nation was faking depression or kidding on they have whiplash, just for a few extra pounds per week. Of course it’s propaganda, the point of which is to justify a real terms decrease in the amount of money the Government gives sick people to live on.
Sorry to deviate into anecdotes, but I have several friends who have experienced depression and been unfit for work. It is a very common and very serious illness. A civilised society provides help to people like that, folk who need it. But here, under sucessive governments, their standard of living has been on the slide for a long time, with the biggest ever attack currently happening. Shame on the callous politicians who are going through with this.
In the last few months our friends in the press have been asking the tough questions about how much housing benefit costs us and whether we can afford it in the current economic climate. I don’t know when it happened, but they seem to have succeeded in eliminating from the debate the fact that people need somewhere to live, and some way to pay for that. The result will be another of our en vogue emulations of the USA – thousands will be forced to sleep in cars, on the floors of extended family members, or out on the streets. Affordable housing is already rare in many parts of the UK due to Thatcher’s decision to sell off council houses and refuse to build new ones (a policy maintained by Labour). Broken families and ruined lives are sure to be caused by this particular ‘efficiency’. Many will receive only part of what their rent is, meaning taking money from their already meagre benefits.
It is worth putting things in perspective. Benefit fraud costs the economy around £1 billion per year. Legalised tax-dodging has cost us £120 billion in recent times. The bailout of the banks and resulting financial stimulus cost around £1 trillion. You do not wreck a system which is relied upon by millions of people just because a small minority abuse it. We must ignore the media’s attempts to divide the working class on the basis of Worker vs. Claimant. With record levels of employees in poverty, and unemployment rates that would make Thatcher blush, the need for unity is obvious.
Raising the flag to defend welfare, this Wednesday has been named as ‘National Day of Protest Against Welfare & Housing Benefit Cuts’. There’s a facebook event here with some useful info. Sadly, at the moment of writing there’s few details of any Scottish events, but some bright spark has come up with an excellent idea that we can all participate in. Check out National Troll A Tory Day! where the group say:
For all those unable to attend the National Day of Action Against Benefit Cuts we are pleased to present the first National Troll A Tory Day* on December 15th 2010.
*Tory can also be taken to mean Lib Dem, as we can longer see any difference between them.
Spend the day online firing out as many passionate, mischievous, heartfelt or just down and dirty rude messages to the Tory press, Tory or Libdem bloggers and Tory/Lib Dem MPs wh…erever they may skulk.
For too long the media have portrayed benefit claimants as scroungers, lazy or fraudulent. This is our chance to tell the truth about life on benefits and how these cuts will affect us all.
The obvious candidates are the Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph and The Sun. All allow comments and in the Mail’s case these comments are sometimes unmoderated. Find a recent story about benefit claimants, or just dive in an interrupt the latest chat about X Factor.
In the event comments are removed or strictly moderated then why not switch to Tory/Lib Dem bloggers. Government supporting website Guido Fawkes and MP Iain Dale are two of the most prominent. Again comment moderation may be turned on, but don’t let that put you off, make them work for their living for a change. Should you tire of these, then Iain Dale has a handy list of the top 100 Conservative blogs to get your teeth into. There’s a similar list of Lib Dem blogs on Libdemvoice.
Facebookers might want to pay a visit to the facebook pages of David Cameron, Nick Clegg or Vince Cable. Conservative Home, and conservatives.com also have the facility to leave comments. Lots of Tory councillors and MPs have blogs, use google to find them and give them a piece of your mind. If you have a blog yourself why not write a post about the upcoming benefit cuts or use facebook, twitter or any of the new fangled devices available to show your contempt.
You can write to your MP via theyworkforyou.com. Or how about a letter to your local paper explaining to them how the vicious benefit cuts are likely to impact on you or your family.
The internet gives us unprecedented opportunity to tell this spineless Government exactly what we think of them. Let’s come out in force on the 15th December and start the fight back against the welfare and housing benefit cuts set to devastate so many lives.
Please feel free to leave more links to Tory and Libdem scumbag’s sites in the comments.
For links to all the above mentioned sites visit: http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/national-troll-a-tory-day/