Why We Need Regular Protests Against the Coalition Government’s Brutal Ideological Cuts

1.7.11

So I was on the streets of London yesterday, after joining my wife, my son and three of his friends, whose school was closed for the day, as well as other friends and teachers from my son’s school (who even had a banner!) on a march from Lincoln’s Inn Fields to Methodist Central Hall, via the Strand and Whitehall. It was a lovely sunny day, and the children looked wonderful, blowing whistles, plastered with National Union of Teachers (NUT) stickers, wearing T-shirts provided by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), and also waving flags from the University and College Union (UCU) and Lewisham People Before Profit. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of public sector workers were on strike, from the three unions above, plus the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), whose members were on a national strike for the first time since 1979, and the march and rally in London was attended by at least 30,00 people.

This was something of a family affair for me, as my wife is a UCU member, some of our very good friends are teachers, and, of course, we know other university lecturers and have, over the last seven years that my son has been at primary and junior school, got to know all his teachers. However, I would have been there in solidarity even if the strike had not involved anyone I knew, for two reasons: firstly, because the argument about pensions is actually part of an ideological struggle between the government and the unions, in which the government, to be blunt, is not to be trusted; and secondly, because yesterday’s strike actions were part of a wider desire for protests against the government — for their arrogance, their incompetence, and the savage reach of their entire programme for wrecking the state and privatising whatever hasn’t already been privatised under Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown, as I have been explaining since October in my series of articles under the heading, Battle for Britain: Fighting the Coalition Government’s Vile Ideology.

On that point alone, I approve of regular protests against the government — whether, like the huge TUC march and rally on March 26, it takes place on a weekend, so most people don’t actually have to go on strike, or whether it involves strike action, as I believe that more privatization is actually the last thing we need. This government, which doesn’t even have a mandate for its actions (having lied on the election trail and being a Frankenstein’s monster of Tory and Lib Dem body parts) is the opposite of our requirements — to pursue the banks and the corporations for unpaid tax or for tax evasion, and to work out how to have a government that governs, rather than one that seeks, perpetually, to hand all the power to unaccountable private sector opportunists, whose only interest is profit.

As for the specific issue of public sector pensions, I’m a self-employed journalist, so it’s not of huge personal concern, but the behaviour of Tory ministers appals me, as do their attempts to lie about the facts and to frame their arguments in the context of a war between the private sector and the public sector.

As Michael White noted in the Guardian today, on Radio 4’s Today programme, economics expert Evan Davis “kebabbed” Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, who is handling — or mishandling — pensions negotiations with the unions. As White wrote, paraphrasing Davis, “Why all the pressure when the Hutton report on pensions confirmed that — largely thanks to Labour reforms of public sector pensions — the annual taxpayer bung of 1.9% of GDP (about £32bn) to fill the contributions gap had peaked and would fall to 1.4% by the time younger marchers retire in the 2050s?”

As White also noted, “Maude floundered,” as he really has no answer. What the Tories want, clearly, is for the public to despise giving this support, so that, in time, the entire public sector can be demolished and the private sector take over, at which point only the bosses and shareholders will have decent pensions, and everyone else will be on temporary contracts, without any rights.

Gutting universities of state funding was a start to this process, which, as well as leading to the closure of numerous institutions as students flee to other countries where state support for universities remains in place, and a decline in educational standards and social mobility in the UK, may also lead to teachers and staff, over time, having to accept less pay and less rights simply in order to keep their jobs. I fought against the proposal to triple tuition fees and to cut 100 percent of government funding from all arts, humanities  and social science degrees, but that battle was lost in Parliament in December because Lib Dem MPs refused to abstain. However, I believe that it needs to be overturned, as was Thatcher’s Poll Tax, because it is such a reckless, ideological experiment, which could prove to be extraordinarily destructive, and as other sectors come under pressure — with the NHS being the most notable example, but with ramifications for the whole of the state, as I noted yesterday when I saw strikers walking past bearing a PCS Revenue and Customs banner — I will take part in protests.

Last May, after a pitiful election campaign in which no one spoke the truth, we should have had a national discussion about the way forward for the UK as a whole. Instead we have had nothing but arrogance, stupidity and ideology masquerading as necessity from a government that has no genuine vision (and little but silence or criticism of the strike from Labour in opposition). Yesterday was a polite protest, but that may not be the case in autumn, as the cuts continue to bite, and as the economy continues to suffer under a government that has no positive message for anyone except the rich and super-rich.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

37 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Thomas T. Panto wrote:

    Living Things are not alive to serve religions, nations or corporations. If those things do not serve the Living Things then get rid of them.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Mass protest helps. This morning the Swedish Parliament agreed to two improvements to the present incapacity law. The pressure was so strong that they returned from vacation. The changes were proposed by a Red-Green coalition. I’m proud to have played a small role in this, in part by sharing Andy’s articles on the NHS and the Cuts.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Dugg and shared.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Thomas and George, and everyone who has shared this to date. I agree with you about the need for people to resist policies implemented for the benefit of organizations, Thomas, and George, I’m delighted to hear about your latest success — and always surprised by your comments that my own humble contributions (remarking on aspects of the Tory-led government’s plans to privatize the NHS, and the involvement of companies like KPMG) have also helped. Thank you again, my friend.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

  6. Norwegian Shooter says...

    I’ll admit to not reading all of your UK protest movement posts, so I might have missed it, but I wanted to ask about the Lib Dems in the coalition. Why are they going along with this? I would think that their complicity in the cuts would doom the party for a very long time.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Allison Lee-Clay wrote:

    I am now really hoping for a major teachers’ strike in Ontario.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Sounds like a good idea, Allison. We need to be checking in with one another across the so-called “first” world to resist the austerity programs of our leaders, who really must be laughing themselves stupid when no one’s looking, given that so many ordinary people are prepared to suffer to support the banks and the corporations in their seemingly endless orgy of greed and tax evasion. I try to stay focused on the blindingly obvious: being hectored about austerity by Tories (and millionaire Tory ministers), under the slogan, “we’re all in this together,” is a non-starter — both darkly hilarious and a call to arms.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Iman El-Maghribi wrote:

    In the USA, classrooms are growing larger and teachers salaries are shrinking as many get laid-off. It’s getting to a breaking point.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Iman. That’s depressing, but important to know. The same pressures are apparent in all our countries, which is why we need to stay in touch, and to exchange information.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Esteban Chavez wrote:

    solidarity for sure.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Esteban. Yes, it’s extremely important. I think that, although the Internet has been a remarkable tool for education — and for people like me to become one-man newspapers, or global pamphleteers — we also need to demonstrate that we can use it to spark transnational protests as well.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    C Cryn Johannsen wrote:

    Andy, I am trying to organize protests in the U.S., and have been following such demonstrations around the world. Would you be willing to speak to me via Skype about my work and what I’m trying to accomplish here?

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    FogBelter Sfo wrote:

    This is a globally coordinated attack on people’s rights and benefits by transnational business, using the economic crash to amass wealth and consolidate power. Democracy is truly under attack in the western world and it isn’t an accident.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Borhaan Arifee wrote:

    Also protest regularly against the British Army which is training the Pakistan paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) to commit genocide of Baloch people and kill and dump the mutilated and decomposed dead bodies of the educated cluster of Baloch society on regular basis! Today another abducted/disappeared Baloch political leader Ghaffar Langav’s brutally tortured, mutilated and bullet riddled dead body was found near Gaddani of Hub area. Shame on British Army for being behind the slow motion genocide and the cover up i.e. complete media black out. Can you get this NEWS from BBC or Guardian etc?

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    C Cryn Johannsen wrote:

    Meanwhile, we’re fighting about 6 wars! Hooray for the US of A!

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Borhaan Arifee wrote:

    To us both (US+Britain) are two sides of the same coin! US of A is doing the same disgusting act and covering it up!

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    C Cryn Johannsen wrote:

    You said it, Borhaan!

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Cryn, Fogbelter and Borhaan — and everyone who’s shared this to date.
    Cryn, I’d be delighted to talk to you — but I’m not on Skype. Can you give me a call?

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Kristin Higgins wrote:

    hope the day was successful, i’m out the country and don’t get to hear too much of what’s going on.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    It was good, Kristin. I think it was important for solidarity, so all the individuals involved don’t feel alone, and I think the public perception was favourable.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Norwegian Shooter,
    Yes, you’re right. It doesn’t make sense. At the very beginning, when Labour wouldn’t cut a deal, it was just about logical that the Lib Dems would form a coalition with the Tories. Without it, there would have been another general election, and there was no sign that the result would have been anything other than, possibly, an increased turnout for the Tories. However, what should have dawned on the Lib Dems almost immediately was that an alliance with the Tories would involve them losing more in the compromise than they gained, and finding themselves tainted by association — especially on the tripling of tuition fees, which they opposed in their manifesto, but then accepted in the coalition, voting for it in December. It seems that they’re now dead as a political force for another generation, and there’s no sign that they’d gain back any of their lost support if they pulled out of the coalition — although I wish that they would!

  23. nick moran says...

    Re: the Lib Dems in the UK coalition government.
    Lets not be under any illusion that the Lib Dems on their own would act in a radically much different way to the government they are now part of. Listen to Vince Cable for one – and look at the way Lib Dems act when they are in power locally for another.

    Lib Dem doctrine is expediency, their primary aliegence is to the upper middle class elites, and they are all too willing to do down anyone outside their clan.

    Remember too that it was the Social Democrates, (the senior partners in the foundation of the Lib Dem party) who’s split from Labour significantly helped the Thatcher government stay in power through the 80’s – decimating working class movements even though that meant destroying British manufacturing. If you get your hands dirty to earn your pay – don’t look to the Lib Dems for any favours; they fear and hate you.

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Nick. Very good to hear from you. The problem for the LIb Dems, then, is that, having exposed their true colours in a coalition government, they walk off with the award for being the most unprincipled liars when it comes to manifesto promises, and I can’t imagine how they’ll recover any credibility. I presume that’s why their popularity has been the hardest hit, because at least with the Tories people knew — or ought to have known — what they were getting into bed with.
    That said, I reserve particular hatred for hectoring Etonians who aren’t as clever as they like to think they are!

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Katia Baghai ‎wrote:

    “Democracy” is already not effective. The police state were preparing for such a days, they weren’t built to “protect”, “defend” against “enemies”, “crimes” but in the event of uprisings. Protest is real if you are dealing with a democratic state/power that can negotiate in response, not anymore. It’s necessary to take our money out of banks and leave the city centers for the country area, stop driving around and minimize use of fuel, and that’s that. We will suffer but they will choke.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Borhaan Arifee ‎wrote:

    Katia Baghai: The word “democracy” means “rule of the mob” or “tyranny of the majority” against the minority (as Balochs we are experiencing it for the last 64 years here in Pakistan which was created in the British Tavistock Institute Laboratory). The fundamental purpose of Police is to “Serve and Protect the Public”. The word “public” in law books (actually) means “government”. That is why the property of the government is called “Public Property”. What the banks on both sides of the river do? They direct the flow of the “currency” because they have got the juice or the wealth of a nation to control the flow of life. As Nathan Rothschild once said, “You give me the money system of a nation and I don’t care who makes the laws”. It is the 13 banking dynasties and their created world of “corporatocracy” that rules the world. No where run! Just try to get out of the system and strive for a natural livelihood in order to protect and sustain the natural environment and climate of the planet earth. Otherwise, we are doomed and we will suffer and choke by all the other means which are available to maintain the status quo.

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Katia and Borhaan. I’m glad that conversations are ongoing about how to resist — or opt out. I know that Borhaan is at the sharp end of this, with an entire population subjected to the most brutal oppression, but for those in the West I think it would be fair to say that most of us are only capable of occasionally glimpsing armageddon through cracks in the prevalent portrayal of reality. But we need to be looking far more closely at those cracks, and the world without support or protections that lies beyond it.

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    Borhaan Arifee wrote:

    Beautifully summed up! Please dig it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xbp6umQT58A The Story of Your Enslavement: We can only be kept in the cages we do not see. A brief history of human enslavement – up to and including your own. From Freedomain Radio, the largest and most popular philosophy conversation in the world. http://www.freedomainradio.com/
    Text: http://www.fdrurl.com/slavestory

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Borhaan. Very interesting.

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    Katia Baghai wrote:

    It comes to the difference between totalitarianism and democracy. Genuine democracy means real rule of majority while totalitarianism it is rule of the minority in the name of the majority. This totalitarian minority (like Pervez Musharraf’s) usurp power over the majority by using a common totalitarian ideology to mask this fact. Because totalitarian ideology is common for ruling minority and the ruled majority, this majority doesn’t grasp that minority rules in its own interests while the majority believes in (totalitarian)ideology- against its own interests. So, the majority satisfies itself by righteously believing while minority – righteously ruling.

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Mary Zink wrote:

    general strike sooner rather than later

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Borhaan Arifee wrote:

    You said it well Katia Baghai but there are no masks, everything is crystal clear to us and I think you have not grasped the real dynamics of Pakistani politics as one of the speakers (Michael Hughes) at the Balochistan International Conference (2011) Washington DC described it fairly that “since Pakistan came out of the British laboratory, it is in the permanent state of martial law because Pakistan is a country that doesn’t have an army but an army that has a country.” The population of this baseless, ideology-less and brainless state is about 180 million while the population of its armed forces (including all the intelligence agencies, paramilitary and police) is maximally about 1.8 million that rules over that gullible population with an iron fist. I think you should study more about the transformed form of totalitarian regimes of Europe and Americas including the US of A and Canada under the guise of De-Mock-Racy. Read few pages from the Patriot Act and the Project for New American Century and find out who the people like Leo Strouse and Col. Edward Mandell House really were. And what George Orwell really meant by 1984. Etymologically the word “government” comes from the Latin word < gubernaré > and the Greek word < kubernan > which means “to control” and later part of the word comes from a very common term in many languages including my own i.e. < menté > or < ment > which means “the mind”. So the word “government” literally means “the control of the mind” and that is what the government generally does because it is its real purpose to make the people believe in the most unrighteous things to be righteous as one scholar said, “Some people believe that it is only the ideology of Islam that could provide a sole raison d’être for the existence of Pakistani state” to have a government that would fleece the sheep, I mean rest of the population. Catch my drift?

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Katia and Borhaan, for the ongoing discussion, and Mary for that succinct rallying cry — much in evidence on posters on the march on Thursday. I’d say that, at the moment, a general strike is so remote a possibility as to be almost unimaginable, but it’s interesting that last week the BMA (British Medical Association) overwhelmingly approved a ballot on strike action if their pensions are threatened, and Unison (with 1.4 million members) spoke about the possibility of rolling strike action in the autumn.

  34. Andy Worthington says...

    Katia Baghai wrote:

    There is no way to defend any of the existing democracies today. And it is Orwell among others who taught me necessary criticism of democracy even when it was genuine. But theoretical differentiation between democracy and totalitarianism is very important, and especially today when democracies are collapsing and totalitarian systems have learned to use formal democratic procedures to claim that they’re democracies.

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Katia. Yes. One thing they’re not talking about is their lack of legitimacy, given how few votes are required to claim a non-existent mandate to run the country (here in the UK, at least — other countries have tried to overcome this with mandatory voting). With the coalition government, this problem is clearer than ever, and I’m reassured that some people are openly discussing resistance on the basis that the government doesn’t have the mandate for ruinous change that it likes to claim that it has.

  36. Andy Worthington says...

    Borhaan Arifee wrote:

    Dear Katia: I have no right to insist anyone to believe in anything – as everyone has the right to believe whatever they wish to – either logically or theoretically. But what we have in common is that we should feel each others’ pain and support each other and “respond to any injustice committed against anyone in any part of the world” because “freedom is our only common bond”. Wish you all the best Andy for your struggle and the great efforts for your fellow human beings because “charity begins at home”.

  37. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Borhaan. It’s been a pleasure discussing the state of the world with you.

Leave a Reply

Back to the top

Back to home page

Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
Email Andy Worthington

The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

RSS

Posts & Comments

World Wide Web Consortium

XHTML & CSS

WordPress

Powered by WordPress

Designed by Josh King-Farlow

Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist:

Archives

In Touch

Follow me on Facebook

Become a fan on Facebook

Subscribe to me on YouTubeSubscribe to me on YouTube

Andy's Flickr photos

Campaigns

Categories

Tag Cloud

Afghans Al-Qaeda Andy Worthington Bagram British prisoners CIA torture prisons Clive Stafford Smith Close Guantanamo David Cameron Guantanamo Habeas corpus Hunger strikes Lewisham London Military Commission NHS NHS privatisation Photos President Obama Reprieve Save Lewisham A&E Shaker Aamer Taliban Torture UK austerity UK protest US Congress US courts WikiLeaks Yemenis