Today I was delighted to attend the huge anti-austerity march in central London on June 20 organised by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity. Although the weather was indifferent, the turnout wasn’t, and around 250,000 people marched from the Bank of England to Parliament Square to show the many, many reasons ordinary, hard-working British people have for despising the Tory government, who, in May’s General Election, won over 50% of the seats, with just over 36% of the votes, cast, and the support of less than a quarter of those eligible to vote. See my article here about the need for a new voting system involving proportional representation.
I arrived by bike in central London after the march had set off, meeting it on Fleet Street and spending some time on the Strand watching the marchers go by, which was where I realised quite how big it was, as the people — cheerful but with a sense of intent and a plethora of excellent hand-made placards — just kept coming. I hope the message that comes through strongly from today’s event is not only a message to the government — that more and more of us are waking up, and we are not happy about what is happening, but also to the organisers of today, and to the unions, who supported it: we need events like this to take place on a regular basis, at least every six months, if not every three, so we can keep showing solidarity with each other, and also to keep demonstrating it to the government.
The Tories’ austerity programme, which has involved massive cuts to the public sector and to the welfare state, including the NHS, and attacks on the unemployed and the disabled, is driven not by need but by a malignant ideology — the desire to privatise almost everything (but not their own salaries, of course) for the benefit of the private sector, often using taxpayers’ money to achieve their ends, and often benefitting them directly, as they are involved in the companies making a profit.
Although the Tories’ austerity policies have been disastrous economically, so that it has cost more to ruin the lives of millions of people than to have left them alone, the message has still not got through to the majority of the British people — and that’s without even getting into the mess that is the housing market, especially in London and the south east, where — yes, you guessed it — the rich are facilitated to get richer with no restraints on their behaviour, while those who are younger and/or poorer are being asked to pay far more than ever before, and far more than is justifiable, to get on the housing ladder or even just to pay rent. I can only hope that events like this will help to wake up the millions of people who stand to have their lives further impoverished by the Tories, and who need to make a stand if we are not to descend into an increasingly divided country, with an ever-growing gulf between the rich and the poor over the next five years.
The fight is on, and the struggle continues. Today, however, we can take heart that we sent out a powerful message to the government — that we’re not going to just sit down and shut up, and let the Tories wreck the country and turn the clock back to some distant past: perhaps the late 18th century (but with Twitter), or even the middle ages, where the trinkets of modernity (think having a mobile phone while toiling in some feudal field) won’t save us from our Tory rulers, who really, really, really don’t care about most of us at all.
A link to the photos is also below:
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers). He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the co-director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — 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. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:
Here’s my latest article linking to my photos of today’s wonderful and inspiring 250,000-strong anti-austerity protest in London, in which we sent a powerful message to the government that their cruel assault on the state and our most treasured institutions, like the NHS, and on the most vulnerable members of society is unacceptable, and will be resisted.
Tony Simpson wrote:
Nice set from Andy Worthington;
bring home Shaker Aamer!
Thanks for sharing, Tony. Joanne, the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, was there with our banner: https://twitter.com/MacInnesJoanne/status/612255457252634625
When my friend Jan Strain shared this on Facebook, she wrote:
From my brother in rooftop shouting, Andy Worthington.
250,000 (approx .004% of the UK pop based on population figures of the UK 63,489,234 as of July 1 2014) showed up in London yet the US (population 322,583,006 as of July 1 2014) can’t seem to pull anyone off their asses to come up with even 645,000 (.002% of the US pop) to march on DC…
Don’t tell me, US, that we are sick of the corruption, the neoliberal pampering of corporations and wealthy at the expense of the people, the outright war criminal behavior of the US government if we won’t get off our collective asses in a show of resolve and strength against the machine
Thanks for sharing, Jan. Yes, getting 650,000 people in DC for a progressive cause is pretty hard to imagine, isn’t it? One of the problems, of course, is the sheer size of the US. Today there were people from all over England, but none of them had to travel further than from, say, New York to DC.
Sue Katz wrote:
Well done in London! Here’s Andy Worthington’s report.
Thanks for sharing Sue. It really was an impressive day!
Sue Katz wrote:
Great photos Andy.
Thanks, Sue. Glad you like them!
Jan Strain wrote:
As for the size of the US, we had 200,000 to 250,000 showing up to DC almost every 6 months from all over the nation for the last few years of Vietnam…Trains, planes and automobiles are still in use here though the trip might cost a bit…
Yes, Vietnam’s the key comparison for me, Jan, for so much to do with the modern history of dissent. As a youth growing up in Britain in the late 70s, I was fascinated by the 60s counter-culture, and it seemed like the coolest place had been the US, with the hippies and then with the massive protests against Vietnam. Nowadays, sadly, I don’t think people would immediately think of the US when thinking of counter-cultutal movements or protest – a sign of how much the dark forces of late capitalism have clamped down on dissent since the 80s of Reagan (and Thatcher too, of course, here in the UK). But 250,000 people would be great to see in DC calling for a change in society’s preoccupations – for people before profit, essentially.
That said, Jan, I do appreciate the size of the protests against the relentless murders of – mostly – young black men by the police, and the ripples from the Black Lives Matter movement have definitely spread beyond America’s shores. Gun control, however, is an issue that is very specifically American.
Jan Strain wrote:
Andy, I’ll show my age a bit here…I was part of the last half of that counterculture…Guerrilla protest tactics and all.
Cut my radical teeth on Vietnam war protests in KC. Those days will hopefully rise once more but, I suspect, it may not be in my lifetime. Complacency has set in and fear. Occupy began to draw the people but the fear of reprisal overwhelmed the community (and the loss of focus). The 60’s brought varying views together…Today we have so many balkanized groups of people that the focus on differences supersedes the need for unification.
Thanks again, Jan. I somehow knew you were involved in the Vietnam protests that remain such an inspiration – from when the counter-culture had teeth, before it became the new age “me me me” industry that has infected almost every aspect of western life these days. Hence the huge need for genuine innovative socialists, who believe in something bigger than the ego, and something that is much more than the infantilized self-gratification that is so much of what passes for our “culture” these days.
I agree about complacency and fear, but I’m not sure how long the current system is sustainable. I hope there will be enough of us who are wake when that happens, but I fear that too many of us have forgotten what community and solidarity is.
Beryl T Peril wrote:
Excellent set of pics. I’ve shared 🙂
Thanks, Beryl. Much appreciated.
Jamal Ajouaou wrote:
The untied kingdom have system old and very tired out of focus, it need new talent because now and for sometimes we don’t care either labor blame tory or tory blame liberal enough rubbish game, we don’t care how you do it just be honest and do a good job . because the system already doesn’t deliver good for value, I don’t understand if politics seems to attract most corrupt blood thirty scam all they need is some body from dictator countries to influence them give them secret evidence based on torture and they will keep it to use it if they have discovered some kind of internal information , look at me I have been waiting 14 years for fair trial , simply because some body lie
Oh how much we need new energy in politics, Jamal! Good to see Jeremy Corbyn standing in the Labour leadership contest, talking socialism and the need to care, but the right-wing dogs are in charge right now, and have bent the easily led public to their will, so it’s an uphill struggle still. The status quo can’t last forever, though, but when it all crashes again will we go for a new commun(al)ism or will we settle for the fascists?
Jamal Ajouaou wrote:
Hi Andy it was good to hear last minute Jeremy Corbyn last minute energy decision ,good for him , to be or not to be , good decision and good luck to Jeremy Corbyn to stand in the labour leadership .
Jamal Ajouaou wrote:
like you said Andy right wing some how doesn’t see reality , all they see is collect money by any means , taking penny from children and old people , you cannot have healthy economy built on weak citizen , I just hope they wake up before it is too late
Great analysis of the problems of running an economy on theft from the poor, Jamal! And yes, we’re cheering Jeremy on! He’s getting a lot of TV coverage, which is great, but the interviewers always try and make out that austerity is the only game in town. So many people are so brainwashed.
Suhail Manzoor wrote:
Regardless, cuts are coming next month
Well, yes, but we have to fight back, Suhail. If we scare them, we can have influence, as happened in Lewisham, where I live, when 25,000 people (10% of Lewisham’s population) took to the streets to save our hospital. They are few and we are many. And they’re already arguing behind the scenes about the severity of the cuts and what they can get away with. They have no foil anymore (the LIb Dems) and they really can’t keep blaming the last Labour government for everything for the next five years.
Ann McElroy Lavigne wrote:
There is also a feeling of empowerment when you stand up and speak out against oppression, Andy and Suhail, even if it may not have immediate repercussions. There is little more that keeps us subservient than silent acquiescence.
Suhail Manzoor wrote:
You are of course right Andy. Injustices must never be suffered in silence. And Austerity is an injustice and an injury.
Ann, those in power will privatise my air if they could. I will nevertheless call them out as fakes. I am not rolling over and giving up till those bustards make me laugh my heart out.
Ann McElroy Lavigne wrote:
I am with you, Suhail. They are beginning to expect we should pay for the water we drink…the air can’t be too far behind. I hope we will continue to laugh for very different reasons, my friend.
Yes, I agree about the sense of empowerment that comes with resistance to oppression, and speaking out, Ann, and I love that line: “There is little more that keeps us subservient than silent acquiescence.” All those who have given up on politics – apparently a third of the British people, with, I’m sure, similar numbers elsewhere – should hear that. And Suhail, Thatcher tried to privatise the air, as her Poll Tax (Community Charge) was an equal tax on everyone for local services regardless of income! That was a step too far, of course, and prompted a rebellion.
However, I wouldn’t put it past these butchers in power now to be discussing whether we’re so tame now that they could, for example, get away with abolishing the higher rates of taxation (40% kicks in at £42,385 a year, 45% at £150,000). After all, there was widespread opposition to Labour’s proposal of a MansionTax, when to me, if the country needs money, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect people with house worth £2m to pay a little bit extra. The poor pay a higher percentage of their income through indirect taxation anyway.
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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