The government’s vicious attacks on the poorest are continuing, and there’s little opposition from Labour. It’s time to get on the streets, argues Chris Nineham

Save our NHS

It is hard to believe, but we are seriously being asked to celebrate the start of a recovery at the very same time that it’s officially announced that wages have experienced their sharpest drop for decades, there is an epidemic of zero hours contracts and that house prices have started going up. Halleluhah!

The jubilation from government and media shouldn’t surprise us. This is a double whammy for the austerity lobby. It’s not  just that they have found some statistics that show an economic upcreep, but they can claim their medicine is working. A brief glance at the evidence shows that the growth – such as it is – is almost entirely dependent on the increase in house prices. In other words what we are witnessing is a mini-bubble with no impact on the rest of the economy. But why bother with facts when you can get away with fabrication?

The problem is, the idea that the only way out of a banker-induced crisis is for ordinary people to pay the price – over and over again – goes largely unchallenged. The media loyally rehashes the argument day-in day-out. Rather than pointing to its obvious flaws, the Milliband Labour leadership has effectively endorsed it by opting for austerity-lite.

It’s time for a national response

We need to tackle the nonsense of austerity head on. We need a high profile, national response to register the fact that for the vast majority things just keep on getting worse, not better, and that we don’t accept the ‘there is no alternative’ mantra. It needs to be a response that involves the largest possible number of people and ensures the greatest possible impact. This is the purpose of the September 29 demonstration to the Conservative Party Conference.

The demonstration has been called to defend the NHS and demand an end austerity.  It has the backing of the TUC and the Peoples’ Assembly. When it was proposed to the 4,000 strong Assembly in June it immediately caught everyone’s imagination. It is the perfect chance to express the majority experience of the crisis, to direct the anger that so many feel at the problem’s source – a millionaire’s government. If it is big enough it will take the movement to a new level and begin to change the terms of the debate in British society.

It will help break the media’s virtual boycott of alternative voices. It can give trade unionists considering strikes in schools, post offices and elsewhere the confidence to opt for action and it be a springboard for the 5 November day of direct action against austerity. 

The signs for the demonstration so far are excellent. Since the national launch of the Peoples’ Assembly, local  assemblies have been initiated in over sixty towns and cities. There have been activist meetings from Bridgend to Ashford, from Bridgewater to the Fenland.

The meetings have been packed. Organizers were astounded when 150 came to the first Thanet Peoples Assembly public meeting in Broadstairs.  Over 100 attended the first East London activist meeting, and 300 came to the Manchester report back from the national assembly. Students are planning their own assembly and  from York to Liverpool activists are reporting large numbers of new  people are getting involved in the fightback.

Make this a huge demonstration

There is a sense of anticipation around the demonstration. The organisers of the Manchester Peoples Assembly are booking a venue for 1,000 people for a rally in the run up to the demonstration. In London, a people’s train has been booked by the People’s Assembly with 800 seats. Speakers, including Owen Jones and Roger Lloyd Pack, have already committed to giving meetings on the train.

There is no doubt there are enough people angry enough to make Manchester a monster demonstration no-one will ever forget. Coaches are being organised from all over the country. Some of the unions are already promoting the demonstration. But the job of activists in the next six weeks is to make sure that everyone knows about September 29.

To build a demonstration on this kind of scale takes serious levels of activity, organization and creativity. We need publicity stunts, letters and articles in the local papers, rallies or public meetings in every area, resolutions in every union meeting, leafleting at festivals, cultural and political events, shoutouts in lectures, a big operation at student fresher fairs and a mass social media campaign. We need streets leafleted, stalls in town centres and posters up wherever possible. Everyone single activist has to play their part, starting now.

Chris Nineham

Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.

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