June 20th Protest in London. Photograph: Jim Aindow

The massive End Austerity Now demonstration must be a springboard for more activity, locally and nationally

Yesterday’s demonstration should mark the first step nationally, after May’s election, towards creating a mass movement against austerity.

If it is the only step we take, we will fail. But if Saturday’s demonstration begins to force open a political crisis for the Tories, we can succeed. This new government won the votes of just 24% of registered voters. The Conservative vote increased just 0.5% compared to their 2010 result. Yet the antiquated “first-past-the-post” voting system handed them a slender majority. It wasn’t the electorate who created this government. It was the electoral system.

That means they have no real mandate for their austerity offensive. George Osborne will lay out his plans in more detail in the Emergency Budget of 8 July. But we know that, after almost halting increasingly unpopular austerity measures in the year before the election, they want to hammer through £25bn of extra cuts in just a few years.

That means hacking parts of public services to the bone – and beyond. It means tearing up longstanding benefits – like universal child benefit. There is no public appetite for this.

But the programme is so vicious that even the Tories can’t agree on it. The Times reports that Cabinet ministers are already squabbling over whose departments will bear the brunt of the cuts.

And the International Monetary Fund – global enforcers of austerity – have now reported that Britain’s government debt is no cause for concern.

They believe austerity is not needed here – a message now being echoed by the bosses’ paper, the Financial Times.

Our opponents are more divided than they would wish. Cameron and Osborne know, with a tiny 12-seat majority, that they may not last a full term in office. So they need to ram through every cut they can right now.

They’ve already had to delay scrapping the Human Rights Act for fear their own backbench MPs will revolt.

This is our opportunity to derail their plans still further.

The End Austerity Now demonstration must be a springboard for more activity, locally and nationally. The bigger the political crisis over austerity, the bigger we win. A government confronted by a mass movement that refuses to buckle can be dragged into such a crisis – just as happened over the Poll Tax and the Iraq War.

  • Build local protests and direct actions on the day of the Emergency Budget, 8 July. Occupy buildings, block roads.
  • Set up a local People’s Assembly group (if you don’t have one already) to co-ordinate activity
  • Build broad, local PA meetings after the demo.
  • Support strikes against the government
  • Lay siege to the Tories at their party conference in Manchester. Join the national demo on 4 October.

This article first appeared in issue 002 of Counterfire’s new free paper. Contact us for copies to distribute in your area.

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