COP26 protest, Glasgow COP26 protest, Glasgow. Photo: Chris Nineham

The scale and intertwined nature of the crises we face show that the problems are systemic and so the solutions must be collective, writes Karen Buckley

The oil multinational, BP, has recently recorded an enormous £5 billion in profits. BP, which was privatised under the Thatcher government, has seen its profits more than double in the first 3 months of the year with this being their highest quarterly profit in more than a decade. BP chief executive Bernard Looney ­described his company last November as “a cash machine at these types of prices” and enjoys a whopping pay and perks deal that ballooned to nearly £4.5 million in 2021, compared with £1.7 million he made in 2020. Similarly, Shell recently announced it has made £7.3 billion in the first quarter of the 2022, nearly triple what it made in the same period in 2021.

At the same time, ordinary people, are really struggling. Following 12 years of brutal Tory austerity cuts, privatisations, wage stagnation, unaffordable housing and rents, things have become extremely difficult for many with high levels of poverty. 

This is worsening even more due to the cost of living crisis and the lack of effective action from the government. Millions of people are facing poverty and destitution and having to choose between heating and eating. This means a further 1.3 million people, including half a million children, are set to fall below the poverty line this coming year.

Despite all this, the Tory government continues to make political and ideological choices to protect the enormous profits of big business, such as BP and others rather than help the majority of UK citizens.

Moreover, they continue to put money they claim not to have for public services into war. Johnson recently announced a further £1.3 billion will go on military aid to Ukraine, thereby providing more money for arms manufacturers.

With their allies in big business and the media, they appear to get away with everything. From partying during Covid lockdowns, accelerating NHS privatisation, tax breaks for the wealthy, ripping up rights for refugees, criminalising ‘noisy protest,’ disenfranchising citizens through mandatory voter ID, allowing housing to become even more unaffordable, wage stagnation, poor productivity, soaring student debt, high inflation… the list could go on and on.

So we see the likes of Boris Johnson arrogantly go onto Good Morning Britain, an brazenly offer no solutions when quizzed on the cost of living crisis. Johnson was confronted with the story of a 77-year-old pensioner. She recounted how she’s been forced to ride buses with her free bus pass as she cannot afford to put her heating on. Johnson’s only response (besides the useless solutions the Tories have presented so far) was a lie, claiming to have introduced free bus passes for pensioners, when this was introduced – not by him – in 1973.

For those wanting political change, this can all seem overwhelming and demoralising. However, the cost of living crisis is dangerous territory for Johnson and the Tories as it is effects vast numbers of people and exposes them to the class issues and inequalities the Tories and their compliant media often try to obfuscate or deflect from. 

The Tories cannot use their usual divisive tactics to explain away the cost of living crisis and blame migrants, asylum seekers, non-white people, poor people or those on benefits – though they are trying to. Neither can they claim to be levelling up and providing a decent standard of living when the evidence against this is stacking up for ordinary people every day. And this will continue as things worsen and people see their bills rise again in October just before the cold winter weather sets in.

If we’re to resist the Tory attacks on us, we need to exploit this weakness and build the movements against the Tories, their cost of living crisis and wars (such as The People’s Assembly and Stop the War Coalition). 

As part of this, it’s essential we nurture confident and effective activists to help organise and build these movements. Counterfire plays an important role in this as it equips members with the knowledge, skills, support and confidence needed to collectively fight back and build collective resistance. This is done through its network of local and national groups, talks and meetings, alongside its numerous informative articles on current events, political history and influential left wing political figures and concepts. This is crucial knowledge and skills we do not get from mainstream media, our education systems or membership of mainstream political parties.

This has been my experience of Counterfire. I was one of those many individuals out there hearing depressing news stories of more Tory injustices but with no idea I could do anything about it. I came from an unprivileged background and like many of us, grew up in an increasingly atomised, individualistic society that no longer valued anything that didn’t make a profit for the wealthy few. 

So I had very little concept of what was politically possible, how I could contribute or what political skills and abilities I could develop. But then I went on a national People’s Assembly demonstration in 2015 and through this met active Counterfire members. 

Today I see things differently. It’s clear to me now that ordinary people coming together collectively have enormous power and potential to bring about the progressive change we need. When we form groups, collectivise, share political knowledge and education, organise and build strong solidarity networks and movements, it emboldens and strengthens us individually and collectively so we have the courage to fight back. History shows us this is possible. Very few things seemed possible before they were achieved: votes for working class people; votes for women, unionisation; workers’ rights; the welfare state and so on. 

But we need more of us. In fact, we need lots more of us if we want to make that collective difference we need so much. So why not join us in Counterfire? I doubt you’ll regret it and we’d love to hear from you. No prior experience needed. 

Contact us today at [email protected].

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