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There was a mood of resistance throughout the evening of discussions at the Royal Station Hotel, Newcastle, on Wednesday as over 50 local activists and trade unionists turned out to plan how to defend our communities and fight the upcoming government cuts.

Shirley FordSpeakers Shirley Ford (Green Party), Paul Mackney (former general secretary of NATFHE) and Veronica Killen (Northern region secretary of UCU) opened the event by providing a clear context on the crisis, the cuts and the potential for resistance. Paul Mackney summed up the ConDem government as “a coalition of those who believe they are born to rule and those pathetically grateful for the opportunity”. He linked their policies to the broader European context, and talked persuasively of the inspiration we can take from resistance to austerity in Greece.

Paul MackneyThere was a clear call for a coalition of trade unionists, campaigners and public service users to resist the assault on the public sector. The Can’t Pay Won’t Pay draft statement, proposing a series of measures including a major ‘Coalition of Resistance’ conference in London, was issued to everyone and drew a popular response.

The evening included roundtable discussions on schools, tax justice, war, further & higher education and environmental issues. Each discussion and planning group talked about how the regressive emergency budget will have grave consequences for various social and economic areas, but they also considered what strategy the Left needs to respond effectively.

From introducing a “market for health services” and forcing struggling hospitals to compete with private ones, to the inevitability of a two-tier education system emerging from the academies programme, to attacks on public sector jobs, pay and conditions, the stakes are mounting. An organised fight back across all fronts is overdue.

The national organising conference for ‘Can’t Pay Won’t Pay’ will be held on 27th November at Camden Centre, Town Hall, London. This is a pivotal time and, as Neil Faulkner recently wrote on Counterfire, building for a broad based coalition against cuts should be the first priority of any socialist, green activist or trade unionist. The government’s cuts are based on ideological choices, not necessity, and it is determined that the average person must pay for a crisis caused by politicians, bankers and business.

Privatisation of sections of the NHS and the introduction of an unequal education system are examples of how this government will finish the work of Thatcher’s administration. It is time to show them that we will not accept this, and that every cut to our services, every job lost and every day we are at war, will be met with mass opposition.

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