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Arise Festival: let’s unite the left resistance

After a summer of working-class fightback, the left itself must step up a gear — our conference aims to bring the various strands of resistance together, writes SAM BROWSE

ON Saturday December 10, activists, politicians, and trade unionists from across our movement will come together for the Arise conference. As the government reels from crisis to crisis, the event could not be timelier.

After a decade of slash-and-burn austerity, and a pandemic which saw more than 150,000 deaths alongside a massive transfer of wealth from the poorest to the richest, we are now seeing a renewed and colossal ruling-class offensive on the living standards of the majority.

In his Autumn Statement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveiled £28 billion in cuts to public services and announced the energy price cap would be lifted to £3,000 in April — as rising interest rates squeeze the indebted and rampant inflation swallows up wages.

Now, government watchdogs expect a 7.1 per cent decline in household disposable income — the greatest decline on record — as unemployment is predicted to hit 4.9 per cent.

The Tories are working hand-in-glove with the Bank of England to protect profits at the expense of everyone else. In the name of curbing inflation and preventing a so-called “wage-price spiral,” they’re driving up interest rates and cutting spending.

Rather than tackle the real source of soaring prices — profiteering and imported energy and food prices — their response to the crisis is to engineer a recession.
   
As they grind down living standards to protect corporate profits, they are also turning the clock back on climate policy — licensing, and even incentivising, more oil and gas exploration in the North Sea in defiance of Paris Agreement, while they allow private water companies to dump sewage into our rivers and seas with impunity.

And on the world stage, they continue to export arms and provide political support to human rights abusers abroad, in Saudi Arabia, Israel and elsewhere — all as they increase the nuclear arsenal, host US nuclear weapons on British soil, and engage in bellicose rhetoric, raising tensions and the prospect of prolonged, and even nuclear, war.

War and climate catastrophe, exacerbated by Tory foreign and climate policy, have created millions of refugees across the globe.

Far from extending a hand of support, the government has attacked the right to seek asylum — shutting down safe and legal routes, and criminalising those who come here fleeing war, climate disaster, or persecution, leading to horrific deaths in the Channel.

Those who make it here are subject to scapegoating for problems created by our ruling class, alongside disabled people, LGBT people, and the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community — a so-called “war on woke” that we must resist, designed to divide us and weaken opposition to the assault on living standards.

But there’s hope. Summer saw a wave of strike action begin with the rail and communication workers. Their resistance sent reverberations through the country, with teachers, barristers, bus drivers, dock workers, healthcare workers, civil servants, university lecturers and administrators, and countless others joining the struggle for better pay and conditions.

The Tory response is to demonise trade unions and all those who stand up to the government, from climate campaigners to Black Lives Matter activists, to “lefty lawyers” — blaming us for the problems created by their friends the bosses.

Not content with their attacks on working people and the planet, they seek to prevent us even from defending ourselves, passing a raft of legislation to crack down on resistance — from anti-trade union laws to the massive attacks on the right to protest.

The left must unite to oppose this onslaught and co-ordinate the fightback. At Arise Festival, we are happy to have worked with a range of organisations from across the left — the Morning Star, Momentum, Save Our Socialists, Tribune, CLPD, No Holding Back, Labour Briefing, Labour for a Green New Deal, Labour CND, Labour Women Leading and many others — and vital campaigns such as the People’s Assembly, Stand Up to Racism, CND, and Stop the War.

December’s conference is a chance to come together and make the case for the socialist solutions to the crises: controls on rents and prices; taxes on wealth; public ownership of energy, water, transport, broadband, mail, the NHS and social care; homes for all, with a mass council house building programme; a policy for peace, rather than perpetual war; a real industrial strategy and Green New Deal to create decent jobs, ending austerity for good by investing in our future — and much more.

We cannot wait for an election to fall into our laps. The fightback has begun. It’s time to build on that momentum, bringing our campaigns together to demand, as one, the socialist solutions we desperately need. See you at the conference.

Arise: solidarity, struggle, socialism — December 10, 10am Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL.

For tickets, see here: bit.ly/ariseconference2022.

Speakers: John McDonnell MP, Nadia Whittome MP, Jon Trickett MP, Richard Burgon MP, Barry Gardiner MP, Sarah Woolley, BFAWU general secretary, Dave Ward, CWU general secretary, Mick Whelan, Aslef general secretary, Zita Holbourne, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, Lord John Hendy KC, Hilary Schan, Momentum, Ben Chacko, Morning Star editor, Sabby Dhalu, Stand up to Racism, Heidi Chow, Debt Justice, Steve Howell, Holly Turner, NHS Workers Say No and more.

Sam Browse is an Arise Festival co-ordinator.

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