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Today’s demonstration is different to those that went before. It has in it the seeds and promise of change

BILL GREENSHIELDS explains why People’s Assembly activists are hitting the streets of London today

TENS of thousands of people from all walks of life will be taking to the London streets this weekend to demand an end to Theresa May’s shambolic “anti-people” administration, and to call for an immediate general election.

“Britain is Broken” is the slogan of the demonstration, and it is certainly true that the current chaotic, aggressively divided and threatening nature of parliamentary politics — represented so clearly by the Brexit fiasco — indicates a society under extreme stress.

But it is not the European Union “debate” that is the origin of the division. 

The predictably dismissive attitude to the decision of the British people to leave the EU has only added fuel to the fire of class division, increasing exploitation, spiralling wealth inequality and suffering caused by the “austerity” attacks on public services, workers rights and living standards — that fire having been ignited a decade ago by the sparks flying from the 2008 financial crisis and economic collapse.

It was partly the handling of that crisis by the British government and the institutions of world capital that led to the Brexit vote. 

Those institutions have shown that they find the will of the people unacceptable, just as they have throughout the 10 years of the economic crisis and its consequences.

Public services have been cut, slashed and cut again. And the reduction in service levels is intended to undermine our confidence in those services and pave the way for further privatisation to meet the fat-cat privateers’ demand for new sources of profit.

Increasing numbers of hospital patients are stored on trolleys in corridors as the beds crisis deepens — and NHS managers now join with staff, trade unions and community groups in saying that lives are lost and threatened daily, and that they can no longer cope. 

School head teachers and education unions point to the massive underfunding of schools, while further and higher education provision is increasing distorted by the competitive search for extra private funds to provide what is now known as their “product.”

Emergency services — police, ambulance and fire — are reduced to levels that are emergencies in themselves.

In the shadow of Parliament just a week ago a homeless man, Gyula Remes, a kitchen assistant, died of exposure while trying to avoid the cold by sleeping in a tunnel. 

Hundreds of thousands of young people are unable to leave the parental home due to the lack of housing and escalating rents, while “sofa-surfing” has become one of broken Britain’s fastest-growing activities.

We have more tax cuts for more billionaires than ever before at the same time as more charitable foodbanks for the desperate — struggling to meet the needs of over a million families. 

Payday loan sharks continue their vicious business despite government “concern.” 

The top 10 per cent own 70 per cent of all Britains’s wealth. The bottom 50 per cent own 1 or 2 per cent between us. 

Some 13.5 million British people, 21 per cent of the population, live in poverty, according to the Rowntree Foundation.

The benefits system — providing now for more people in work than jobless as real wages decline yet further — puts blocks, hurdles and sanctions in the way of more and more of us. 

The government’s universal credit system is in fact universally reviled — and even the Tories have to at least pretend to be thinking again.

That universal credit system — under the pretence of “tidying up” and making benefits “more systematic” — in fact is there to promote and underpin the “gig economy” — part-time, casualised, zero-hours precarious working designed to eradicate employers’ responsibilities and undermine all rights at work — and pension rights beyond it. 

Only one in 40 “new jobs” is proper full-time employment. Of course trade unions remain under fierce attack as they demand improved wages, pensions, contracts and conditions.

Yet in this new year of 2019, Britain’s top bosses, as highlighted by the Morning Star, had on average “earned” by 1pm on January 4 what an average worker would earn in the whole year.

And there is much, much more that brings us out again today on the People’s Assembly demonstration to get the Tories Out and for a general election.

Of course, the economic and political crisis will not be resolved by a general election, or by a simple change of party in office. 

The crisis is based on systemic problems of the type of society we live in. But that is precisely why there is such enthusiasm and excitement now in 2019 for a general election because one parliamentary party promises to not just preside over that system, but to change it “for the many, not the few.” 

Labour’s policies are based on investment, increased public ownership and a commitment to bring about an irreversible shift in wealth and power in favour of “ordinary people” — Britain’s working class.

The ruling class of big business and banker billionaires of course would do all they could to stop them, and that’s why the demonstrators on Saturday and millions more are determined to sustain the mass movement in the run-up to the general election, during it and for as long as it takes to prevent it being destabilised by the ruling class.

We saw what worldwide “big money” did when the Greek people elected an “anti-austerity” government. 

Acting through the European Union’s Commission and Central Bank, powerful forces undermined and destabilised that government and imposed yet more austerity on the Greek people.

So we know from this and many other experiences of the political and economic power of the multinational corporations, this is an international struggle in which workers need to link up together to fight the international institutions of those who enforce austerity and neoliberal economics and politics on us, serving the needs of those big monopolies and money markets. 

So today’s demonstration will hear from two yellow vest activists from France, and we will act in solidarity with workers of all lands, and put a halt to the racist divisions that are used to weaken us.

We have been marching and demonstrating, taking industrial action and community direct action for years. We have always known that we need a political solution — and through and because of the opposition to austerity over the last 10 years, we now have a Labour leadership offering a step on the way to that political solution. 

That’s why this demonstration is different to those that went before. It has in it the seeds and promise of change.

Of course, the struggle will be intense, and will become more so the nearer to success we get. But tens of thousands today will make it clear that we are up for it — and that we will grow into hundreds of thousands and millions who are determined to see a Britain “for the many not the few.”

Bill Greenshields is on the People’s Assembly national steering group.


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