Friday, 18 June 2010

Fight the Cuts, Fight for Services Worth Defending

Last night's 'Fightback' meeting couldn't have been better timed as the Coalition announced another tranche of cuts. It was a small beginning to a movement that is bound to grow as the cuts begin to really bite.

Rather than report on every speech I will concentrate on some of the themes that emerged from a wide range of speakers and contributors:
  • Although the bankers caused the crisis; the costs have been shifted to the public sector, ordinary people and the vulnerable - while the bankers continue to get their bonuses.
  • Pete Murry, of the Green Party Trades Union Group (pictured) said it is important to make the connection between the cuts and climate change. To create a low carbon economy, we need massive investment in green jobs and technologies, not cuts. We shouldn't lose sight of the survival of the planet.
  • The important role played by privatisation which drives down wages and results in poor quality services and insecure employment. 
  • The government expects the voluntary sector to take up the slack when cuts bite but the voluntary organisations won't have the capacity to do so because they are also suffering cuts.
  • The need for the campaign to bring together providers and users of services - examples are the Whittington Hospital Campaign and the campaign to save Kilburn College. Right to Work and Can't Pay-Won't Pay are good examples of broad-based campaigns involving lots of people.
  • The possibility of looking at occupations and other imaginative actions as well as strikes. Kilburn College is our building and we should occupy it rather than let it be moth-balled. The Tent City and other actions on opposition to the Wembley Academy are a good model.
  • People need to be spoken to in a way that engages with them and is readily understandable, rather than ranted at.
  • Under Thatcher the attacks on the public sector were more gradual, salami sliced, but the Coalition seems to be taking everything on at once. This might provoke a bigger and more unified reaction.
As I said above, this was a small beginning, but the range of contributions from the public sector and the voluntary sector, as well as services users, was a cause for optimism.  We face an enormous task, but as someone said, if we don't believe we can win, we won't win.

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