The first twelve months of austerity saw Tory HQ get smashed up and students taking to the streets in their thousands against rising tuition fees. Town halls were occupied as the budgets detailing the severity of the cuts were passed, half a million people marched in London and hundreds of tax dodging stores were occupied by the direct action group UK Uncut. But recently this anger has all died away and turned to disengagement as grown men dressed as penguins get higher votes than the Lib Dems in local elections which less than a third of the population even bothered to show up to (if we’d all rocked out maybe the penguin would have won).
Maybe this is because we’ve realised “there is no alternative” and decided to stand down and bear the government austerity. However with the Institute of Fiscal Studies reporting that only 25% of cuts have actually happened yet, and with the professed economic growth not wanting to appear, the pain has barely begun. On top of this, over the last 3 years the wealth of the 1000 richest people increased by £155bn, greater than the deficit over this time. This is a mocking fact destroying any possible perception that in any way we could even slightly be “all in it together” as the wealthiest amass pointless fortunes whilst the services for the poorest are ruthlessly closed.
Next Saturday (the 26th) the anger that begun the anti-austerity movement will mature into the need to celebrate the future we could have had. UK Uncut has promised a summer of anti-cuts street parties kicking off next weekend in 10 different cities from Central London to Middlesbrough. With the Jubilee and Olympics fast approaching, and the prediction that we should all be told to hold good old community street parties like we were for the royal wedding last year, UK Uncut want us to show there are more important things to come together for as central roads will be closed by thousands of people.
The last time the deficit was as high was post war, a time also of street parties. But it was also a time of progress as the NHS was formed, welfare support began and truly affordable housing was actually being built. With this came a rapidly shrinking inequality gap between the richest and poorest and with that a closing difference in education and health. Now health inequalities are at a level not seen since the 1920s with men in Glasgow living on average 13 years less than those of our surrounding Kensington and Chelsea.
The central London street party will be leaving at 11am on Saturday the 26th from four different locations, highlighting four different areas that are being decimated by the government unnecessarily, to then convene on a secret location (see the UK uncut website for details). There will be a bloc representing the NHS, which is being turned into a machine for corporate profit by the NHS reforms whilst having cuts equivalent to the budgets of 40 large NHS hospitals. There is one for women, to highlight how the cuts are falling hardest on women, through higher unemployment, the closure of children’s services and crisis centres as well as benefit cuts.
The welfare group will leave from Waterloo to make a stand against the unprecedented welfare cuts. This is timely, with it leaking last week that Cameron is planning to magic an extra £25 billion pounds out of the already bare budget. The idea of attacking the welfare budget when there’s such high unemployment defies logic. How can people relinquish their “dependency” on welfare when there are simply no jobs to do so? People don’t seem to understand the alternative to welfare is mass starvation.
And finally the real democracy bloc will meet at parliament. The Tories promised during the election they would look after the NHS to then promptly start the process of ripping it apart days later; whilst not even allowing us to see the risk register detailing the travesty they will leave behind. Combined with this their unwillingness to engage in criticism through withdrawing legal aid and their avoidance of Freedom of Information requests whilst they take payments off big business and maintain cosy relationships with the corporate media mafia has lead to the true deficit being one in democracy.
This may not seem much to party about, but then that’s all the more reason to carnival with the idea of the society that we want. Poverty and inequality are not facts of society to which there is no alternative, but something people have changed before and will change again! And so I invite you to one of the four starting locations to join in standing up to the cuts. People will descend on the final secret location with games, comedy, food to share, a vision of the future not dependent on kicking the poorest the hardest, music and most importantly... bunting.