Some spectators of the student and anti-cuts movement in 2010 point out that there hasn’t been a major demonstration since the 9th of December. But the phrase ‘this is just the beginning’ highlights what the campaign is really heading towards. The fact that the last big demonstration was only three weeks ago says a lot about how the scale of discontent towards the rise in tuition fees and the cuts to the public sector. The cuts haven’t even begun to bite yet – it is in 2011 that we will see a veritable explosion in activity against the government’s economic plans.
The TUC’s warnings that the year will be ‘horrible’ for public sector workers and the public in general coincides with the Local Government Authority’s prediction that during 2011 around 140,000 public sector jobs will go. We haven’t had such an onslaught against ordinary people in Britain since the 1930s – and the reaction in opposition to the cuts will be similarly unprecedented. When an organisation like the IMF is arguing for more investment in job creation, you know that times have changed: these cuts will damage the economy.
UK Uncut will be resuming its actions in the New Year, and with the snow gone turnouts will be considerably higher. The storm of media coverage surrounding the events gives a massive boost to the campaign, and indeed the Radio 4’s coverage today went into detail about the background of UK Uncut – a dozen or so people meeting up in a pub and setting up the website that has spawned a mass movement. When you compare the truly grass-roots nature of the ‘group’ with seedy organisations like The Tax-Payers Alliance (Tax Dodgers’ Defence League might be more apt), it is clear who is representing the interests of the poor, and who is representing the interests of big business.
As it becomes clear that students’ interests are no longer represented by the Liberal Democrats, representation will be taken to the streets. January 29th’s protest in London against education cuts and the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance will draw even more union support than before as the campaign widens against all cuts to the vulnerable, the jobless, students and workers.
Action is happening on both a national and regional level. Plymouth has had over 20 actions in the past few months. Truro, one of the smallest cities in the country, has also had its fair share of marches and demonstrations, varying from 150 students blocking the main road to a small group of activists putting up a sign outside the Council building saying: ‘Dear Cornwall Council, thanks for slashing public services. Love, the bankers xx’
It is this diversity of dissent that will provide the strongest defence against the cuts. It will be university occupiers writing letters to the Arch Bishop of Canterbury, it will be people blockading Topshop in Brighton, it will be union activists leafleting in Manchester, students lobbying their MPs in Scotland. It will be a coalition of every demographic, in every area.
There is also likely to be a lot of action on the 11th of January, which is rumoured to be when MPs vote on EMAs. Though Parliament’s website gives little information, coinciding the day of action with the day of the vote would be an effective way of challenging MPs to think again about whether to scrap the scheme which helps over 600,000 young people go on to further education.
When the campaigns for keeping the EMA, abolishing tuition fees, fighting tax avoidance and the cuts come together on March the 26th (the TUC-organised march), something exciting will happen. Whether it will be half a million people uniting peacefully, or genuine unrest and civil disobedience, one cannot predict.
Few are anticipating a wide-scale socialist revolt, or a new era of class consciousness. But the important thing to remember after this is over (and that will not be any time soon), is that while Cameron is indicating that he’s ‘trying to avoid’ restoring public services once/if the economy recovers, we must elect a government in 2015 that will rebuild what’s left of the public sector so that people will be put before profit. Until then, we exercise our right to protest with as much might as we can.