Odd fact: the number of protests against the cuts in Cornwall has declined since the formation of the Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance. At first glance, it could be considered ironic, if not ludicrous. But there are several valid reasons why this is, and actually should be, the case. And what one solution is to this temporary situation.
Firstly, the student movement died down at the end of last year (as reflected by the EMA demo in January). Exams, cold weather and the passing of the tuition fees and Education Maintenance Allowance votes all took their toll. Secondly, Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliances suffered some initial setbacks. No structure and very little concrete action at first was inevitable, and the past few weeks have concerned building a strong basis on which to build on – which has been successful. Every weekend for the past month or so activists have been in towns around the county getting the message out about the NHS ‘reforms’, the March 26 demonstration and the group itself. And thirdly, it is much more effective to begin by building a network of activists than randomly calling a demo at a few days notice. But, with the group now established, and anti-cuts sentiment growing among the public both in the region and nationally – the time has come to build for a county-wide demonstration against the cuts.
The demonstration on the 26th provides ample opportunity to build for this. With at least 300 travelling up from Cornwall – and probably more – the journeys up to London will give room for plenty of discussion about a future march – in early May perhaps – in Cornwall. Trade unions will, and will have to be, at the heart of promoting such a demonstration. There are sure to be leaflets circulating on coaches on the day about a Cornwall Stop the Cuts protest.
Other areas have already had massive protests. In the South West, Bristol recently saw around 2000 take to the streets against the cuts. Manchester at the beginning of March – around 1000 protest. Leeds, Glasgow and nearly every other part of the country has seen large mobilisations against austerity. Cornwall, a hotspot of Lib Dem support, could easily see many former Lib Dems march against betrayal and economic savagery.
We need a general March for the Alternative in Cornwall. Cornwall Council are pushing through some of the most unfair cuts in England – a 40% cut to the Supporting People scheme, slashing of adult care funding, millions of pounds in library cuts and nearly a thousand council job losses. A hundreds-strong demonstration in Cornwall would localise, and make visible, the level of opposition to the slash and burn mentality of the coalition and ‘our’ local authorities. But it would also energise people here and let them know, in the most vocal way possible, that there is a movement growing around them.
The first step is agreeing the details. When, where and how, most obviously. This will be talked about in Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance next Wednesday (the 23rd), and is apparently already being discussed by the fledgling Truro Socialist Workers Party branch. After that, a public meeting about the cuts, with ordinary workers, as well as – potentially – regional or even national speakers.
It’s not too wise to focus on whether these cuts can be completely stopped in Cornwall. True, if a cuts budget was defeated, it would be a huge blow to the coalition. But that does not necessarily have to be all that a broad Cornwall-wide anti-cuts demo would be about. Educate, agitate, organise as the old saying goes. An all-inclusive March for the Alternative after the momentous mobilisation of the 26th is a must, and would meet all three of those demands.