Tuesday 4 January 2011

A New Year Of Rebellion

So it's back to work today after two weeks of resting up and recharging. By and large I've given little thought to campaigning over Christmas (hence the lack of blogging).

But now we're into the year when the Tory-LibDem government finally press the advantage they have created in convincing many people that massive cuts are both necessary and inevitable. We shouldn't underestimate their success in shaping public opinion or assume that widespread opposition is assured: people I know are worried, uncertain and looking for signs that a movement is emerging that is prepared to resist the government head-on.

Unsurprisingly, the Labour Party nationally shows little indication that it has the will or energy for a fight and will, in many parts of the country, soon be responsible for implementing the worst of the cuts at a local level. The Coalition of Resistance set up in November looks like a promising start and has a wide spectrum of support, certainly more than the typical attempt by one far-left group to set up a rival organisation, through the National Shop Stewards Network, at a conference on 22 January.

Most intriguing of all is the attitude of the unions, particularly since the election of Len McCluskey as General Secretary of my union, Unite, and his apparent willingness to support the wider anti-cuts movement. It has made the TUC-backed 'March for an Alternative' on 26 March the most important protest in the next three months. It is vital that this is massive, pulling together everyone who is worried and uncertain about the effect of cuts on public services. It can also help to ensure that the unions aren't dragged by serial-compromisers like TUC boss Brendan Barber into a position that an 'alternative' only means anything that won't frightening Labour's new leader.

Massive demonstrations take huge amounts of work, however, as everyone involved in helping to mobilise for the huge anti-war march in February 2003 will recall. That means we all need to persuade everyone we know that this demonstration is worth attending, even though yet another march from Embankment to Hyde Park, one that could easily have no more impact than the 'Put People First' demonstration in 2009, may not seem that appealing.

A million people on the streets of London, however, have the power to stretch the nerves of a fragile coalition government to breaking point. This makes 26 March more than a protest against cuts - it has the potential to become the start of a serious attempt to unseat a government.

That's got to be worth turning up for.

The March for an Alternative takes place on Saturday 26 March, assembling at 11am at Vicoria Embankment

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