Mass Demonstration Shows Strength of Anti-Cuts Feeling in Scotland
Last Saturday (23rd) a massive anti-cuts demo took place in Edinburgh as 20,000 people, including SSP members, took to the streets to protest against government spending cuts and demand a fairer alternative that protected public services. Community campaigners and trade union leaders called for resistance as industrial action to defend public services was declared “inevitable” if the cuts outlined by the Con-Dem government last week were implemented. As an elderly Glaswegian community campaigner said to me on the march, “people keep saying to me that “somebody should do something” and “if everybody did something then we could sort this out”, so we need to get “somebody” and “everybody” on the streets with us.” Saturday’s march represents a first step toward building a mass campaign that can get ‘somebody’ and everybody’ involved in fighting the cuts. For news coverage of the march and SSP analysis of the public spending cuts, what they represent and what is required to successfully resist them, see our main site here.
Nature of the Cuts, Nature of the Mainstream Political ‘Opposition’ We have long argued that the austerity measures taking place across Europe are an attempt to make the mass of the population; workers, students, pensioners, the unemployed, pay for the current crisis in capitalism. It is also an ideological attempt by the Conservatives to do away with many of the social gains made over the 20th century in the form of the welfare state, by attacking universal public services and welfare benefits, including attacks on free/accessible education provision. However, while marginal differences exist across the mainstream political parties on the balance between tax rises and spending cuts in the austerity measures, the SNP and Labour are also fully signed up to the cuts agenda. They will offer only lukewarm criticism of the Con-Dem cuts in opposition, while in power they will implement cuts themselves via the Scottish parliament and local councils, as indicated by recent comments by Alex Salmond and by Labour’s cuts programme both before and after the general election. In the absence of mass mobilisation and resistance by the population, they will not attempt to oppose cuts by setting illegal ”anti-cuts budgets” or supporting anything more than symbolic, but ultimately ineffectual resistance. They will not want to “rock the boat”, and thus they are unable to represent the grassroots sentiment among the thousands who took to the streets on Saturday. This is likely to become increasingly clear as the savage force of these cuts begins to bite in communities and workplaces across Scotland and Britain.
A Strategy We Need
What we need is to build a pluralist, grassroots, and mass-based campaign against the public spending cuts, creating a social movement not seen since the successful anti-poll tax campaign twenty years ago, where mass non-payment of the new tax and mobilisation of the population forced the government to retreat and Thatcher to resign from office (for an excellent account of the successful strategies used to defeat the poll tax, read “The Poll Tax Rebellion” by Danny Burns, details here). This is not just rhetoric, but our societal reality. These austerity measures will only be defeated by a mass mobilisation of popular democratic power and direct action, and if an alternative equitable and socially-just solution to addressing Britain’s budget deficit and capitalist crisis is developed, campaigned for, and implemented. The SSP in Aberdeen and across Scotland is committed to both these tasks, and the need is urgent.
Building Resistance in Aberdeen
The sheer brutality of these cuts in Aberdeen is becoming clear, with one possible cost saving measure considered by the council being to close every public park in the city.
To discuss these issues and the work of the Aberdeen SSP, feel free to come to our branch meeting this Wednesday (27th), in the Belmont cinema cafe at 7.30pm, where those who were at the march on Saturday will report back on the events of the day.
Also, there is a meeting organised by the Aberdeen anti-cuts alliance on this Thursday (26th) 6.15 pm at the Butchart Centre, Aberdeen University, about what can be learned from the French resistance to the cuts being imposed in that country. This will certainly be a useful event for both discussing strategies to oppose the cuts and for people to begin building the kind of campaign described above. Further details of the meeting here.