On the targetting of anti cuts activists
This morning a 17 year old, Aidan Turner, was arrested in his own home in Glasgow in connection with an anticuts demonstration in the city centre on December 9th.
I’m sick of the police, threat of arrest and the punishment of having to spend days in police cells, preparing a defence and in court being used in an attempt to intimidate and quell anti-cuts protest.
Here in Glasgow we are starting to see an organised resistance against the attacks on public services and the welfare state by a privileged, right-wing minority. We have initiatives such as the ongoing Glasgow University student occupation and the Maryhill anticuts group as well as the huge numbers who travelled to London from Glasgow on March 26th. We have had Glasgow demonstrations, including the one on December 9th that Aiden has now been arrested in connection with. We have campaigns to save specific services, such as the East End Accord Day Centre for adults with learning disabilities. This last is being closed down to make space for a coach park for the Commonwealth Games by Labour run Glasgow City Council, who are planning to put the service users into illsuited community centres. And we have the Crutch Collective who are organising against the attacks on people with disabilities who are being scapegoated as if it was them who caused the financial crisis!
There are crumbs of fairness, dignity and humanity that decades of struggle have achieved in UK. We have mostly free healthcare. We have an education system that is almost affordable and which can enrich our knowledge and understanding of the world. We have a benefits system which means few of us experience absolute poverty and destitution. Our country is in the top 10% of GDP per capita. And yet we are being told that the Government cannot afford anymore these basics. What is society for? What is the purpose of an economy if it is not so that we can share a decent quality of life?
I think we all understand this point when it comes to our personal finances. I don’t want to spend my whole life just to accumulate savings. I don’t only apply for jobs based on salary. I want a decent quality of life. There’s no point in me earning wads of cash if I hate my day to day existence. I want work that is satisfying and feels productive. I want to leave the world a better place for my having been in it. My bank balance is a means to an end. It enables me to pay my rent and bills and eat and travel and socialise. It helps me to create a life that is worth living. My bank balance has no innate value.
And so too with the economy. It has no inherent meaning or worth beyond that which we, as a country, decide to use it for. Do we want to live in a country where the hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs as a result of the public sector cuts are evicted from their homes, are unable to afford food or for their children to go to university? Or a country where we decide everyone should live in a warm, dry, safe home with access to healthcare and with the most vulnerable members of society taken care of?
If we are to prevent the destruction of the welfare state, of the NHS, of a liveable wage we need to act now. We need to do more than attend polite, obedient marches designed to minimise their impact. This country is being destroyed by a minority who are willing to use intimidation, violence and deceitful propaganda to maintain and increase their wealth and power. They have only paid attention to us when we have disrupted their ability to run our country for their own ends. It was when we refused to pay the poll tax in conjunction with street protests and self organised communities that we defeated them. It was a strong, confident, cohesive population, coming out from the Blitz that won the NHS. We can do it again. We need to do it again. We need to be brave and look after each other, because we will get attacked by the right wing press, by the police, by those who want inequality and privilege.
I just got another phone call. While I was writing this two more anticuts activists have just been arrested and 10 people who went to the police station to show their solidarity with Aiden were threatened and told to leave.
We live in times when to take no stance is to support injustice and suppression of political dissent. I have no easy answers as to what we should do. I can’t say that if you follow a blueprint we will defeat the cuts. But I can say with absolute certainty that if you do nothing the rich and powerful will get ever more confident and greedy. Will you be able to look yourself in the mirror in 20 years if you didn’t at least try to make a difference? If you didn’t get yourself organised with your friends, family, neighbours, coworkers, community and think and talk and network and defend your local services and make a stand?