I’m not a member of any union and never have been. I don’t work in the public sector, and never have – although I’m married to a nurse. I work in the private sector, in a non-unionised management role.
But on 20 October, I’ll be in London, joining union members at the TUC’s ‘A Future that Works‘ march. Here’s why I’ll be travelling around 270 miles to participate in a protest organised by a group to which I don’t belong:
I’m not fooled
The government and its media helpers are working hard to divide the public and private sectors in order to conquer each separately. The damage has been done over decades to the pay, standing and security of many private sector workers, and the Tories are committed to continuing and extending it. The current primary targets are public sector workers, and the government/press propaganda has been aimed at setting the private sector against the public one – on the outrageous premise (though of course they don’t say so in as many words) that since private sector workers have already been robbed, they should resent the ‘gold-plated’ conditions of those who work in public service.
The tactic is as cynical as it is scandalous. But too many have been fooled by it and we need to challenge the propaganda by raising public awareness via an event that is too big for government, media and public to ignore. Which leads me to my next reason:
United we’re strong
By dividing us from each other and attacking groups in turn, the government hopes to isolate us from each other and to keep each individual issue as small and low-profile as possible, to prevent a general, national awareness of the scale of the crime being perpetrated on us.
We need to refuse to be divided. We need to treat each other’s problems and issues as our own – your problem is my problem. This is not mere altruism, though there’s nothing wrong with that – even if I’m not directly affected now, I soon will be – or it will be my turn next.
But skeptics and cynics will say, ‘What’s the point of uniting and fighting? There’s no money, no alternative!’ Which takes us to my next point:
There is a better way
The government would have us believe that it is making ‘difficult decisions’ because there’s no realistic alternative. Even many opposition spokespeople make the mistake of granting the premise of this argument and so find themselves painted into a corner where the only alternatives are how far to cut, how fast.
But the premise is untrue. There is no shortage of cash. There is no inevitable need to cut. The coalition – especially the Tories – want us to think there is because they are ideologically, and practically (since their corporate paymasters wouldn’t accept it), opposed to what an alternative would entail.
This country loses some £95 billion every year to tax avoidance by corporations and rich individuals. Companies are sitting on some £700 billion of cash that they’ve accumulated in profits and are now neither spending nor investing. Proper, effective taxation and legislation would wipe out not just the budget deficit but very soon also the whole national debt.
Conservatives claim that these rich entities would flee – it’s unlikely, but even those that do won’t be missed. The UK market is too good an opportunity to miss, and companies would either come in, or be formed, to exploit the opportunity. Conservatives would say that it’s unfair to expect the rich to pay higher taxes when they are the ‘wealth creators’ – but the wealth they create barely benefits any but the favoured few, and the tax we should demand from them is just a fair rent to pay for the opportunity to live in, and profit from, a stable, law-abiding, decent country.
Decent pensions for all are not unaffordable – the shortfall is far lower than the amount of tax the rich and companies evade and avoid. A living wage is portrayed as impractical, but the benefits paid from taxation to give low earners enough to live represents a massive public subsidy to private profits. If companies are forced to pay a living wage – something David Cameron once claimed was an obvious good – then public spending will automatically be reduced.
There is a better way
But there is no alternative!
One way in which there really is no alternative is this: there is no alternative but to fight. The government claims its measures are to help the economy – but all the evidence shows that they are destroying it. Yet the government persists. Ed Miliband told the TUC “It’s what’s happening in our economy that makes so many people angry with the Government. The question is how best to get them to change course? The public doesn’t want to see strikes.” But he missed the point. The measures are not about the economy – they’re about using the economic crisis as an excuse for the measures.
This government will not change course for the good of the economy. They have one term to try to do as much damage, to dismantle as much of our social structures, as they can manage. The march – and any other form of protest and resistance – is not about trying to get the government to see sense. They know that what they’re doing is damaging – they just don’t believe that what is being damaged is worth anything.
The march, and other forms of resistance, are about blocking and impeding the government in its aims, and about making people aware of what its doing, so that the damage it can do before it’s voted out is minimised – and can be more easily undone by the next Labour government. It’s also about sending Labour a message – to be bold and to be true to the principles for which it was formed, and not to be afraid to stand up and stand out clearly for the people it was formed to defend.
It’s for my kids and their kids, your kids and theirs
The government is trying to own the position that strikes are damaging to the economy, while its own measures are about securing a future for our young people and the generations to follow. I’ve never heard more blatant nonsense. Our young people face a bleaker, more impoverished future under this government than at any time in decades – and that’s exactly how the Tories wants it. That’s how they plan to ensure a plentiful supply of cheap, compliant labour for the corporate barons.
But the short-sightedness of greed means that the Conservatives don’t see where their road ends – that they’re lighting a fuse that will result in conflagration, burning down the house. If we want to avoid a future in which the best hope is that our children live as serfs to a rich few, and just as likely that the whole country will fall into riot and anarchy, we need to march. We need to resist.
It’s the right thing, the decent thing
Ever since Thatcher’s ‘there is no such thing as society’, the Tories have been committed to creating an ‘every man for himself’ Britain. Secure in the expectation that they’ll always be privileged, they’re more than happy to foster a mindset in others where those who can’t fend for themselves are ‘skivers‘, ‘scroungers‘, a drain on ‘those who work hard and do the right thing’.
I refuse to see the world like that – and I refuse to collaborate actively or through silence with those who do. People matter – because they’re people, no matter what they ‘cost’.
I could go on. But I think I’ve written enough to let you know why someone who might not be expected to march is determined to do it – and to take as many with me as I can to join in.
Please join me. If you’re interested and need transport to get there, visit http://falseeconomy.org.uk/travel/uk/all/t1, where you can see what is being organised to get people from your area to London for the march.
We’re not fooled. United we’re strong. There is a better way – but there is no alternative but to resist. It’s for our own sake, for our children’s and their children’s, whether you’re in a union or the public sector or not. And it’s the right and decent thing to do.
See you there!