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Downing Street demo – a sign of things to come

By KD Tait

9 May 2015

London’s Metropolitan police celebrated the arrival of the first Tory-majority government in 18 years by attacking an anti-cuts demonstration against the new regime and its plans for a first 100 days of shock and awe austerity.

15 arrests were made as people resisted attempts by the police to disperse and then kettle a peaceful demonstration.

The protest, called by London Black Revolutionaries and Brick Lane Debates, was a statement of intent by 2,000 angry, mainly young people making clear that the Tories have no popular mandate for austerity. The message: most people didn’t vote for this – expect resistance.

The shock outcome to the General Election has only confirmed what many, especially young people who can’t vote, thought anyway: the political system is unrepresentative and undemocratic. Or to put it another way, the entire history of British democracy proves that the party that wins is always the party of choice for our ruling class.

It was no surprise then that Saturday’s demonstration, which wound its way through central London, targeting Tory HQ and Downing Street, was made up mostly of young people,expressing radical demands and slogans.

Tory Britain

Notwithstanding the letter from police denouncing government cuts to police numbers, the wanton violence of police towards demonstrators 24 hours after the election of a thoroughly reactionary government is a reflection of what protesters can expect in the months and years to come.

Predictably the media coverage, where it did not laughably minimise the numbers (200 according to Sky news), concentrated on graffiti sprayed on the memorial to women of WW2. Whether this was a provocation or a misguided political statement, petty vandalism hurts feelings, not people. Austerity policies on the other hand destroy lives and kill people.

The real story is that we are now ruled by a government elected by just 24 per cent of the electorate that will make cuts of at least £30 billion. Cuts that the majority are opposed to and are likely to provoke increasingly frequent outbursts of popular anger as people lash out against a ‘democracy’ that is rigged in favour of the pro-cuts establishment, backed up by a brutal police and judiciary that is accountable to no-one.

The police, in fulfilling their primary purpose of policing dissent, through a combination of intimidation and deterrence, are ably reinforced by the media propaganda war which describes police violence – with almost totalitarian unanimity – as ‘legitimate’ and ‘proportional’ responses  to ‘riots’, ‘mob’, ‘vandals’, etc.

Whatever their sectional disputes with the Tories, the police know that the party of law and order can be trusted to back them to the hilt when it comes to breaking heads, harassing Black and Asian youth, and generally providing them with ever-greater powers to suppress the right to effective protest.

On the same day, in Walthamstow, hundreds of police were deployed to escort 100 EDL determined to march through a borough which has repeatedly mobilised large numbers against fascist provocations. Although the EDL is no longer able to call out the numbers it once did, the nearly four million votes garnered by UKIP is a sign of growing anti-immigrant and openly racist sentiment in England.

June 20

The first few days of a Tory government have provided a stark insight into what kind of regime we are living under. The appointment of the pro-hanging Michael Gove as Justice Secretary, the plans to achieve the Tory dream of scrapping the Human Rights Act, the £12 billion axe looming over welfare…

In 2010, the Coalition government was greeted by a mass protest of students, whose tactics including the occupation of Tory HQ, a mass walkout on 24 November and a militant demonstration on 9 December almost toppled the government.

We need to ensure that this government gets the same treatment.

On 27 May, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts has called for a march on the State Opening of Parliament.

More significantly is the June 20 demonstration called by the People’s Assembly. This will be the first real test of the wider labour and socialist movement’s capacity to mobilise a show of strength in the capital.

The Tory victory has catalysed popular support for the demonstration and socialists need to organise now to ensure affiliated unions and organisations put on coaches and build the demonstration as big and widely as possible.

Sowing cynicism about the futility of A-B marches is as useless as the artificial optimism of those who think governments are always one protest or one strike away from defeat.

We need to use the next few weeks to make the build up to June 20 a period of preparing to re-found a mass anti-cuts movement that learns from the lessons of 2010-15 and overcomes the obstacles sowed in that period.

A large and militant demonstration will be a much needed boost to people’s confidence that there is a willingness to fight – and to use more radical tactics in that fight.

Organising committees for June 20 should be founded in every town and city. Inviting delegates from organisations, workplaces and trade unions is an important step in making these the basis for a rooted anti-cuts movement that represents more than the sum of its parts.

Activists must take the demonstration into every single workplace, to every Labour Party branch, to every anti-cuts group, every trade union branch and every community campaign. Take leaflets, sign people up, ask for speakers to be invited to promote the demo and invite delegates to the organising committees. This is how we will lay the roots for a movement that can start to march and mobilise under its own momentum, throwing off the shackles of competing fronts that privilege the sectional interests of organisations over the necessary broader mobilisation of the working class.

The anti-cuts committees and competing campaigns need to found a genuinely democratic federation that can agree a strategy for struggle and effectively coordinate nationwide action.

We cannot wish away the dampening and demoralising effects of five years of setbacks, but we can act decisively to make June 20 the beginning of fighting anti-cuts movement whose strength is democratic organisation to ensure the interests of the working class fighting austerity prevail over the sectarian interests of competing organisations.

Our message must be – Down with the Tories – Tories out – organise, occupy and strike in every school, workplace, town and city.

All out for June 20!

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