On march 26th many thousands of people are ‘marching for an alternative’, but to my mind very few, if any, are expressing a truly convincing or appealing alternative to short term cuts and the long term privatisation, degradation of public services and dominance of profit seeking business that has been happening without interruption for at least 30 years.
The closest thing to an alternative in the anti cuts movement is summed up by the slogan ‘tax the bankers’, and while this is fine as far as it goes, if we taxed bankers enough to pay back the bailout we might be able to stop the cuts and get back to where we were in 2007, but correct me if I’m wrong, but that was no golden age worthy of nostalgia!
However, no politician of any colour is even going to go this far because among all the other crises old and new there is a serious crisis of democracy. The cuts have made the lack of democracy more obvious than ever before – when all three main parties and the media agree that ‘cuts need to be made’ ignoring all the evidence and opposition outside of that cosy club something is seriously wrong, and when Nick Clegg U turns on student fees the emptiness of the rhetoric of ‘the democratic process’ is plain to see way beyond the usual critics.
I think we need to bypass all politicians and their institutions and come together face to face on a local level to do the open, democratic discussion and planning that politicians aren’t interested in. We need to follow this up by making plans and putting them into action ourselves. We need to do this everywhere and build horizontal solidarity between communities.
In my local area we have had a very diverse and often exciting period of campaigning against the cuts, but the particular cut that I am fighting has been agreed and is due to enacted in 2 months – New Cross Library is due to be closed on 28th May. In addition the local childrens centre and family learning centre both face a similar fate, not to mention many other services that are to be downgraded, cuts we don’t know about yet and changes to benefits, housing and the NHS which affect everyone.
In response we’ve set up ‘The Future of New Cross’ – a series of public meetings, conversations online, on the doorstep and in the street to get everyone talking to everyone else and working together on an alternative that we can build into something which looks much more like real democracy. We might decide to occupy or even more formally take over services that the council wants to close but we simply wont accept the funding cuts – in the first instance we’ll continue to fight to get the money from the council and the government (who are still wasting most of the money they do manage to get hold of) but also, instead of relying on the government to tax big business and the council to distribute it, we will demand money directly from the corporations (and not just those that are on the current list of tax dodgers – NONE of them pay a far share).
Some people might worry that this is the big society but I’d say that it’s the complete opposite. It’s self organising – not the tory idea of people with time on their hands doing good things for the poor unfortunates, this is us taking control over our own lives and communities. It’s time for the self organising revolution.