Estimates of a half million people on the streets yesterday. The 26th of March was a great success but only the beginning if we hope to stop the destruction of decades worth of social progress, save education, social services and the NHS. Several hundred thousand are willing to stand up for what they believe and because of them today there is just a little more hope that our resistance to austerity measures will work.
I talked to literally hundreds of people during the course of the day. While giving out UKuncut fliers I said something along the lines of; “If everyone was paying their taxes, these cuts would not be necessary. So what we are doing today is shutting down tax-dodging high street shops and banks and occupying the premises of corporations and financial institutions that are the real cause of this crisis“.
Probably ninety-five percent of the people I talked to were strongly supportive of this goal and many (perhaps half) claimed they wanted to break from the main march and come and help UKUncut occupy shut down tax-dodging high street shops and banks (Vodaphone, Topshop, Boots, etc.). The prospect of walking to Hyde Park to watch Miliband claim to represent the interests of the people on the streets clearly registered in many people’s minds an insufficient result for such a massive mobilisation of people.
Thanks to groups like UkUncut there were other options from ‘the march and be ignored’ strategy that was so blatantly unsuccessful in 2003 Stop the War march. Yesterday, targets on Oxford Street were shut. This task was made quite simple when most voluntarily shut their doors rather than be pushed in the media spot-light as thousands of activists descended on the street. Later the exclusive Fortnum & Mason, ‘a symbol of wealth and greed’ and tax dodger of over £40 million was occupied for several hours.
Meanwhile other groups pelted banks with paint bombs and there was targeted window breaking of banks. Sadly, even the liberal press became outraged. This failure by the liberal media to recognize the legitimate anger of people whose lives are transformed by the corruption and dangerous behaviour of the banks indicates a lack of resolve around addressing the cuts. It also demonstrates a serious moral failing by privileging a few windows over the education, health and well-being of millions of people. There is a big difference in moral consequences between window breaking and bankrupting the public purse and cutting critical services.
Environmentalists must come to see this struggle as their own. We are badly in need of a great deal more solidarity between all groups who are under assault by the cuts. I was not watching the news, but apparently there is a new theme on the BBC that wanting corporations to pay their taxes is somehow anarchist! It seems that the broadcast media is intent on portraying the day as ending in a riot. Anyone who was actually in London yesterday had an excellent learning experience in regards to how mainstream media attempts to de-legitimatize dissent by misrepresenting actions on the streets.
Does capitalism mean war? These cuts are ideologically motivated. The cuts are only necessary because government has given so much money to the banks while allowing corporations to pay no tax whatsoever. Labour is no longer able to properly represent the interests of working people because capitalism has grown far beyond the stage were those in power are working for the electorate – both Labour, Liberals and Conservative represent the interests of the financial elites and the corporate class. This is why Labour oversaw the massive transfer of public wealth to financial institutions in 2009 and why the ConDems are now imposing the brutal austerity cuts. Mainstream media supports this power dynamic (with some notable exceptions such as Paul Mason) by carefully controlling who is able to participate in public discussions and what information the public is fed. The current assault on the education, services, the NHS and nature will continue unless we sustain a movement of resistance that stops the destruction of both the social fabric in this country and the environment.
Leaving Picadilly I noticed a guard in costume filming the demonstration at a safe distance.