Beyond voting

Have you had enough of politicians posturing before, during and after the general election? Did you think voting would make any real difference to the economic and social crisis that’s hitting us? Are you now asking yourself if anything can be done to defend our interests as working class people and fight for a better life for us all?

We ended up with a hung parliament and a coalition deal stitched up between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats. The stark truth is that it really wouldn’t have made much difference which party (or combination of parties) ended up in government as they would all have had to implement the same agenda. This being the imposition of swingeing public expenditure cuts in a desperate bid to preserve the UK’s triple A credit rating, thus saving sterling from the attentions of the currency speculators and ultimately, fending off a visit from the International Monetary Fund.

The only issue that was up for debate was when the cuts that were already underway would have been escalated. All the contestants privately acknowledged that whoever gained power, they were likely to go down as one of the most unpopular administrations in history as they had no choice but to swing the axe. It is ordinary working class people who are bearing the brunt as services are cut and jobs are axed. In addition, there is the elephant in the sitting room in the form of another banking crisis that a growing number of experts are predicting – should this occur, then effectively, all bets are off!

What can we as ordinary working class people do in the face of what looks to be a bleak future? There is a stark choice – we struggle as individuals to deal with the consequences of the crisis or act collectively to defend our interests and our communities. Modern society is becoming ever more fragmented and atomised with an emphasis on consumption as opposed to community. As a result, the response to any crisis becomes more individualised – and that’s how the powers that be like it!

This opens the way for divide and rule as different sections of the community are played off against each other. There are those who will divide us from the likes of the British National Party and the English Defence League on the one hand through to religious fundamentalists such as Islam 4 UK, Hizib ut-Tahrir and the Christian Party on the other – they need to be faced off and told they have no place in our communities.

We have to regain a sense of solidarity that will get all of us through what will be difficult and challenging times. Acting collectively opens the way to face off the crisis and to unite our communities. The cuts that will come are going to leave massive holes in terms of provision – it is going to be up to us to step up to the plate to ensure that we take over whatever we can in creative and innovative ways. You may well ask, what can be done on a practical level in this kind of situation – well here are some examples to inspire us…

In a community that has long suffered under provision, the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) in Blackbird Leys, an estate to the east of Oxford, has a history of stepping up to the plate to fill the void. In their relatively short history, they have organised a Saturday morning Children’s Cinema Club, a SATs booster course for school children and numerous community away-days. Last summer, they organised a community football tournament. [1]

There are examples from history of direct resistance to attacks on the working class that we can learn from such as the 1915 Glasgow Rent Strike …

During the First World War, rent increases across Glasgow provoked massive working class opposition, mainly from women organised in tenants’ groups. Starting in Govan that April, strikers paid only their normal rent, refusing the increase. Despite intimidation by rent collectors the strikers succeeded, and by June, the landlords had given in. News of the success spread to other parts of the city, where tenants organised agitation and propaganda against the landlords. The solidarity of the working class women was so strong it could not be broken by the rent collectors, who had to apply to court to evict the tenants. Sheriff officers were called in to serve the writs and carry out the evictions, but the strikers took action, barring the path of any sheriff officers entering their communities. Large scale demonstrations were held whenever an eviction notice was served.

Currently, there is a wave of resistance to evictions from foreclosed homes across the USA that shows how communities can mobilise to fight the consequences of an economic crisis that impacts on the working class…

In Philadelphia ACORN and other community organizations helped to pressure the city council to order the county sheriff to halt foreclosure auctions. Craig Robbins, who directs ACORN’s foreclosure campaign said: “We’re looking to throw a wrench in the foreclosure machinery,” adding that ACORN are planning to organise “rapid defence teams” ready to turn out crowds on short notice to prevent evictions. [2]

We face a period where the interests of working class people will be brutally sacrificed to appease the interests of capital. However, as we can see from the examples above, it is possible to fight back. The crisis will not go away – we have no choice but to unite and resist if our communities are to survive. Resisting will make us stronger and opens the way for a better future…

[1] IWCA – The type of community engagement that mainstream politics has abandoned – http://www.iwca.info/?p=10144

[2] AlterNet – Resistance to Housing Foreclosures Spreads Across the Land – http://www.alternet.org/economy/121844/resistance_to_housing_foreclosures_spread_across_the_land/

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