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Why we need a movement
that is wide and militant
National Organising Conference
Saturday 27 November, London
COALITION OF RESISTANCE
20 November 2010 www.counterñre.org
Stop the ConDem vandals
Tis is a defning crisis for a generation. What happens
in the next few years will determine the course of dec-
ades to come.
It is a battle over values. On one side are those who
stand for the rule of markets and the rich. On the other
are those who stand for solidarity and justice.
It is happening because capitalism is changing. Te
leading capitalist nation, the US, is in steady decline. New
powers are emerging.
Te frst shots in this battle were fred over Afghani-
stan and Iraq. A gamble by George Bush to shore up US
power ran into a global opposition movement. Millions
protested. We did not stop the Iraq war. But, as Bush’s au-
tobiography now reveals, we prevented further attacks on
Iran and elsewhere. His gamble played badly. Iraq was a
disaster. Te US and its lackeys are locked into an unwin-
nable war in Afghanistan.
Te collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 opened the
second stage of the crisis. Te bankruptcy of the world’s
third largest bank opened up a global recession—the worst
since the 1930s. Te US and its allies are still trapped by it.
Tey cannot break the cycle of decline because they can-
not break the grip of fnance.
Two strategies have emerged instead. For the US,
“quantitative easing”—printing money—is preferred. Tis
is driving down the value of the dollar. Cheaper dollars
should mean more US exports. But competitors like Bra-
zil and China will lose markets. Tey warn of “currency
Quantitative easing is another gamble for US power
abroad. It is stoking up tensions. Te logic of the market is
destroying international co-operation.
For lesser powers, austerity is demanded. As in the
1930s, governments locked in recession are expected to
cut their own spending still further, to reduce defcits.
Tis is delusional. Government spending sustains
demand in the economy. Private businesses depend on
spending by government. Pull it away, and the recession
As the recession deepens the defcit worsens, provok-
ing more cuts. Tis is the demand death-spiral that helped
prolong the Great Depression. It is emerging already in
Ireland. As the cuts bite the economy contracts, driving
further cuts. Portugal and Greece are also threatened,
with the markets smelling blood. Speculation is pushing
up the costs of their borrowing.
Britain’s Coalition government is locking us into the
same spiral downwards. Tey aim to wrench £87 billion
out of public spending over the next fve years. Tis is suf-
fcient to destroy the welfare state. Te government claims
these cuts are necessary because spending is too high.
Tis is a lie. Under New Labour before 2008, government
spending averaged 39 per cent of GDP. Under Tatcher, it
was 43 per cent.
But the bank bailout cost £1.3 trillion. And the reces-
sion reduced tax receipts, while pushing up spending on
Te defcit grew because the banks failed.
Te fnancial system that failed so spectacularly is un-
reformed. Hedge funds, unregulated gambling dens for
the super-rich, are on the rise. Te feeble “Basel III” re-
forms won’t be introduced fully until 2019.
Another crash is likely—as Mervyn King, governor of
the Bank of England, warned in a recent speech. And the
banks will come squealing for another bailout.
But the last bailout crippled economies across the
globe. Te Bank of International Settlements says the
UK is too “fragile” to withstand another one. It could not
raise the public funds needed. Tis is the deranged logic
driving the cuts: cut spending today so we can pay for the
banking crisis tomorrow.
Te real weakness of British capitalism is revealed. It
can aford a welfare state, or it can aford the City. Both re-
quire public spending. But it cannot aford both. We face
Eighteen of 23 Cabinet ministers are millionaires. Tey
have chosen as their class demands and their ideology de-
crees. We must force the opposite answer.
Te Coalition’s strategy is divide-and-rule. Tey would
rather fght hundreds of small, local campaigns than one
A united, national campaign can shatter that logic.
Te Coalition of Resistance conference in London on
27 November is the place where such a campaign can start
to form. It will be a chance to draw together all strands of
opposition to this government.
Mass movements stopped the Poll Tax and helped force
Blair out of ofce. Hundreds of thousands of people on the
streets would transform British politics. It is time for all
those who value people’s lives ahead of markets to unite.
As the worst fnancial crisis since the Great Depression deepens and battle lines are drawn, a mass anti-cuts movement
must force the ConDems to reverse their savage cuts.
The movement we need
The students have shown what an
anti-cuts movement could look like.
With millions more affected by savage
cuts, there are four principles a mass
campaign will need if it is to win.
Millions are up in arms
over the ConDem’s cuts.
Cameron’s “we are all in this
together” rhetoric is widely
regarded as a joke at a time
when the bankers and the
rich are partying through the
crisis they have created.
Te brilliant student demo
and occupation of the Tory
Party HQ expressed the rage so
many people feel towards the
politicians and their friends in
fnance and big business.
Anti-cuts campaigns have
sprung up in towns and
cities across the country and
the TUC have called what
we all hope to be a monster
demonstration on 26 March
Te questions are: how can
we turn these frst initiatives
into a campaign that can break
the government and their
programme of cuts? How can
we create a movement that
addresses the widespread sense
that the politicians’ priorities are
all wrong? To be successful, such
a movement needs to be based
on four principles.
Build it wide
First, it must be broad and reach
far beyond the lef. Every section
of society is going to be afected
by a programme of cuts aimed
at re-engineering society, taking
us back to a nineteenth century
world before welfare.
Protests by artists, by
scientists, by the disabled and
pensioners, angry complaints
from women’s groups and black
organizations—let alone students
and trade unionists—testify to
the almost unthinkable impact of
the ConDem’s plans on society.
And it all shows we could have a
movement that goes way beyond
the usual activists and even the
Tis may seem obvious
in theory, but there are
practical conclusions. We need
organisation that is as inclusive
as possible, that actively brings
in new groups, networks and
campaigns into co-ordinated
It is no good sections of the
lef going around arguing they
should have exclusive leadership
of the movement, or voting down
initiatives because they didn’t
think of them frst. Such antics
are completely missing the point
and they put people of.
We need dynamic, outward-
looking, creative ways of
organising, not activist cliques. In
every area there should be public
events big and diverse enough
to convince people we have the
power to get somewhere. We
need open, democratic and well-
promoted planning meetings
between the big set pieces that
involve as many new people as
Trade unionists need to be
at the centre of this campaign.
Te unions are by far the biggest
networks in society and they can
organise strike action—the most
Students storm Tory HQ
over massive fee hikes
Bonfres, broken glass and
burning efgies of David
Cameron scattered the courtyard
of 30 Millbank—Conservative
Party HQ—as over 50,000
students, lecturers, support staf
and graduates marched through
central London on the biggest
anti-cuts protest of the decade.
Both the police and the NUS
bureaucracy were powerless to
contain the demonstrators, who
poured into Millbank.
Windows were smashed to
allow the protestors to occupy
the building, with banners fying
from the roof and chants of “Tory
scum” reverberating around the
courtyard. A simultaneous sit-in
occurred at Parliament Square
and protestors also directed
anger at the Treasury buildings,
Liberal Democrat HQ and
the Department of Business,
Innovation and Skills. Te NUS
leadership predictably distanced
themselves from the day’s actions,
condemning them as ‘despicable’.
Te demonstration chimed
with anti-cuts alliances,
occupations and protests erupting
up and down the country:
Goldsmith’s University took over
their management buildings in
a fash occupation last week and
thousands protested on the day
of the Comprehensive Spending
Review— all an inspiring start to
a mass anti-cuts movement. As
protesters promised from the
roof of Tory HQ: “Tis is just
“We need dynamic,
of organising, not
French trade unionists and
students took to the streets
to oppose the reform on
The family is supposed to be a bastion of love, support and protection
from a world of uncertainty and risk; but for many this ideal is
destroyed by debt, a crashing economy and a ruthless free market
ideology that offers no lifeline for those at the losing end.
efective tactic of resistance.
But we must not rely
exclusively on the unions. And
we must not wait for them to act.
Most working people in Britain
are not unionised. Unions in
Britain are still recovering from
the defeats they sufered in the
1980s and a good deal of the
leadership is still hesitant and
Te only way the fght can
really take of is if it involves a
much wider alliance. Tere has
to be a political challenge to the
government which encompasses
large sections of society and
which generalises the struggle.
It needs to move more quickly
and more decisively than most
of the trade union leaders. Tis
kind of movement can give
people the confdence to take
serious strike action.
Second, like any great struggle,
the fght against this government
will have to confront the
ConDems at an ideological
as well as an agitational level.
Te ConDem alliance is united
around one or two arguments. It
argues that cuts are unavoidable
because of the scale of the defcit,
and that the defcit is caused
by excessive state spending by
Labour, hoping we will forget the
colossal bailout of the banks.
Tese ideas are not hard to
take apart. Scrapping Trident,
increasing taxes on the rich and
ending our foreign wars would
easily deal with the defcit.
But because the government’s
arguments are repeated over
and again by politicians,
commentators and journalists,
and because so few in the
mainstream challenge them,
they do efect people. Tis makes
resistance much harder.
What we need is a movement
that has the reach and infuence
to be an alternative source of
explanations and solutions to the
crisis. Trough mass rallies at
demonstrations, public meetings
and online networking, the Stop
the War Coalition has helped
popularise arguments against the
US-led wars that give people the
confdence to campaign.
Te anti-cuts movement
needs to do a similar job.
Tird, although the cuts impact
locally they are implemented
nationally. Tey are part of
a concerted, national (and
international) ruling class
ofensive. Local resistance is
essential to defend particular
services and draw people into
Te local anti-cuts committees
need to be broad, vibrant and
permanent. But every serious
the Anti-Apartheid movement
to the Poll Tax campaign and the
anti-war movement—has had
In order to unite people in
a campaign that can break the
austerity plan and get rid of
the government, we will need
national co-ordination, strategy
and action. We will need to get
all the local anti-cuts campaigns
and as many other organisations
as possible working and planning
together. For all these reasons the
Coalition of Resistance conference
in London on 27 November is
a crucial step in developing a
movement that can win.
Beating the blues
Finally, we must challenge
pessimism. It comes in many
forms. Some say demonstrating
makes no diference, others that
the politicians will ignore us
whatever we do, and still others
that the far right will be the main
benefciaries of the crisis.
Tese arguments paralyse
us. Tey are the things the
government wants us to believe.
And they are untrue. Popular
struggles have shaped the world
we live in.
Popular struggle won the vote
and we wouldn’t have the welfare
state itself if it hadn’t been for
demands for change at the end of
the Second World War. We beat
the Poll Tax in the 1990s and the
anti-war demonstrations fnished
Tere are no guarantees,
but we live in an age of mass
movements. If we can build
one broad enough and militant
enough then we can see of this
government of millionaires.
and the fragi|e fami|y
Last summer, a family of four was found dead
in their house in Hampshire. Te woman, a
31-year-old nursery manager and mother of two
young girls, had been murdered alongside her
children, apparently by the father who was later
found to have hanged himself.
Tis horrendous incident took place only days
afer a nurse died having had her throat cut outside
the hospital where she worked. Te police are now
questioning a colleague, her ex-boyfriend, with
whom she had recently had a baby.
In 2008, Christopher Foster killed his wife Jil-
lian and their 15-year-old daughter, Kirstie. He
then burnt down the house and committed suicide.
Watching the news you could be forgiven for
thinking that these heartbreaking acts of violence
were not only random and unpredictable but also
unrelated, forming no pattern worthy of cultural
or political analysis.
In fact, we have in the past almost been cajoled
by the British media into believing, however hor-
rid these incidents are, that there is nothing soci-
ety can do to stop the violence within families that
leads to the deaths of over 100 women, 52 children
and 12 families each year. Understandably, author
Sophie Hannah asked, ‘why weren’t whole editions
of Newsnight being devoted to discussing how we,
as a society, could ensure such crimes were never
Naming and defning this type of murder helps
begin the process of understanding why it occurs
with such regularity in western societies. Profes-
sionals and academics in Britain have described
the act committed by men (as it usually is men)
who kill their entire family and then themselves,
as “murder-suicide” or “familicide”.
Although this is rarely referred to by name in
the UK, in the United States, it is commonly and
somewhat sensationally known as “family annihi-
lation”. Valuable research and debates there have
helped to shed light on this unusual but increas-
ingly common form of crime. Firstly, evidence
highlights that perpetrators on both sides of the
Atlantic are primarily white middle class males,
seemingly successful “family men”, with properties
and businesses that give them high status within
the community and the opportunity to create a
“normal” functioning family. Tese goals ofen
disintegoalsgrate on the rocks of debt, bankruptcy
and unemployment; leading to a fnancial, social
and emotional rupture which in turn leads to a
Jack Levin, an American criminologist, suggests
family killers are usually men who have ‘a profound
need for control that drives them to destroy their
family, when they can no longer provide for them
fnancially or when the family been divided by di-
vorce’. Since the recession began in America, fam-
ily murder-suicide rates have jumped 9 per cent.
In Britain, the rate over the past decade jumped
from one every eight weeks to one in six weeks to
one per month.
Tere are those who argue that poverty isn’t the
main trigger for murder suicide, or murder at all,
but Levin importantly points out that family an-
nihilation is likely to become more common in
tough economic times, with murders in the home
and in the workplace increasing. For this reason,
Dr. Richard Gelles, the Child Welfare and Family
Violence chair for the University of Pennsylvania,
suggests that family annihilations, though unusu-
al, should be seen ‘as the canaries in the violence
He stresses the point that there is a lag fac-
tor with violence in communities hit hard by job
losses and public service cuts. Police, teachers and
social workers will start to see the horrifc efects
of the recession in six to nine months time. It’s not
the case, he says, that on Monday a man loses his
job then on Wednesday he becomes a wife beater.
Terefore, his argument that services should be fo-
cused on communities hardest hit by job losses is
not only a preventative initiative, it is a humane
In Britain that would mean investing resources
in Yorkshire, for instance, where private sector jobs
have been worst hit in the country since the reces-
sion began. Furthermore, Yorkshire sufered over
the last 30 years as a consequence of the Tory pit
closure plan. For these two reasons, it has frighten-
ingly high statistics for violence and abuse already.
Te problem academics have with understand-
ing family annihilations is that they tend to look
just at the problem of economics and male power,
ignoring the glaring fact that women still sufer
from sexism. And it is this that underpins such
gender specifc violence. Full-time working wom-
en earn on average 17 per cent less than men, and
part-timers can see a diference in wages of up to
30 per cent.
Tis is a huge ideological efect on the stand-
ing of women within the family and society as a
whole. It perpetuates the myth that women’s work
is inferior and secondary to their role in the home.
However, this is far from true. Women’s work has
been an essential part of the economy and their
wages are very much needed by the family in order
to fulfll its role as a unit of consumption.
Terefore, economics can’t fully explain why it
is that women and children sufer the most from
abuse and violence in the family. Even during the
so-called ‘good years’ of the Blair administration,
two women and one child a week died at the hands
of someone they knew. Author Lindsey German
highlights the problem with the family in a capi-
talist society: there are ‘contradictions inside the
family, which means it cannot fulfll the expecta-
tions of its individual members for much of the
Te household is seen as the repository of love,
calm and respite from a cruel world. Te reality is
rather diferent. Te family contains within it per-
sonal and sexual tensions, some of which spill over
into violence. Te majority of murders take place
in and around the family. Children are more at
risk of abuse within the family than they are from
So, for the man who sees himself as the “head
of the family”, with other members in a subservi-
ent role, his inability to maintain the family and
solve its problem is compounded by his huge fall
in status. Tis pressure leads directly to the act of
murder-suicide. For men like Foster, who aspire to
the fragile family dream, they are unaware that it
doesn’t matter how hard they work, they are still
part of a machine; a rotten system that allows
families and individuals within it to go to the wall
mercilessly. Looking at families trying to survive
in mining communities afer the closures, it was
plain to see that the family worked only while the
government supported it.
People, whether in families or not, need to be
valued and given the opportunity to live with-
out fear of poverty, loneliness and failure. For a
long time I hated the men who committed these
crimes. Now I realise they are victims too. Tere is
no warmth or comfort in a society like ours from
institutions that people try to rely on in times of
need. We receive little support from the benefts
system, the job market, the banks or politicians.
Now, more than ever, we have to fght for jobs and
services nationally and support those internation-
ally. Tis is the only way to protect our communi-
ties and the ones we love.
wins campaign award
Clare Sambrook, prominent
journalist and Counterfre
supporter, was recently
awarded the Paul Foot Award
for campaigning journalism in
recognition of her work with
migrant rights group End Child
Te group—which emerged in
2009 in response to the treatment
of a single family in detention—
now campaigns against the
horrifc conditions faced by
children in detention centres
across the UK.
Clare’s work has revealed
countless examples of shocking
conduct by government
ofcials, including the deliberate
classifcation of unaccompanied
child migrants as adults—
removing the minor protection
they receive under the law.
Her work, and that of the
campaign, has also earned ofcial
recognition by the Scottish
Parliament who moved a motion
condemning the barbarity of
detention centres, in particular
the notorious Yarl’s Wood where
female detainees led a hunger
strike last year in protest against
their appalling living conditions.
In her acceptance speech,
Clare thanked all the
organisations that had supported
and contributed to her work,
including the Joint Council for
the Welfare of Immigrants
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