By Nicky Dempsey
The People’s Assembly Against Austerity has been called for 22 June. It is an important initiative to take steps to bring together a national movement against austerity.
It was launched by the Coalition of Resistance, and the initial statement has already been supported by most trade unions, many anti-cuts campaigns and groups representing those hardest hit by the cuts, women, black people, people with disabilities and the LGBT communities.
The aim of the Assembly is to bring together all these forces and more in a united movement against austerity.
The background to the initiative and the strong support for the appeal for the Assembly is an increase in the pace of the campaign against the cuts.
The effects of the cuts and falling living standards are rapidly moving beyond specific groups and layers – such as students – which can more easily be isolated, and are now beginning to be felt by the broad mass of the population.
Following the students’ struggle in 2010 and the 2011 public sector workers’ pensions’ dispute and TUC marches, the level of mobilisation, activity and industrial disputes declined through 2012.
Now there is a return of greater union militancy. The PCS union’s recent ballot for industrial action was passed overwhelmingly and the NUT is continuing its existing ballot on action. It is possible that other unions may be drawn into struggle around closures or privatisations.
There is also a clear up-tick of radicalisation in general against the cuts, with a growing number and scale of local actions called on specific issues and the establishing of co-ordinated campaigns with widespread support on issues like the bedroom tax, disability living allowance, libraries, in defence of local services and particularly against the privatisation of the NHS and closures of hospitals and health services.
The strength of the response to a proposed new extension of marketisation in the NHS led to a serious set-back for the government which was forced to withdraw new rules put to the Lords, which would have led to widespread privatisation to GP-commissioned services.
The People’s Assembly is therefore a very timely initiative aimed at drawing together all these disparate campaigns to offer mutual support, and create a collective punch against the Coalition Government’s austerity agenda.
Nearly all the major unions have supported the called for the People’s Assembly, including both UNITE and Unison and are devoting resources to it. Meetings and rallies will be held around the country in the build-up to June 22. These will all be an important opportunity to bring together activists from the unions, the anti-cuts groups and regional TUCs and trades councils to co-ordinate their activities and to discuss the how best to develop the movement.
Sign the statement and register for the Assembly here.