By Nicky Dempsey
The struggle against austerity in Britain has moved up a gear.
The recent anti-bedroom tax protests were very broad-based geographically and in layers of support. The campaigns against local hospital closures are also gaining widespread support and are increasingly coordinated.
At the same time there are numerous local anti-cuts campaigns focusing on issues such as library closures, redundancies and withdrawal of childcare facilities and other issues.
Trade union militancy has also increased following the very low level of strike action in 2012. The PCS struck on Budget day and is due to take further industrial action. The NUT and NAS/UWT have agreed strike action over pay, pensions and workload. It is also possible that other unions will take action over closures, redundancies and pay.
In the same vein, further protests against the bedroom tax are planned for March 30th and there will be a London-wide demo against the privatisation of the NHS on May 18th, which will link the local campaigns and may even turn into a national demonstration.
The People’s Assembly Against Austerity now has the support of most large unions and will hope to draw union activists, campaigns and organisations together on June 22nd to build a broad movement against austerity. Registration for the People’s Assembly is here.
The backdrop to the increased political campaigning and militancy is the growing effects of the ruling class offensive.
Initially, the mass of the population was largely unscathed. The £6bn in cuts announced in June 2010 represents an average reduction in living standards of £2 a week per person in Britain, and their effect was very uneven, falling initially on people with disabilities, lone parents and others.
Last year that total rose to £74bn and will carry on rising to £130bn in three years’ time. Along with the effects of low wage growth and inflation, the broad mass of the population are now feeling the effects of austerity.
This is why the level of activity has begun to increase and is set to accelerate further in coming months and years. The fall in living standards will deepen and draw in ever wider layers.
The latest Budget from the Coalition guarantees that. Despite a stagnant economy the official estimates from the government and from the Office of Budget Responsibility are that the measures Osborne announced in Parliament will have no impact on growth. In reality, there are new spending cuts of £1.6bn.
The mass movement against austerity is set to grow. Local campaigns will proliferate and become increasingly coordinated. Industrial action is also likely to increase. It is important that socialists help to build these movements and actions at a local and national level. The movement can come together at the People’s Assembly, which will be a political step forward.