Rewriting the rules of mass resistance Bill Greenshields introduces a radical new manifesto aiming to inspire a Greekstyle movement for economic justice The People’s Manifesto was launched yesterday (28 February 2015) by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.
The manifesto makes a compelling and powerful case for an alternative to austerity based on the needs of ordinary people — “A people’s Britain, not a bankers’ Britain.” It calls for a the building of a sustained mass movement to bring that alternative about, rather than simply calling for general election votes.
Challenging the pro-austerity and pro-privatisation media and political consensus is a dangerous thing to do. That’s the increasingly strident message from big business and the bankers through their representatives in national governments, the EU and Washington.
British special services “advisers” have arrived in Ukraine to strengthen the armed forces and fascist paramilitaries of the Poroshenko government.
This is part of a war against those who resisted the Western-backed coup against President Yanukovych.
He had committed the crime of rejecting austerity economics and politics, therefore saying “No” to closer ties with the EU.
As EU and US sanctions are ratcheted up against Russia for daring to give political support to the antifascists, Britain says it will “not yet provide lethal equipment” to the “Euromaiden” coup leaders now in control of the Ukrainian state. For how long? The threat of escalating war and foreign intervention to consolidate their pro-EU austerity “reforms” becomes greater.
Meanwhile the democratically elected anti-austerity government in Greece is told in no uncertain terms that its election pledges to halt privatisation, raise the minimum wage, re-employ sacked publicsector workers and introduce anti-poverty measures are “totally unacceptable” to the troika of European Central Bank, European Union Commission and the International Monetary Fund.
They are instructed to abandon these policies and provide further detailed austerity plans, or the troika and the capitalist powers it represents will do all they can to destroy the Greek economy entirely.
So today’s manifesto launch marks an important step in making sense of these events.
The People’s Assembly is seen by many as a pretty successful protest campaign, but it intends to be far more. It has grown quickly, establishing well over 100 local assemblies in towns and cities throughout Britain.
It is working hard nationally and locally to put down deep roots into communities and trade union memberships to establish a movement of a type not seen in Britain for many decades — a movement of ordinary people fighting every day and in every possible way against austerity.
The movement needs to reflect the democratic structures that have grown among the anti-austerity antifascists in Ukraine, the people of Greece and many other people’s movements across Europe.
“What we are against” is never as inspirational as “what we are for,” and so the manifesto focuses on positive change.
Its policies closely reflect those of the People’s Charter and petition which have been adopted and reaffirmed many times since 2008 across the trade union and progressive movement — but with far too little action following.
They also are drawn from the spirited debates and discussions of the assembly’s 4,000-strong founding conference in 2013 and subsequent events.
The People’s Manifesto opens with a challenging statement that “austerity is working only for the ruling class in a period when we have seen the sharpest decline in real wages since Victorian times.
“The increasing concentration of wealth is combined with savage attacks on our rights to organise and fight back. This means we must demand an alternative to survive and make a future for ourselves, our families and our communities.
“There is no need for any cuts to public spending, no need to destroy public services, no need for unemployment or pay and pension cuts, no need for ‘austerity’ and privatisation.
In this manifesto we demonstrate that there is an alternative.” The manifesto outlines progressive alternatives to current policies on tax, jobs and employment, pay and pensions, the globalisation “race to bottom,” the export of capital and forced movement of labour and immigration.
It includes a useful section providing facts and figures about austerity’s victims and its winners. The question of sustainability is explored in terms of research and development, energy conservation and renewables — with a focus on the creation of one million green jobs. Running throughout are policies for ending privatisation and promoting nationalisation and the need for regulation in the private sector, including compulsory reinvestment of profit and ways to prevent closure and export of capital in profitable industry.
The one thing standing in the way of the manifesto being put to work for the benefit of the overwhelming majority of the people is the tiny millionaire monopoly capitalist class that does so well out of the status quo. Yet the manifesto is both an excellent introduction to anti-austerity arguments and a prompt for more seasoned campaigners and movement leaders to ask ourselves a few questions.
For example: n Is it possible to break and overcome the Establishment’s pro-austerity consensus?
What would we have to do to see our policies implemented in the face of fierce Establishment opposition? This brings us right back to the Ukraine, Greece and the people’s movements across Europe, now standing up bravely against austerity and all it entails. The People’s Manifesto provides us with another tool to build the resistance and the fight for the alternative right here in Britain, alongside our comrades — the best form of solidarity.
Bill Greenshields represents the Communist Party of Britain on The Assembly — the national committee of the People’s Assembly
The People’s Manifesto is available here as a pdf or from The People’s Assembly by emailing office@thepeoples assembly.org.uk or calling (020) 8525 6988. Office hours 10am-6pm