If May 7th filled us with questions, June 20th resounded with answers. Organisers estimate that as many as 250, 000 people gathered in London to demand that politicians ‘End Austerity Now’. Trade unionists, students, NHS campaigners, socialists, anarchists, animal rights activists, peace campaigners and environmentalists came together to oppose the government’s programme of cuts, privatisation, continuing de-regulation and increasing inequality. Instead, they called for investment in people and infrastructure, fairer taxes and a more equal society.
We performed a little street theatre piece as George Osborne, putting a special twist on Neil Kinnock’s warning after Thatcher’s 1983 election victory: “I warn you not to be ordinary, I warn you not to be young, I warn you not to fall ill, I warn you not to be old.”
We waved to, and were ‘greeted’ by the entire march. It took over one hundred minutes for the demonstration to pass, with people walking twenty or twenty five abreast. By this point, we knew it was big and this was confirmed by organisers at the end. A quarter of a million people had marched to oppose austerity.
Following this, we joined the Climate Bloc. Friends of the Earth placards were prominent, as were the Green Party’s. We joined the Campaign Against Climate Change with their large banner declaring “Against Austerity. For Climate Justice : For a Future that Doesn’t Cost the Earth”.
There are many reasons to oppose austerity- because it’s unfair on the poor, because it increases inequality, because the rich are not paying their share and because it doesn’t work as an economic strategy. And here’s one more: if we are going to avert climate catastrophe (or at least play our party in doing so) we need to invest heavily- in renewable energy, in energy efficiency measures and in a radical change in our transport systems and infrastructure. We also need to invest in flood defences and other ways of protecting us from climate change impacts which are already in the pipeline.
The bad news is that averting climate change is incompatible with austerity. It’s also incompatible with de-regulation, privatization and inequality, other elements in this government’s neo-liberal ideology.
The good news is that if austerity is turned around and measures to address climate change are introduced they will have numerous other benefits to our society- creating jobs, reducing death and illnesses (and costs to the NHS) through fuel poverty, protecting people from deaths and illnesses caused by air pollution. These benefits have already been highlighted in the Campaign Against Climate Change’s ‘Million Climate Jobs’ report http://www.climate-change-jobs.org/ , Friends of the Earth’s work on the green economy (such as its recent ‘Making a Better Job of it’ report https://www.foe.co.uk/sites/…/making–better–job-it-full-report-75291.pdf),the Energy Bill Revolution campaign http://www.energybillrevolution.org/whats-the-campaign/ the work of Client Earth http://www.clientearth.org/clean-air/campaigning-for-healthy-air/
The event had a lot of media coverage. Here are BBC and Guardian reports
All credit to the organisers of the march, the People’s Assembly for a well promoted and organised event. They hope that this marks the beginning of a new wave of resistance locally and nationally, through demonstrations, strikes and occupations to ‘End Austerity Now’.
It’s what the people need. It’s what the climate needs. See you at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester in three months’ time.