The People’s Assembly – uniting resistance against austerity

1888522_658965354171358_1285589784_nThe People’s Assembly Against Austerity will hold its first policy conference on Saturday 15 March. The first Assembly last June was a tremendous success when over 4,000 came together for a united opposition to austerity and in defence of public services.

With just 14 months to go the general election in May 2015, the main parties have set out their campaign stalls: they are all support austerity! The People’s Assembly conference should be the launch of the broadest possible united alternative to the pro-austerity parliamentary consensus. It will establish formally the People’s Assembly with a structure to bring together local and national campaigns, trade-unions, and the left in the fight against cuts and privatisation of public services and jobs. But it will also put forward an alternative based on redistribution of wealth and public ownership and reject the idea that we should be made to pay for the economic crisis.

A national united campaign against austerity will be a big step forward in giving confidence to community and trade-union activists in organising the resistance against every cut and privatisation. Despite the political debate dominated by the pro-austerity parties, there is still a huge degree of support for public-ownership. According to a recent poll for the Centre for Labour and Social Studies, two out of three favour the nationalisation of the post, railways and energy companies, and four out five don’t think that they are benefiting from the miniscule economic recovery that Osborne is trumpeting.

Everyday, news pour in that the economic crisis is an opportunity for the bankers and the bosses to shift wealth away from the working class and to bring in flexible and insecure jobs. The nationalised RBS bank sets aside £588 million for bonuses even though it lost £8.24 billion in the last year. Barclays has a £2.4billion bonus pot, despite a 32% drop in profits and planning to cut 12,000 jobs! Bankers are avoiding the cap on bonuses by instead awarding themselves shares. The official government figures reveal that close 583,000 workers are on zero-hour contracts while Unite the union reckon it could be as much as 5 million. The Bedroom Tax has hit 522,000 people, with 1 in 7 households receiving eviction notices. Over 500,000 are using food banks.

Despite opposition to austerity, there is no mass action to force the government to retreat. The People’s Assembly and the Trade-unions have a big role to play in creating the conditions where widespread industrial and community action is carried out. The conference on Saturday will put out the call for protests on Budget Day, Wednesday 19 March, as well as a demonstration on Saturday 21 June to defend public services and jobs. Meanwhile the TUC is calling for a demonstration on Saturday 18 October for “Britain deserves a pay rise”.

Demonstrations, rallies and industrial action including one-day general strikes are essential in defeating austerity. With council elections in May and the general election a year later, we cannot just say that the struggle is enough. We can no longer call for a vote for Labour as the lesser evil to defeat the nasty Tories. Labour is an austerity-lite party. We need a political alternative to vote in political representatives who will resist austerity and defend their communities. That’s why we need broad party of the left and that is why Left Unity has been launched. Having political representatives elected who will challenge the bankers and the bosses can give hope and courage to defeat austerity and fight for a society that meets the needs of people, not that of private profit.

Fred Leplat

The People’s Assembly National Conference
Saturday 15 March 2014, 10am – 5pm
Emmanuel Centre, London, SW1P 3DW
Westminster or St James Park tube
Register for the conference:
More information about the People’s Assembly here.

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