Nobody I hope, unless there’s something I don’t know about scrumpy’s special ingredients.So why were they able to mobilise 3,000 people in a few days to protest about the actions of a newly elected government?
I think it’s because they’re desperate.
They cannot afford to wait five more years. By then they’ll be saddled with huge student debts, no welfare state, no chance of a decent home, and no chance of a decent job. Add onto that the knowledge that the world’s mis-leaders are hurrying us along towards environmental catastrophe and you’ll see why they’ve said “Enough!”
After the 2010, the austerity government started attacking everybody, and some of the best resistance came from school and sixth students, followed by students at university.Those of us who’d been part of the socialist movement for some time were inspired, joined in, and tried to link it to the battles we knew were coming in workplaces.
We promised them that the power of workers through collective action in trade unions was the most effective way of halting austerity. But it didn’t happen. And austerity has not only got worse. It’s going to get much worse, and everybody knows it.
This time the unions are facing much bigger attacks on our right to organise. There will be resistance, but unions are slow and generally prone to obey every law put in front of them. There’s also a tendency among some in the union machinery to say “let’s get Labour into office – it’s the only way to change things”. Even if that was true, very few people, union officials included, will think that waiting five years is a realistic strategy.
So what the hell is to be done?
Unions are already organising in defence of our members, and in defence of our right to defend our members. But this is a slow process.
In every city in the country there are groups of young people like those in Bristol who are thinking “What can we do now?”
Some will call protests themselves. Others will be in touch with groups like Love Activists, Occupy,, the Peoples Assembly and may ask for help. Some of them are our own children and may talk to us. Some are in unions, though I suspect that the minority that are find their union distant and more like an insurance club.
However it happens, whenever we are talking to young people about this government and what to do, we should encourage the biggest and most militant protest possible. I think it’s essential that any protest organisation is done by the young people themselves. Our job is to offer help, advice, money, connections and perhaps most important of all, time to listen to what they are saying..
So, whether you’re an old trade unionist like me or a slightly old university student, you must do three things
- Get in touch with the Peoples Assembly and get some leaflets for the national protest on June 20th
- Stand outside as many Sixth Form Colleges as possible leafletting for June 20th, but more importantly ask the students what they think, what they think of their future, and what they think we could do about it.
- Once you have found a group of students who are already doing something, or would like to, offer them all the help mentioned above.
Once there’s some kind of protest planned, go mad telling everyone. Offer to contact a decent trade union speaker and a decent campaigning speaker. (Of course on the day, the protest could well have too much energy to stand around listening to speeches!). Offer to help with a P.A., bands, printing, postering, stalls, flatbed trucks and megaphones, stickers, police-liaison, and of course access to our networks and social media.
Any protest now probably won’t bring down the government.But it can play a big role in inspiring people to continue resistance. And it can help bring the generation of older trade union and campaigning activists together with the activists that will be our future strength in unions and elsewhere.