Raising the Temperature

Recent months have seen the birth and growth of a social movement in York. Against the cuts to jobs, benefits and services, against the welfare and quality of life of the disabled and elderly, against attacks on education, against businesses being handed ever more blatant means of increasing profit while the rest of us face the consequences.

We have taken people to Birmingham and London, stood by our allies in Leeds, marched through the streets of York, held meetings, rallies and public actions, and even seen an occupation of the University. And in recent weeks we have seen an escalation – both in the scale of the attacks, and in our response.

On 19th February, anti-cuts activists held a mass public demonstration, with trade unionists, socialists, greens, anarchists, students, pensioners, parents, service users, health workers, young old and everyone in between marching side by side against the damage to be inflicted on us by a government eager to do so and a council all to eager to oblige. With the march concluded, a group of protestors, determined to continue the day’s activities, went on to occupy a branch of Vodafone, a key target in recent actions by the UK Uncut anti-corporate tax avoidance campaign due to the company’s activities in both the UK and India. Following a swift police response, the group went on to hold a loud, energetic march through British Home Stores, another UK Uncut target, followed by a moving demonstration through the city, visiting branches of Boots and other businesses.

The following week, 26th February, activists disrupted a branch of Top Shop, unfurling banners and blocking half of the store’s tills. In response, members of the store’s security manhandled some members of the protest out of the store, calling in police to deal with those remaining.

As anarchists we retain a critical attitude towards UK Uncut and related protests, recognising that the state, far frombeing a force to reign in business, is in fact its ally, and that the concept of a “nicer” or more “socially responsible” capitalism is little more than an illusion. However, we respect and encourage direct, confrontational and disruptive activity taken against businesses and acknowledge the role these protests have played in shedding light on the nature of the relationship between the state, business and the cuts.

While we – the people of the UK, be we local or migrants, workers, students, unemployed or retired – are expected to endure cuts to our standard of living, healthcare, education and benefits, businesses are left free to rake in profits as they please. The recent change in tax law, allowing UK businesses operating overseas to avoid UK taxes altogether, is not an exception but the rule. [1]

As the cuts hit through, the City of York Council met on 24th February, meeting to implement the most vicious budget in recent decades. Outside the Guild Hall, a crowd of demonstrators took part in a small but lively rally against the attacks to come, while inside, councillors deliberated the most efficient means of gutting the services of York residents – the same residents they claim to represent. The rally was later joined by a contingent of protestors supporting the uprising in Libya, in a show of solidarity bypassing the barriers of nationality and ethnicity which serve only to divide us.

Inside the Guild Hall, meanwhile, a group of protestors disrupted the budget meeting, occupying a table in the centre of

the council chamber and shouting anti-cuts slogans and chants. Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors walked out of the chamber in disgust, while police were called in, demanding that the protestors leave. The group was eventually removed by police and held briefly before leaving the council building, rejoining the rest of the demonstration.

The response from councillors was predictable, branding the protestors “hooligans” and murmuring darkly about the supposed threat to democracy posed by seven people on a table [2]. One York Press journalist even went a step further, making a frankly bizarre allusion to the Nazi party [3].

The council budget has now been passed [4]. In the coming weeks and months we will feel its effects, as services are cut back, jobs lost, benefits removed. Yet this is not a time to hold back, nor to surrender. To quote a cliche, in the words of Joe Hill: Don’t mourn. Organise!

Recent weeks have seen protestors in Wisconsin, USA, occupy the state capital in protest at proposals to cut back the rights of workers to take industrial action in defence of their jobs and conditions [5]. In Indianapolis and elsewhere, workers fight against the same attacks, while across North Africa, social movements have overthrown governments in Tunisia and Egypt, and that of Libya holds on by a thread. Whatever should follow these uprisings, their effect demonstrates what is possible when we come together and fight on common ground.

Closer to home, workers at a biofuel plant in Hull have blockaded their workplace in protest at proposed job cuts [6]. Workers at Universities – including the University of York – have voted for strike action against attacks on pensions [7] . And across the country – as in York – council meetings have been disrupted, invaded, and occupied in outrage at the assault at the cuts to be inflicted on us.

These cuts, and their devastating consequences, can only be resisted by mass, direct, collective, confrontational action – in our workplaces and communities, in solidarity with one another. We have marched, rallied, petitioned and demonstrated, and will continue to do so. But we must do more.

And we will.

Yours in solidarity,

York Anarchists.

– – –

[1]http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/07/tax-city-heist-of-century

[2]http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/8878064.York___s_political_leaders_speak_out_on_table_protest/

[3]http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/features/columnists/8881860.People_power__It___s_a_tricky_thing

[4]http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/8875348.Lib_Dem_Tory_alliance_seals_York_council_budget/

[5] http://libcom.org/news/wisconsin-%E2%80%93-next-stop-general-strike-28022011

[6] http://libcom.org/news/humberside-construction-workers-vivergo-fuels-blockade-03032011

[7] http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=5356&from=1676

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About York Anarchists

A group of anarchist radicals living and working in the city of York.
This entry was posted in anti-cuts movement, protests. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Raising the Temperature

  1. steve says:

    inciteful post. I think the occupations of shops are a good move. I tire of hearing the same old chants though and seeing swp speaches about how they are winning. Il join you guys as soon as i can

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