Protest noun: a statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something
verb: to express an objection to what someone has said or done
The Independent reports that the country’s two biggest unions want to instigate a General Strike as the “the culmination of a campaign against austerity measures”
As Laurie Penny rightly points out in The Guardian: “Protesters face violence, arrest and serious charges. Only the brave dare face this savage suppression” http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/04/where-are-the-activists-austerity?CMP=twt_gu
I see these two articles as good representations of why our traditional methods in the pursuit of achieving meaningful change rarely change anything. Ms Penny’s article reminds us that it is becoming ever more difficult to take a stand; to be a dissenting voice; that the simplest protestation may result in Law being applied with brutal force and lasting effect. This is desperately frightening. We are angry, we are not represented, we don’t feel safe and we are now discouraged from complaint and intimidated into submission. We feel impotent.
Remember: the curbing of civil liberties is in direct proportion to a government’s lack of trust in its electorate.
The idea of a General Strike really appeals to me, if only because this Coalition of Conservatives provokes my bloody mindedness so very much. I love the idea of “everybody out!” and the downing of tools on such a massive scale. I know it carries some risk of unintended consequences and is deeply inconvenient for a short time, but the point is to remind a government that the People are the backbone of the country and that they have had enough. It’s supposed to be dramatic.
There’s absolutely no guarantee, of course, that sufficient numbers in the private sector would join the cause, even if they wanted to, so the politicians and the Media would have a field day denigrating the public sector as traitors. Those on strike would be accused of holding back economic growth – along with the immigrants, the working- and wish-they-were-working-poor.
But, this aside: what form would – does any strike take? Everyone marching with banners saying “Stop…!” You fill in the blank. The Independent says such a march would be against “austerity”. We all know what austerity means because we are living it but we also know that such an abstract term merely lets the government back off the hook.
The unions have the platform and the organizational abilities. They also add a measure of structural safety for the protester and an acknowledged legitimacy to march. The legality or illegality of a General Strike is up for debate and would appear to require a specific dispute rather than a nebulous abstraction and apparently it could take months to organize. Time I don’t feel we have. I hope the unions won’t dither over this and will remember that concerted action does not have to involve an actual strike. And, just in case any union member is reading this, might I suggest:
That we do not protest anymore and that we make demands instead?
You see, protest of any kind is only the first step. It says “Stop…! I/we don’t like…” Occupy is a great example of how media and politicians etc pick on a multifaceted message and hold it up for ridicule, ensuring the bemusement, impatience and turning away of the general public.
We need to get specific and we need to be direct.
I believe we could and should make the following kinds of demands:
“Government resign!” (“Out! Out! Out! – Get out!”)
“We demand a General Election!”
“Prosecute the banksters!”
“Repeal the ‘Welfare’ Reforms!”
“Make tax avoidance mean evasion!”
“We, The People, want to own our utilities!”
“Make State education as good as private!”
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list! I bet you’ve thought of loads!
We can do this. We just have to keep it simple, affirmative and specific.
1) We are their masters
2) We VASTLY outnumber ‘them’