Delegates from Goldsmiths joined with over 4000 other people to attend the first national meeting of the People’s Assembly against Austerity in Central Hall, Westminster on Saturday 22nd June. It was a fantastic atmosphere of unity and determination to escalate and coordinate the opposition to cuts that are devastating communities, weakening public services and impoverishing growing numbers of people. The message was clear: we don’t want a few cuts or cuts in some places; we don’t want any cuts. The government’s austerity programme is ‘unjust, immoral and undemocratic’.
The opening rally heard from speakers including Frances O’Grady (TUC General Secretary), Owen Jones and Mark Steel. The Assembly then broke into workshops that discussed, for example, how to defend the NHS and public education, how to turn the tide on racism and anti-immigration discourses, what kind of tactics do we need in the anti-austerity movement, and how we can organise local People’s Assemblies. The final rally heard from a range of speakers including several union general secretaries who spoke of the need for militant action to break the government’s austerity agenda. One of the most powerful speeches about the impact of the cuts was from the comedian Francesca Martinez.
The Assembly adopted a statement that includes support for a national demonstration to defend the NHS outside Conservative Party conference on 29 September 2013 and for a national day of civil disobedience and direct action against austerity on November 5th. You can read the full statement at http://thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/draft-statement/.
It was the biggest single political meeting that I have ever been to and let’s hope that it marks the beginning of a genuine diverse, inclusive and powerful movement against austerity.
Dr Des Freedman
Reader in Communications and Cultural Studies
Secretary, Goldsmiths UCU