Two views on an anti-austerity protest

by The North Star editors on June 23, 2015

anti-austerity march

On Saturday June 20th, a large march against austerity occurred in London.  There are conflicting viewpoints over its significance.

Richard Seymour gave a fairly critical view on Lenin’s Tomb:

A minimum condition for sentience on the left is an awareness that this protest is itself evidence of at least five years of catastrophic failure.  There is something powerfully and stunningly incongruous in the subjectivity of a left marching as if in recreation, when we know we are also mourning for the casualties and the dead.  It suggests that we don’t really mean business.  It suggests that, rather than wanting to shake the walls and pillars to the earth, we want to grab some ice cream and go home.

What is a demonstration of 70,000, 100,000 or – give delusion its due – 250,000 people actually for?  What is it that we wish to demonstrate?  Are we out to demonstrate worthiness and plausibility for the spectacle?  Or are we out to demonstrate a threat?  

The point is not to criticise the march for happening, for even positioning ourselves at point A, against austerity, but to say that we have been here before, and we need to reflect critically on how we got back to the same spot as we enter the sixth year of Tory rule…We have watched, demoralised, as the institutions of labourism tumbled headlong into their historical abyss.  And we waited for Ed Miliband, of all people, to deliver us from the Tory nightmare…

…it is no good to go from somnolent passivity back to the same pointless, upbeat-but-vacuous activism that led to the original demoralisation – unless we want to be defeated.  It is no good waking up, only to become like a canary flapping in a cage, showing much motion but little progress.  The counter-productive burn-out of soi-disant ‘Leninist’ party-building is hardly improved upon by the burn-out of another cycle of marches.

Lindsay German argued for the necessity of the march on Counterfire:

The size, composition and heightened political awareness of the marchers all demonstrated that the People’s Assembly is now a genuine mass movement, capable of organising a grassroots campaign across Britain which has the potential to stop Tory policies and to challenge the government’s whole existence.

The BBC is asking why we are protesting so soon after an election where the Tories won a majority. The answers are simple: they have little authority in the big cities of England, or in Scotland where austerity was rejected electorally. They were elected, in any case, on only a quarter of those who could potentially vote. Osborne’s budget is certain to contain nasty surprises of the sort that – if they had been put to the electorate – would almost certainly have been rejected.

Much of the message of yesterday was that this is just the start of a mass campaign. To those who say that one demo is not enough: that is true and was a point made repeatedly by speakers yesterday. But without that demo the movement would not have risen to a higher plane, would not have had a national voice, would not have linked different campaigns and geographical areas together.

Some of us argued that there needed to be a mass united front against austerity built in 2008 when the recession began. We were in a small minority and it didn’t happen, or not on a sufficiently large scale. We would be much further forward today if more of the left had built it earlier. But we are moving forward again. Yesterday that movement came of age. Now we have to take it to a higher stage still and organise to defeat the government.

What do North Star readers think?

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