Today we took part in what has become the annual Dundee anti-cuts rally. Of course, with every year, there is even less to cut from. We distributed leaflets (see below) and talked to the reporter from STV, and I spoke from the platform. I began my speech by recounting an incident that happened yesterday, when a group of us were campaigning for freedom for the imprisoned Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan. We were in the city centre, and a young man approached us full of anger: why were we doing this rather than support people here in Dundee suffering under Universal Credit? Tony was able to tell him that we do that too – and invite him to join us at our stall outside the buroo on Monday morning – and to try and explain that these things are different aspects of the same bigger struggle against right-wing reaction and for a better world.
Here is the text from our leaflet:
Marching against cuts has become a regular event in the Dundee calendar. Of course, we all know that the source of those cuts is Westminster ‘Austerity’ – or Westminster ‘let’s use the crisis caused by the bankers as an excuse to reduce public spending and demolish the welfare state’. The Tory government is the main focus of our anger, but that doesn’t mean that other levels of government should just pass the cuts on.
That is why, two weeks ago, we were outside the Scottish Parliament when they discussed the Scottish budget. We were there to say, take note of our petition (and all its supporting evidence) and use progressive taxation to support more welfare mitigation. The Scottish government has had its block grant badly cut, and it should never stop protesting about this, but it is also barely using the powers it has to raise more tax from those who should be able to afford it. Which means it is very limited in what it can do for those least able to survive without help, and money for local government has been cut yet again.
Despite the last-minute deal with the Greens (did Derek Mackay deliberately hold some money back so he could be seen to be making a concession?) councils have suffered another hit. Council administrations of all political colours will be attempting to cover their multiple services with ever skimpier resources. Opposition councillors will express outrage, while privately acknowledging that if they were in charge it would be them axing services. And, the same people who we meet at our weekly advice stalls outside the jobcentre, will be hit over again by cuts to council services. But councils don’t have to accept the role of simply choosing what to axe. They don’t have to accept the political hand they have been dealt as though it were a natural phenomenon that nothing could shift. As well as protesting to the Scottish Government, they have the option of coming together to refuse to cut back – of organising and resisting.
It’s time our politicians at all levels learnt to stand up and say no to this deliberate destruction of social systems and public assets that have been built up over generations. We are here to help them do that. Perhaps they could start by learning a bit of resistance from our schoolchildren.