False Economy reveals 50,000 NHS job losses and a diverse movement
Anti-cuts campaign website False Economy has launched officially today with woth research revealing 50,000+ job losses in the National Health Service. The words “I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS” ring in my ears. But I thought I’d have a look at the website itself*- which is run by a bunch of online activists and the TUC.
Lisa Ansell recently had a piece here on Bright Green reminding us of the need for respect for diversity in the anti-cuts movement. In it, she reminded us:
“No-one knows just what the cumulative effect of these policies will be. And there is no single strategy for fighting them that will be effective in isolation.”
And for me, this is crucial. The Government is attempting to dismantle in just 5 years a welfare state that was built over the course of the last century. Each corner of our public services have been fought for and won over generations. From the State Pension to the NHS, from legal aid to support for disabled people, communities of interest came together, organised and demanded what they needed. People across the country stood together, and we negotiated our way – all too slowly – towards organised justice. And each of these groups will need to re-emerge in order to defend what their predessessors won. There will not be one campaign, and there will not be one leader of the fight against cuts and privitisation. There will be a complex, amorphous, potentially contradictory movement.
But since these services were secured, much has changed.
For most of us, our workplaces are no longer factores, farms and mines. Many fewer of those who make our money selling our labour identify as working class, and, for now, many fewer are members of unions. Much has been written about the role of the internet. A century ago, Lenin famously argued that every socialist group should have a newspaper. Affordable printing presses helped to transform the way that politics was organised around the world. The power to disceminate information was democratised. The use of new social media platforms as an organisational tool surely has the potential to similarly change how politics is done.
And so it is that False Economy fits in. The website will not be the front line of the anti-cuts movement. This battle will not be won or lost online. But the recognition from the TUC, the main funders, that the defence of public services will not be co-ordinated by a central committee, but will come from communities and individuals and workplaces across the country; the willingness to trust people to stand for themselves and with each other; the comfort with using new tools to help those people come together, to co-ordinate together – these things are good signs. Because while unions will be absolutely key, and while leadership will be needed, the old command and control structures are disempowering at a time when people have more capacity to self-organise than ever.
The website allows people to upload their stories, their cuts, their events, their struggles. It provides arguments, and – as we’ve seen today – the excellent Chaminda Jayanetti does serious research to back it all up. For now, it will only be a sub-set of society who use it. Only those with the inclination to take advantage of the site will find it helpful. But when we campaign against cuts, it is important for all of us to remember that this struggle is more complex than any of us can understand, that people with whom we are not used to working will be campaigning to defend the services on which they rely. And it is only by working together that we will come to a shared understanding of the world and of the causes of our plight.
So, well done to the TUC for supporting a project which hands power to grassroots groups. Let’s hope that this is just the start, because the road ahead will be long and tough.
*I should declare an interest: I’m on the False Economy steering group. I don’t get any credit for the site – Clifford Singer of The Other Taxpayers Alliance and MyDavidCameron built it and does most of the work, and Chaminda Jayanetti of 1000 cuts and The Samosa did the research for today’s announcement. The TUC and Unison get the credit for funding. But I may be a little biased.