Why Saturday's Anti-Austerity Demo Probably Won't Affect Austerity
Why Saturday's Anti-Austerity Demo Probably Won't Affect Austerity
By Simon Childs. Photos: Oscar Webb and Chris Bethell / vice.com

Arriving at the Bank of England for Saturday's big anti-austerity demo, there was a sea of Tory-haters of every conceivable type. You had your animal lovers dressed as badgers, your percussionists in samba bands, unreformed Stalinists, people wearing "vote Labour" rosettes like the election hasn't already happened, Green Party supporters and those who don't fall into any of these categories and therefore are probably either hardworking families or skivers, AKA the general public.

I'm not sure where this guy falls on the spectrum that starts at Mondeo Man and ends with Aldi Mum, and that's probably why he was there: he, like many others at the march, likely feels that he's been forgotten by the arbiters of power in Westminster, so has to take to the streets in a sleeveless Ed Hardy vest if he wants any chance of having his voice heard.

The organisers estimated that there were 250,000 of these people at the demo. That might be a bit optimistic – others put attendance at anywhere between 70,000 to 150,000 – but whatever: a large number of people turned up to show that they're not up for George Osborne's big plan to return to Victorian values.

mpressive though the turnout was, it didn't mask the sense of a left still reeling from the Conservatives' shock election win. Jeremy Corbyn's leadership bid has given some a sense of direction, but is it a good direction? At one point, I came across a man shouting that if every person in attendance signed up as a supporter of the Labour Party and voted for Corbyn, he'd be a shoe-in. "Do it today!" he exhorted. The maths are pretty inarguable, but even if everyone did sign up you have to wonder if they'd just be more fodder for Labour's centralising party mincing machine.

Less optimistic than this man was another Labour supporter who I overheard saying that he hopes his preferred candidate, Yvette Cooper, loses. The rationale was that Labour will lose in 2020, so this way – he reasoned – Cooper can swoop in, untainted by failure, and lead Labour to victory in 2025.

At one point, a black bloc of anarchists split from the march and headed to Elephant and Castle. When they got there, they sprayed "FUCK CAPITALISM" onto one of the gentrifying new apartment blocks that's being built there. They then threw a couple of paint-bombs and eggs at it. As a police line formed around the yuppie flats, the black bloc gave up and mooched off to re-join the main march, which was arriving in Parliament Square to listen to speeches by trade unionists, left-wing academics andOwen Jones.

At the back of the square, a bonfire was started, before the police quickly put it out. That was as close as things got to an incident that might get the march noticed by the Mail(one of the war memorials on Whitehall was boarded up to prevent anyone writing on it).

Perhaps the only other incident of note was that this guy accidentally fell into a Socialist Workers Party stall, completely taking it out. Although, again, I doubt Paul Dacre and his readers will care too much about some bent signs and a flattened trestle table.

With celebrities as diverse as Charlotte Church, Russell Brand and a print-out of the Wealdstone Raider in attendance – all of them telling the Tories, "If you want some, I'll give it ya" – the left can surely take heart.

Nevertheless, the question of what exactly should be done is still hanging about. According to John Rees, one of the People's Assembly organisers, the march was "only the beginning" of a much bigger campaign. "We need to hit the government again and again and again," he said.

But there's no point in swinging endless left-hooks that don't land. The day after the demo, Chancellor George Osborne and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith wrote an article for the Sunday Times.

"This government was elected with a mandate to implement further savings," they wrote, announcing a plan to further cut benefits spending by £12 billion a year. It was a strong reaffirmation of their commitment to not giving a shit about the opinions of people who would never vote for them anyway.

And, of course, the march wasn't the "beginning" – that was the student movement in 2010, followed by the "March for the Alternative" in 2011. That day, twice as many people went to London as were there for Saturday's End Austerity Now demo. That also didn't stop the years of austerity that followed.

The danger is – as the saying goes – that like a cute dog wearing a snapback, a skull scarf and a muzzle, the movement has lost its bite. Sometimes it looks like the left is stuck on an endless protest loop, gearing up for the next "big one" as soon as the last one finishes, none of them going anywhere except to build for the next, again and again and again, on repeat, ad nauseam.

If Tony Blair could ignore a million people saying he shouldn't murder hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, David Cameron can certainly ignore a quarter of that number telling him to please not pursue policies that mean terminally ill people are required to work until they die. The protesters need only to read their own banners about how heartless the Tories are to realise that.

After five years of austerity with no end in sight, maybe a huge demo is just what the doctor ordered for Britain's tortured left. But with the news that child poverty is on course for the biggest rise in a generation thanks to benefit cuts and the bedroom tax, they'll soon need something that does more than act as a political comfort blanket.

@SimonChilds13 / @owebb / @CBethell_photo

Scroll down for more pictures:

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
93 Documentaries to Expand Your Consciousness
Films For Action · 8,240 views today · There are over 800 documentaries now cataloged in our library of social change films. That's probably way too many for any mortal to ever watch in a lifetime, let alone a few...
Why Are Media Outlets Still Citing Discredited 'Fake News' Blacklist?
Adam Johnson · 7,027 views today · The Washington Post (11/24/16) last week published a front-page blockbuster that quickly went viral: Russia-promoted “fake news” had infiltrated the newsfeeds of 213 million...
The Orwellian War on Skepticism
Robert Parry · 5,350 views today · Official Washington’s rush into an Orwellian future is well underway as political and media bigwigs move to silence Internet voices of independence and dissent, reports Robert...
Where Do You Draw the Line? (2016)
60 min · 4,195 views today · Why is the Ecuadorian government proposing to extract oil in an area frequently classified by ecologists as one of the most bio-diverse rainforest regions left intact on earth?...
90 Inspiring and Visionary Films That Will Change How You See the World in Profound Ways
Tim Hjersted · 3,975 views today · The world today is in crisis. Everybody knows that. But what is driving this crisis? It's a story, a story that is destroying the world. It's a story about our relationship to...
Projext X: Using Leaked Documents to Reveal the NSA's New York Spy Hub, Hidden in Plain Sight
10 min · 3,532 views today · A top-secret handbook takes viewers on an undercover journey to Titanpointe, the site of a hidden partnership. Narrated by Rami Malek and Michelle Williams, and based on...
Social Media Echo Chambers: Here's How Most of Us are Living in One
2 min · 2,239 views today · Americans are blocking out the friends and news sites that won't confirm their views.
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 2,185 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Twelve Things To Remember After The US Election, From Front Line Organizers
Bill Quigley · 1,854 views today · When you find yourself in a suddenly darkened room, what do you do?   Some rush blindly to where they think the door might be.  Others stand still, let their eyes get...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,547 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Law Professor's Epic Response to Black Lives Matter Shirt Complaint
Social Design Notes · 1,281 views today · A first year law school student wrote a complaint about her professor having worn a Black Lives Matter T-shirt during class. The professor’s response is priceless. Scans of...
This Short Film Plays Out Like an Epic Movie That Will Shake Your Soul - But the Movie Is Real, and We are The Actors
6 min · 986 views today · For next year, we need a resolution capable of confronting the crisis we face, and making a future worth fighting for. This short film looks back on the crisis and confusion...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 952 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Why We Need Big Picture Activism
Helena Norberg-Hodge · 832 views today · Despite the countless grassroots projects already under way, the global economic juggernaut can seem too powerful to stop. But because more and more of us are becoming aware of...
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 815 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
How a Land High in the Western Himalayas Can Help Us Understand The Crisis of The Modern World
9 min · 510 views today · This is a clip from The Economics of Happiness. Watch it here. It's a brilliant film that was easy to put at the top of our list of the top 100 documentaries we can use to...
The 6 Grand Illusions That Keep Us Enslaved
Sigmund Fraud · 404 views today · For a magician to fool his audience his deceit must go unseen, and to this end he crafts an illusion to avert attention from reality. While the audience is entranced, the...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 366 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min · 350 views today · Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for...
Dreaming Beyond Capitalism: a Culture Without Fear
Martin Winiecki · 346 views today · In the 1990s an unusual encounter took place in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In plant rituals, shamans of the Achuar, a tribe living in pristine forest that had never been in touch...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Why Saturday's Anti-Austerity Demo Probably Won't Affect Austerity