Newcastle Rejects Austerity

Newcastle rejects austerity in the latest protest to descend upon Grey Monument


Another day another rally, this time in the heart of Newcastle at Greys’ Monument. On the 24th of June I took the long journey over to the political centre of Tyne and Wear to spectate, as well as show my support for, the Anti-Austerity movement. Organised by the Peoples Assembly it features a host of speakers, predominantly from those who work or have worked in the public sector to political activists. These warriors of the left feel rejuvenated by the victory that never was and the defeat that achieved stunning victory with the successive failure of the Anti-Austerity campaign which the Labour Party ran under Jeremy Corbyn in this years general election. They see the resistance to Austerity and seek to cement it in the publics’ mind with displays of solidarity and defiance preaching an alternative to end the political project.

It was a beautiful day too, bright, sunny and a chill breeze, the conditions were perfect for the euphoria of rebellion, contrasting heavily with the dark days of rain and thunder which preceded it. Arriving around an hour early before it was scheduled to begin at 11 the preparations were being made, some early birds like myself, a few stalls being set up and a group singing about refugees. Although I’m not sure whether the singers were related as they were off to the side on the peripheries as opposed to being centre stage, though they did leave before the event began so probably not. The main stall in the centre belonged to The Peoples Assembly, one of the main grassroots organizations which has been at the forefront of combating austerity. The other two belonged to the bitterly divided far left, the first being the Socialist Workers Party and the second belonging to The Socialist Party. The latter being clad in banners and both selling the party affiliated newspapers of Socialist Worker and The Socialist. The Socialist tried to recruit me but I politely declined.

As the time neared there were only around 80, maybe even 100 people at the most surrounding the podium from which the speakers would address the crowd. Eventually it got underway with an opening speech from the leader of North East Peoples Assembly about how and why she got into that position, being opposed to the austerity agenda, which was less an economic and more a political choice, and wanted to resist and fight back. This would become a common theme among the speakers who encouraged resistance and activism to fight back against austerity.

Over the course of two hours there were 10 speakers in total, from a board background such as MP’s, public health officials and teachers covering a range of topics. it would prove to be an impressive event, though one speech in particular was incredibly lackluster.  This came from a Momentum member, who from the outset it was clear he studied politics at university, whose speech was quite technical and intellectually demanding explaining the intricacies of the capitalist system. An impressive speech, for the politburo maybe…not for the proles.

Each of the speakers focused on a single topic, such as the NHS, the Fire Service or Education to the Environment, housing crisis or the Labour Party itself. The topics were normally linked into their jobs or experiences so it increased the veracity of the arguments, also increasing the emotional pleas as this was something which they hold very dear to them and felt was very personal. Each would recount personal experiences of how the cuts affected their lives, and the services in which they worked. They would then link together through the telling of a common story of how austerity, crony capitalism and the system has only caused untold misery for those at the bottom of society while cementing the power, influence and wealth at the top.

Outside of austerity, there was one event which united them, the horrendous tragedy of Grenfell Tower. Throughout their monologues they would bring it to this topic, throwing some harsh words towards the government. “People died because of class war” and “Grenfell residents murdered by austerity” were the most damning, the most scornful condemnations of a government who they felt had the opportunity to prevent the conditions which enabled this tragedy from developing.

Not all were unified however, for a small band of socialists were to disrupt MP Laura Pidcocks’ speech. Holding their placards high they tried to expose the fact that Laura had indeed voted in favour of austerity measures previously. In return they were labeled scabs, told to shut up and get lost. After the commotion Laura turned towards the Socialist Party to decry that “they’ve done absolutely nothing to get the Labour Party elected and are nothing but a cult”. A very strange and unexpected episode.

While the event itself did not draw a large crowd, it did indeed showcase the desire for change, the desire to resist and rebel against the austerity agenda and the desire for an alternative. Whether they will be able to achieve this alternative is another matter, for Jeremy is as loved as he is hated and so long as he is at the forefront with his prophet like status then he bares the greatest burden, being the linchpin for success or failure. If he can break the image that he is a terrorist sympathizer and a cultural marxist then he has a chance, otherwise he is doomed to go thus far and no further. The fate of austerity rests upon his hands as much as the hands of Mrs May.

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