We must ask "Who’s recovery is it?"
Amidst a sea of opportunities, one big danger stands out for the anti-austerity movement: recovery. The media, particularly those close the Tories, will want to shout this word louder and louder as we approach the 2015 General Election. No one can deny the hopefulness in the word – but for most, it is simply a contortion of the truth that will have no effect on them.
The old accusation went that anti-cuts campaigners were ‘deficit deniers’. We just didn’t ‘get it’ – the country was broke and no more could safely be borrowed. In a way, we were accused of optimism at a time of deep pessimism. With a few alleged ‘green shoots of recovery’ popping up in newspaper headlines, all that is changing: triumphalism that austerity has worked and demands for more of it. So are we about to be accused of being Recovery Deniers? Well, probably.
As a movement, we need to shift our messaging to reflect the changing environment within which we operate. This doesn’t just mean the headlines on newspapers in local shops, this includes the actual reality of what is going on. And first and foremost, that means the reality that there is no recovery. Luckily for ourselves, we’re in a very credible place: there really isn’t any detectable change going on for most people.
I would suggest we therefore need a two-track solution: dealing with the myths about recovery and the manipulation of the statistics that are being presented to us is only one part of this process. It gets us to the point where we can deal with the other part of the reality before us: that of wealth transfer rather than growth. What growth is taking place is happening at the expense of, rather than for the benefit of, the vast majority of people. If we believe that this movement is far from over, if we think that the current state of affairs vindicate the original ‘anti-cuts’ arguments, then we have to reconfigure it as a movement with a question: "Who’s recovery is it?".
Labour are doing this very well, with their ‘Cost of Cameron’ campaigning, but they’re not prepared to properly tackle the cause of the problem – the power and self-interest of the richest. But electing a Labour government (or, more importantly, removing Cameron and Clegg from power) is only the first baby step back from the precipice, a relief in terms of the immediacy of the threat of continued slanting of the economy towards the super rich. Its one thing to get someone to step back from the edge, and another to get them to turn around and walk away. And for our economy and society, that means raising some incredibly basic questions of justice and economic distribution.
Who’s recovery is it? Why do the figures being produced in headlines not link to individual’s bank balances? Is this not, in fact, growth built on the backs of the poorest in our society, where growth industries are those designed to keep the have-not’s at bay, to enforce social divisions? Its in these discussions that the next stage of the anti-austerity movement must be built.
Afterthought: at York People’s Assembly, we’re currently too short of funds to get our less well-off delegates to the upcoming People’s Assembly conference in London. We’re at danger of having a very unrepresentative group of people – those (including myself) who can afford their own travel – as our only delegates. Please consider dropping by our fundraising page and helping us out, even if its only £3.