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With unemployment rising, cuts to just about everything and the Arctic ice rapidly disappearing while business continues as usual, it’s easy to feel powerless. But it was people power on the streets that stopped the poll tax, blocked new coal power stations, stalled plans for a third runway at Heathrow, ignited the Arab Spring and made bankers’ greed and tax avoidance toxic. It’s time to fight back – and plans are coming together for a UK summer of mass resistance linking the struggles against cuts, climate and corporate capitalism.
This summer will see some significant decisions being made by government leaders that will dictate our economic and environmental future. 2013 marks the year for the UK to host the annual jamboree of the G8. Cunningly, or cowardly, Cameron has chosen a luxury golf course in Northern Ireland to host the meeting. But for people in England, capitalism and its dirty secrets are to be found closer to home.
The Stop G8 Network has called a week of action and events between between 8-15 June in London, including talks, films, workshops, discussions and mass action. Tuesday 11 June will see a Carnival Against Capitalism take over the streets in London’s West End – the hiding place of power – ‘to celebrate our resistance and our dreams, to bring music and colour to the streets, and to show our strength and our anger.’
At the end of the week – Friday 14 June – a gathering in the private corporate zone that is Canary Wharf will bring beauty and hope to the dark, beating heart of capitalism. Themed around re-framing debt, rejecting the idea that individuals or countries are in debt to financial institutions and that austerity and privatisation is needed to remedy it, They Owe Us aims to bring together those angry about cuts and climate crises in one space to resist, create and imagine.
Though Canary Wharf is an overt icon of modern capitalism, the damage it causes is displaced and often unseen. It resides in the final demand letter landing on the doorstep, the early morning queue at the job centre, the silent tears shed behind closed doors. This is an action to make them visible.
Later on in the summer, there will be another opportunity for those fighting the cuts and the climate to come together for mass action. Last October, 21 environmental activists shut down EDF’s West Burton power station for a week in protest at the government’s new ‘dash for gas’. West Burton is the first of up to 40 new gas fired power stations being planned. With mass public support, including a solidarity petition signed by 64,000 people, they fought off energy firm EDF’s attempt to sue them for £5 million. This summer, inspired by their action, a wide coalition of groups and individuals will be coming together to Reclaim the Power at a four-day camp and protest at West Burton power station from 17-20 August.
All these events consciously reassert the need for mass protest, assembly and direct action on the streets and in our public spaces. The interlocking series of crises facing us today have meant that social movements have become more dispersed. While the internet and social media has created the communication networks and the resonance for popular protest to ignite and spread in new ways, the biggest threat to the status quo is when we all take to the streets. We cannot afford to give up on public assemblies and demonstrations as political levers. These are the moments when we feel our power, courage, strength and unity; when we are transformed and when change is possible. This year the summer won’t be a disappointment.