They arrived in the hundreds, sat on the floor of Trafalgar Square and for many hours everybody had a chance to express their thoughts, to raise their proposals, to dream about democracy. Inspired by protests in the Middle East, Spain and Greece and without flags or banners, young people — mainly – gathered in yet another square. They were clearly united by a common interest and a shared register: our so-called democracies are a sham, and we want the real thing.
They were all invited, if they had something to say, to speak on the megaphone and in a rainbow of proposals and diversity of cultures and nationalities there were only a few things that needed agreement: non-violence is the way, how to agree, how to disagree and no drugs and alcohol. And it worked really well. At one point someone proposed that we should be doing this in Parliament Square, opposite the Houses of Parliament, in reality banned without permission from the police, which could lead to a confrontation. That was not very well received; perhaps the young are all too aware that there is not where democracy resides. The politicians had their chance and they blew it. If there are any left who are truly interested in democracy there will come looking for the people who dare question the present system. Whether London will manage to begin a process of developing neighbourhood Assemblies — like Spain is doing and has been proposed for some time in the UK — it remains to be seen. Indeed, the road to democracy has more to do with the creation of people’s networks that reconstruct the fabric of society and allow for direct participation until it becomes a mass movement capable of bringing about a real alternative to the present violent system.
In the meantime UK Uncut was visiting the banks all dressed as doctors, nurses and patients (do not miss the pictures in their website), simulating operating theatres inside the banks, dying on the streets just outside — like many people may well do when the proposed changes to the NHS come into force — and raising awareness about the financial sector’s responsibility in the economic crisis that the government is using to justify draconian measures such as deep cuts to health, education and welfare. Meanwhile the banks are back on their worst behaviour: over the top bonuses, obscene profits and very low level of lending to support businesses and help people get new homes. Not enough profit to be made, with such low interest rates! And worst of all, recreating the pre-crash conditions confident that the taxpayer’s bailouts will continue to ensure their survival.
What is perhaps absent from the arguments against the cuts is the experience seen in so many countries: that when the State retreats it is not just “the private sector” that takes over but also the mafias. And it has been seen again and again that the behaviour of many private health care providers can only be comparable to that of a mafia. This is a point worth rising because many people, when told the NHS is being privatised, imagine themselves in luxurious medical clinics equipped with cutting-edge technology, rather than engaging in long battles with their health insurance to access treatment for life-threatening conditions. This is no criticism to the inspired actions we saw this weekend but rather a few arguments to strengthen the case they are making.
The Assembly and the anti-cuts protests were not two different things happening in the same city. These events are the symptoms of an awakening of a new consciousness that rebels against oppression, violence, corruption and exclusion from decision-making.