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Wanted: a political programme for the anti-cuts movement

One of the things that the anti-cuts movement is conspicuous in lacking currently is a political programme. An economic programme it has some suggestions of, but a political one, it totally lacks. This may seem insignificant but it is actually far from it.
For example, one of the reasons we have struggled to win any support for our call for Labour councils to refuse to implement the cuts is the legal situation that local councils find themselves in. It’s all very well calling for councils to set illegal budgets, but doing so does nothing to address the democratic deficit that is inherent in the position that local councils face, which is very real and tangible.

Democratically speaking, is it right that if elected local representatives vote to implement a budget that is not defined as ‘legal’ by the central authority then central government has the power set and impose a ‘legal’ budget of its own choosing through the Council’s Chief Executive? Of course it isn’t but where and when have you seen a demand from the anti-cuts movement that this power be removed from the arsenal of central government? Nowhere is my guess.

This is because the leadership of the anti-cuts movement wants a movement that is ‘broad’ and has determined, as the left usually does, that broadness requires unity at the lowest common denominator. Political demands, like a programme for local democracy and to end the situation described above, are therefore deemed as inappropriate because they carry within them the risk that they will ‘divide’ the movement because obviously they are harder to agree.  Although this approach may partially succeed in establishing a ‘broad’ base of unity, that unity will always be shallow and brittle. Besides, in the case above, we can see where it is actually exclusionary because it offers no solace to Labour councillors who would face fines and losing a job they probably love if they acceded to the demands of the anti-cuts movement.

Another more sinister reason exists for this self-limitation. It allows the left-wing corpuscles that predominate within these movements to establish a division of labour where they are the ones that ‘do’ the politics while the movement is what essentially provides a pool of possible recruits.  People who enter into it and become newly politicised are of course likely to be impressed with people who provide answers to political questions, and therefore a gravitation in the general direction of these groups is to be expected. The united front long ceased to be a serious political strategy, and is most definitely now a serious recruitment strategy, maybe this is why it’s often deemed to be of such a ‘special kind’?

When it comes to the achieving actual victory though this somewhat self-interested approach is less than helpful. It disarms the movement and sends it into numerous cul de sacs where the void is filled with a odd brand of zealotry hyperactivity. At a meeting of the Leeds Labour Representation Committee one comrade opined that they felt they were becoming ‘professional demonstrators’. I can see why. Not a day goes by without a demonstration being called and slowly but surely the numbers are cut to the bone and even the faithful eventually no longer attend. Of course, demonstrations have their place but they cannot be a substitute for a strong political campaign which pursues other avenues of exerting pressure. However, this necessitates having a political programme and as we have already established this is something the anti-cuts movement is solely lacking.

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